Bill Zylstra wins 4th Michigan Senior title
Bill Zylstra
Bill Zylstra

CHARLEVOIX – Bill Zylstra said if you grew up in Michigan, Belvedere Golf Club was the place you had to play.

“That’s where the Michigan Amateur was always going to be,” he said after shooting a closing 3-under-par 69 at Belvedere Tuesday to claim the 27th GAM Senior Championship presented by Sullivan Golf & Travel.

Zylstra, 62, a Grand Rapids native, Dearborn Heights resident for the summer and now an Ocklawaha, Fla., resident for most of the year, finished at 142, two shots better than Grand Blanc’s Greg Reynolds, who shot 73 for 144.

Randy Lewis of Alma, who shot 72, and Mitch Wilson of Portage, who shot 71, tied for third at 145, and defending champion Ian Harris of Bloomfield Hills, who led after the first round Monday, shot a 76 for 146. Also at 146 were Scott Erickson of Marquette (73) and Ed Vomastek of Traverse City (73).

“I feel wonderful,” offered Zylstra after notching his fourth GAM Senior Championship trophy (2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013).

“I didn’t know if I’d ever win again. I’d played in everything this summer, just no wins. The guys who are 55 now look really young all of a sudden. I think sometimes you start doubting yourself. Today, I didn’t doubt myself. I just put blinders on and played.”

Zylstra did win four tournaments last winter in Florida and remains ranked the nation’s No. 1 senior amateur golfer by Golfweek Magazine. He said he played in the Michigan Amateur Championships held at Belvedere between 1969 and 1988 and jumped at the chance to play the storied course again.

“It’s in the best shape I’ve ever seen it, too,” he said.

Zylstra bogey the par 4 No. 18 hole to finish his round, but minutes later Reynolds, who had shot a 3-under-par 33 on the front nine to take the tournament lead, played to double-bogey on the same hole.

“I was a little hot about my finish -- thought I had lost the tournament -- but it was a tough pin,” Zylstra said. “Greg had an impossible chip there once he missed the green, too. That’s how golf works.”

John French of Bloomfield Hills shot a closing 75 for 145 to win the Super Senior Division (age 65 and up). He topped John Lindholm of Grand Blanc, a two-time former GAM Senior champion, by one shot after Lindholm also shot a closing 75.

French, who came from behind on the last two holes and made par on No. 18 while Lindholm played to bogey, said it was gratifying to top Lindholm who he has known and played with and against for several years.

“It was usually me finishing behind him,” he said. “This is very nice. It feels great to win anywhere, but it’s nice to win here because of all the times we played in the (Michigan Amateur) up here. It’s a lot different now. We’ve all played for so many years, and we still want to compete but we’ve learned somebody wins, somebody finishes second, you hug and you understand golf is important, but not the end all.”

Pete Saputo of Bloomfield Hills, who shot 70, and Dave Kempner, who shot 75, tied for third at 147 among the Super Seniors.

The 161 golfers playing in the championship were among those who have played in many of the 39 Michigan Amateur Championships Belvedere has hosted, including 26 consecutive between 1963 and 1988. In addition, the 2004 and 2007 editions of the GAM Senior were held at Belvedere, and the 87-year-old William Watson-design that measures 6,713 yards will host the 2014 Michigan Amateur next summer.

ABOUT THE GAM Senior Championship

Must be a GAM member. 36-hole stroke play event for seniors (55 and older, 8.4 handicap max), and super seniors (65 and older, 10.4 handicap max).

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