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Michigan State Amateur: Mack wins title 4 and 3

BOYNE HIGHLANDS, MICH (June 25, 2011) -- Willie Mack III of Flint celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Michigan Amateur Saturday by becoming the first African-American champion of the state’s oldest golf tournament. Mack, 22, romped to the title with a 4-and-3 victory over 2010 champion Joey Garber of Petoskey in the final match at Boyne Highlands Resort - The Heather. The impact of the historic victory was taking time to set in.

“I’m not sure yet,” Mack said. “But I’m really happy. It’s been a long week. Being the first African-American champion feels great.”Mack said he tried not to think of the implications of what could happen, given the fact that he arrived at Boyne Highlands playing some of his best golf, but admitted that it flashed in his mind once or twice during Saturday’s matches that he was in position to make history. Mack defeated Matt Thompson, 1-up, in Saturday’s morning semifinal match. Thompson and Garber are Nos. 1 and 2 on the University of Michigan golf team.

“I love playing against Joey,” Mack said. “He’s a great player.” Mack, who works with PGA Professional Bill Baldwin as his swing coach, plans on playing in the Michigan Open, the U.S. Amateur qualifier and the Golf Association of Michigan championship before turning professional later this summer.

Mack took the lead with a birdie at the par 5 fifth hole, then went birdie-birdie at the 10th and 11th holes to take command of the match. He cruised from there as Garber never could find his swing or putting stroke.

Mack is enjoying a banner season. He won four college titles this year at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. Mack followed it up by winning the West Michigan Amateur. He played his high school golf at Grand Blanc and helped the school win the state title. Mack was runner-up to Casey Baker at last year’s Golf Association of Michigan championship.Mack’s home course is Tyrone Hills Golf Club in Fenton. He carries a plus 4.3 GAM/USGA Handicap Index.

Garber was attempting to become the first back-to-back Michigan Amateur champion since the mid-1950s when Glenn Johnson of Grosse Ile won three straight – 1954-1956. Now that he’s tried and failed, Garber was asked to what he attributes the difficulty of repeating.

“Depth of field,” Garber said. “You saw some of the best players in the country here this week. Matt Thompson (semifinal loser to Mack), Willie … guys who will be on tour in a few years.“Willie played well. He deserved to win. I played my practice rounds with him this week so I know how good he is.”

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