The Bear, a perfect match for Michigan Open Championship

The Bear, a perfect match for Michigan Open Championship

Text: Greg Johnson

Tom McGee, the director of golf operations at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme, Michigan, summed up the 2018 return of the Michigan Open Championship at The Bear—the storied Jack Nicklaus-designed course—as almost reminiscent.

“It had a nostalgic feel to it, like this is where the Michigan Open should be played, no doubt,” McGee said.

The Michigan Open Championship, a Michigan Professional Golfers’ Association tournament, is returning to The Bear for at least two more years under an agreement recently reached by the Michigan PGA with the resort.

On June 10 through June 13, 2019 the Michigan Open will be played for the 102nd time, and for the 27th time on The Bear.

In the 101st Michigan Open, White Lake’s Jake Kneen became just the sixth amateur to win the state championship that brings together the state’s best professional and amateur golfers each summer. Kneen has since turned professional and has been winning mini-tour events this winter. He is expected to return and defend his title for prize money this time.

Last year’s championship proved to be a triumphant return for the Michigan PGA’s premier tournament to The Bear, which as always showed its teeth, and Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, which showcased its full-service resort to players, fans and family.

After the final round, Kneen posed for trophy pictures with his family and friends overlooking the 18th hole green and smiled as a champion will. The 22-year-old nodded at the golf course, pointedly in the direction of the 16th hole where he had overcome a triple-bogey-seven in the final round and a double-bogey-six in the third round and still managed to win.

“It’s a great golf course, perfect for a great tournament, and I played great golf all week, but I had thoughts that [16th hole] was trying to take it from me,” Kneen said. “I really made a mess there.”

The week also showcased banners featuring the faces of the 14 past champions in the field of 156 golfers stretched across the lawn between the clubhouse and 18th hole. The Bear was dressed in its best green and the general consensus of those who came out to watch the tournament was that it seemed the perfect spot to decide the state’s best golfer.

“From our standpoint it was a great championship week,” said Kevin Helm, executive director of the Michigan PGA Section. “Grand Traverse Resort was a great host, the golf course was terrific as always, in great shape, and the players were happy to be here and there was a tremendous championship atmosphere. It was great to be back. I think the players really enjoyed the week.”

McGee also noted it was a great success.

“The weather was great, and I received nothing but great feedback,” McGee said. “It seemed like everybody commented on how great it was to be back at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. We can’t wait for June to come again so we can see who wins this year’s Michigan Open.”