BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. – When it comes to major events in golf history, Oakland Hills Country Club has seen it all, to the tune of six U.S. Opens, three PGA Championships, a Ryder Cup, the U.S. Women’s Amateur, two U.S. Amateurs and two U.S. Senior Opens (won by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, respectively).
The list of the great champions, past and present, who have played Oakland Hills is daunting: Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson.
Luke Coyle knows the history, all the way back to the man who served as the club’s first PGA Professional in 1918.
“It was Walter Hagen,” Coyle said. “He won the PGA Championship.”
On a brisk, partly sunny October day – typical for Michigan this time of year – the roll call of Oakland Hills champions expanded to include Coyle along with seven other aspiring young golfers who became Drive, Chip and Putt National Finalists. Their reward is a trip to Augusta National Golf Club next spring where they will be among 80 players who advanced from 10 regionals.
Coyle, of Campbellsville, Ky., won the Boys 14-15 division two days before his 15th birthday.
“Pretty good birthday present,” said Coyle, who will make his second appearance in the National Finals.
Coyle also made it to Augusta National in 2017. He hopes to apply the lessons he learned the first time when he returns in April.
“I was seventh after the chipping at Augusta National and I told my Dad, ‘I’m pathetic,’” Coyle said. “My dad told me to enjoy the experience and then I won the putting competition. Honestly, I just want to enjoy every bit of it this time.”
Luke went on to finish third overall in the 2017 National Finals.
Kate Brody, winner of the Girls 14-15 division, was born for this. Both her parents, Doug and Jenn, are golf professionals and fixtures on the Michigan golf scene. Kate, who lives in Grand Blanc, Mich., with her family, was a month old when her dad was named PGA Professional at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club, longtime home of the PGA Tour’s Buick Open and current home of the Ally Challenge on the PGA Tour Champions.
It was a Brody family affair at Oakland Hills. Kate’s brother, Tyler, finished fifth in the Boys 12-13 division.
Jenn Brody is an LPGA professional and teaching pro at Warwick Hills. She was a standout college player at Michigan State, where she earned All-Big Ten honors. Kate had a putter in her hands as soon as she could walk and began playing competitive golf soon after.
“What she learned from me is what not to do,” said Jenn, a firebrand in her playing days. “The only thing I’ve been hard on her is to stay even mentally, something I wasn’t. I was very hard on myself.”
Kate’s strengths, not surprisingly, are her mental and emotional toughness, putting and driving. The excellent driving she also got from her mother, and it played a big role in her dominant victory. Kate scored 49 of her 130 points with her driver.
Other boys winners included Bradford Lacefield of Versailles, Ky., who topped the Boys 12-13 division by 18 points; Brady Barnum of Dublin, Ohio, who advanced in the Boys 10-11 division with 31 points to spare and Lucas Bernstein of Williamston, Mich., who won the Boys 7-9 division by a tight two-point margin.
Kristina Ma of Columbus, Ohio, putted her way to the Girls 12-13 division trophy, scoring 65 of her 123 total points in that skill competition. Ressie Lemmon of McCordsville, Ind., who topped the Girls 7-9 division, also scored the most points with her putter.
In the tightest contest, Athena Singh, 10, of Morehead, Ky., won the Girls’ 10-11 division with 89 points. That was one point better than Jolie Pastorick of Rydal, Pa. Athena plays on the boys’ golf team at Lakeside Christian Academy. She reached the National Finals on Saturday for the first time in three attempts.
“Of course, you always think of getting to the National Finals,” said her father, Harvinder. “But we didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”
The long-distance champ at Oakland Hills was Claira Frizzell. She traveled from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, to make an appearance, and finished second to Lemmon in the Girls 7-9 division. The mileage, by car, from Nova Scotia to Bloomfield Hills is 1,350 miles.
Frizzell and her father, Scott, a golf professional, flew from Nova Scotia to Hamilton, Ontario, then drove the final four hours. It’s been a busy season for the Frizzells. Claira won the Girls 9-11 division of Golf Canada’s Junior Skills Challenge, an event similar to Drive, Chip and Putt held in conjunction with the Canadian Women’s Open.
She represented her country well at Oakland Hills.