Mack Makes History as First African American Michigan Amateur Champion

Willie-Mack-IIIHARBOR SPRINGS – From the first tee shot of the final round of the 100th Michigan Amateur it was Willie Mack III’s day. With precision drives and savvy putts Mack (Flint) defeated defending champion and hometown favorite Joey Garber (Petoskey/University of Michigan) 4 & 3 to become the first African American to win the Michigan Amateur title.

“I didn’t really think about this history aspect of it when I was out there,” said Mack, 22, who plans to turn professional later this year. “I just wanted to come out and play and see how far I could get in the tournament. But to be the first African American to win in the 100th year of the tournament is really special.”

Mack won his semi-final over Matt Thompson (Battle Creek/University of Michigan) 1-up in a match where Mack was 5-up at the turn. He hit some errant shots on the back nine which caused him to consult his swing coach Bill Baldwin between the semi-final and final matches. Baldwin, who is the PGA professional at The Jewel of Grand Blanc, knew just what Mack needed to help him soar in the final round. 

“I called Bill and he gave me a little drill and I went out on the range and did it before the final and it worked,” said Mack.  “I told myself to just keep grinding and to take it one shot at a time and it worked out.”

Garber also defeated his semi-final opponent, Eric Lilleboe (Okemos) 1-up but in the final round sprayed some tee shots into the woods and rough and left himself with some long and difficult putts. Garber was clearly frustrated with his play, particularly after the turn, and was disappointed not to play better in front of the large gallery that was, for the most part, rooting for him.

Willie and the Trophy“I know how good Willie is but I also know how good I am and I didn’t play nearly as well as I can today,” said Garber, 19. “It’s no fun to lose like this but Willie beat me and he played well so there just isn’t much to say about it.”

Mack had birdies on 10 and 11 which really turned the match in his favor. Although he played his practice round at Boyne Highlands Resort – The Heather with Garber, he had no qualms about going for the kill in the final match against his fellow golfer.

“We’re all friends but you have to keep grinding and beat them down,” said Mack. “I know Joey was getting mad out there, but I just got hold of the par 5s today and that really made the difference.”

The diminutive Mack stands 5-foot-6 and weighs just 148 pounds, but he packs a punch with his driver. He averages between 295 and 300 yards with it and hit his 5-wood 265 yards on the back nine in the final.

“I’m just real happy,” said Mack, who expressed a sense of pride in coming from the Flint Junior Golf program and adding to a rich tradition of golf in the Flint area. “It’s been a long week and I can’t wait to get home to Flint and share this with everyone there.”

Mack attended Flint Central High School and Grand Blanc High School and played goff at Bethine-Cookman University. He has been on a tear this year with four college championships and a win at the West Michigan Amateur.

All week the grounds crew and staff at Boyne Highlands Resort – The Heather did a great job keeping the fairways and greens in tip-top condition. While they couldn’t control Mother Nature, they did a great job dealing with the large amount of rain that was present the first four days of the tournament. Hats off to the entire Boyne staff to making this tournament a delight for all of the players and spectators.

Semifinal Match

Willie Mack III, Flint def. Matt Thompson, Battle Creek 1 Up
Joey Garber, Petoskey def. Eric Lilleboe, Okemos 1 Up


Final Match

Mack III def. Garber 4&3

 

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