Real-Estate Lender Taking on College Stars in Michigan Amateur at Belvedere

CHARLEVOIX — The 103rd Michigan Amateur Championship at Belvedere Golf Club has come down to three gifted college golfers and a 41-year-old commercial real-estate lender who can’t believe he is still playing and wonders if his back will hold up.

Steve Anderson of Troy said he will rest up his back and be ready to meet University of Toledo golfer Otto Black of Pinckney in one semifinal Friday morning.

Chris Cunningham, a 22-year-old Grand Valley State University golfer from Milford will take on University of North Carolina golfer Henry Do of Canton in the other semifinal. The winners of those morning matches will meet in the afternoon for the championship.

“I never dreamed I’d get this far,” said Anderson, who in his previous attempts in the Michigan Amateur never made it to match play. “With the little amount of time I actually put into my game I’m really happy to get this far. It’s a great experience and I just want to enjoy it for as long as it lasts.”

Anderson beat Steve McKalko, who is also from Troy, 3 and 1 in a round of 16 Thursday morning, and then toppled Michigan State University golfer Francesco Ruffino of Bloomfield Hills 2 and 1 in the afternoon quarterfinal.

Black, 20 and a junior-to-be at Toledo, knocked former champion Tom Werkmeister of Kentwood (2009) out in the morning 2 and 1, and then beat Novi’s Casey Baker 5 and 3 in the afternoon.

“I didn’t give any holes away today and that’s key,” he said. “If a guy beats you and takes it away that’s one thing, but I hit the ball really solid, kept it in the fairway and made all the big putts I had to make. “

In his morning match with Werkmeister he never led until making a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 1, the first playoff hole.

“I made an eagle (2) on No. 16 after I hit it on the green with a 4-wood (260 yards) to tie the match, and then made a great putt on the extra hole,” he said. “Beating Werkmeister – that’s big. I take a lot from that.”

Cunningham beat his Grand Valley teammate and roommate for the week Jack Rider of Vicksburg 4 and 3 in the quarterfinal match, after slipping past Kyle Gaines of Oxford 1-up in the morning round of 16.

“It was a lot of fun playing (Jack), but at the same time it made it hard,” he said. “I want him to do well so it was tough knocking him out. We’re both very competitive and wanted to win.”

Cunningham, who is used up college eligibility but will return to school to finish his finance degree, said he was fortunate to win his morning match against Gaines and started hitting his driver especially well in the quarterfinal.

“That’s the best club in my bag so when I start hitting it out there in play I’m at my best,” he said. “That made it sort of stress free. If I can do that, no reason I can’t win two more matches.”

Do, 19 and a national junior golf standout who was in the starting lineup on the golf team as a freshman at North Carolina, said his goal for the week was to win, a goal he said has for every tournament.

“Any win is great, but winning the Michigan Amateur after coming home from school would be great,” he said. “It would be awesome.”

He beat Ryan Johnson of New Boston 3 and 2 in the morning, and then topped Ken Hudson of Bloomfield Hills 3 and 2 in the quarterfinal match.

“I’ve been getting off to a good start on the front every time – I really like that nine,” he said. “I’ve also played it pretty safe off the tee, getting the ball in play because I believe you can attack from anywhere – 100 yards or 200 yards if you are in the fairway.”


Round of 16: Casey Baker d. Ian Martin 2-up; Otto Black d. Tom Werkmeister 19 holes; Steve Anderson d. Steve McKalko 3 and 2; Francesco Ruffino d. Max Kollin 2 and 1

Chris Cunningham d. Kyle Gaines 1-up; Jack Rider d. Greg Davies 2 and 1; Hudson d. Gunthorpe 1-up; Do d. Johnson 1-up.

 ROUND OF 8: Black d. Baker 5 and 3; Anderson d. Ruffino 2 and 1; Cunningham d. Rider 4 and 3; Do d. Hudson 3 and 2.

 FRIDAY SEMIFINAL PAIRINGS:  Black v. Anderson 8 a.m.; Cunningham v. Do 8:15 a.m.

–Courtesy of GAM Media Relations