EGYPT VALLEY DEFINES CHAMPIONS
The greats of the game, the top junior golfers in the world and Michigan’s best men and women have competed at Egypt Valley Country Club where champions are defined. Our club’s tournament history is rich and far reaching.
The Champions Tour Years
Chi Chi Rodriquez did the Cha Cha, Lee Trevino made merry, Gary Player did push-ups on the putting green, Dr. Gil Morgan operated, Larry Nelson quietly dominated, Christy O’Connor shared his wonderful Irish spirit and David Stockton and George Archer demonstrated why they are known as two of the best putters in golf history.
They did those things before thousands of golf fans at Egypt Valley Country Club between the years of 1994 and 2004 when 11 times the PGA’s Champions Tour made a stop for a Grand Rapids Jaycees-owned tournament known as the Farmer’s Charity Classic, Foremost Insurance Championship, First of America Classic and prior to coming to Egypt Valley the Greater Grand Rapids Open. The tournaments raised thousands of dollars each year for local charities dispersed by the Jaycees.
“This is a big boy golf course,” Trevino exclaimed during his first visit to Egypt Valley.
Lee Trevino, Champions Tour
The big boys did some remarkable things. English star and European Ryder Cup captain extraordinaire Tony Jacklin was the first champion at Egypt Valley in 1994. He beat Stockton by one shot in rain-shortened affair on the Classic Course used by the tour each time it visited (Ridge and Valley back nines).
Stockton, who became an unofficial ambassador to the tournament with annual visits he turned into golf and fishing trips, won in 1996 after ageless Jimmy Powell took the title in 1995.
Morgan, the Optometrist who never had to open a practice because his golf game was so successful, won in 1997, and Archer won in 1998. It was the second Grand Rapids title for the towering Archer. He had won in 1993 at The Highlands in Grand Rapids where the tournament was played the first eight times starting in 1986.
Valley Course #18, Champions Tour
O’Connor was one of the most popular winners in tournament history in 1999. The nephew of an Irish golf legend of the same name said he fell in love with Egypt Valley because the rolling green hills and ridges reminded him of home, and the club members and people of West Michigan were “clearly Irish, if not by blood, by spirit.”
Nelson, a golf technician who tinkered and changed his golf clubs often, dominated to win in 2000 and 2001. The Alabama native won 19 times on the Champions Tour and was the only repeat winner in the 19-year history of the Grand Rapids tour stop.
Jay Sigel, who first made his legend as an elite amateur player in Pennsylvania, won for the seventh time as a professional in 2002 at Egypt Valley.
Oklahoman Doug Tewell, who won on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour and worked as a television commentator for several networks, won in 2003. He birdied the third extra hole to top Eamonn Darcy in a dramatic playoff.
North Carolina’s Jim Thorpe was the final winner of the tour stop in West Michigan when he won the 2004 title with a closing 66 at Egypt Valley. The tournament had lost title sponsorship and Thorpe lamented its end as a regular stop on tour.
“This has been a perfect place for us,” he said.
The U.S. Junior Amateur
PGA Tour star Jordan Spieth of Dallas was 16 and the defending champion when Egypt Valley hosted the U.S. Junior Amateur in July of 2010.
He didn’t win, but he was among the players who demonstrated golf talent beyond their years in the first USGA national championship ever held in West Michigan.
Jim Liu of Smithtown, N.Y., emerged the champion that week with a 4 and 2 win over Justin Thomas of Goshen, Ky., in the 36-hole final. Liu at age 14 was the youngest winner ever in the championship. He topped a record set previously by 15-year-old Tiger Woods.
Jordan Spieth, 2010 U.S. Junior Amateur
Curtis Thompson, the older brother of LPGA star Lexi Thompson, was the medalist in stroke play qualifying to determine the match play field. He shot 68-66 for 10-under 134, with Spieth and Galen Hall of Pittsford, N.Y., one shot back at 135. Hall, who went on to play for the University of Texas like Spieth, shot a second-round 10-under-62 to set the Egypt Valley course record, eclipsing the previous record 63 set by Champions Tour standout Larry Nelson.
Spieth, who spent just one year at Texas before taking the PGA Tour by storm, lost in match play to 14-year-old Robby Shelton, an Alabama native who went on to play for the University of Alabama.
Spieth called Egypt Valley a great host for the championship.
“The USGA always picks first-class sites and golf courses,” he said. “I can’t blame the golf course. It was perfect.”
Michigan Amateur Champions Crowned
Egypt Valley hosted the Michigan Amateur Championship in 1994 and again in 2017 when Michigan’s oldest championship was played for the 106th time.
The 1994 Amateur was won by Brian Atkinson of Cassopolis, then a University of Illinois golfer, who beat Egypt Valley member and crowd favorite Kurt Hassberger 1-up in a dramatic championship match. Atkinson, just 18, also knocked off West Michigan golf legend Bob Sakocius in the semifinals.
Tom Werkmeister, 2017 Michigan Amateur
The 2017 Amateur was won by local standout Tom Werkmeister, a 49-year-old already inducted in the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame. It was his second state amateur title, and later that year he became a professional golfer and qualified for the Champions Tour.
The Michigan Women’s Amateur has been hosted by Egypt Valley twice (1996 and 2007).
Stacy Slobodnik (now Slobodnik-Stoll) had grown up at Green Ridge and Egypt Valley where her parents have been members. She had gone on to play at Michigan State University where she is now the successful head women’s golf coach, tried professional golf briefly and then came home to coach and compete as a reinstated amateur.
Slobodnik-Stoll, who also won the state title in 1998, won in 1996 despite the hometown pressure. She made five birdies on the front nine in turning back fellow Michigan Golf Hall of Fame golfer Mary Jane Anderson-Hiestand of Clarkston 4 and 3 in the championship match.
Laura Bavaird of Grosse Ile won in 2007 at Egypt Valley. Bavaird, who played college golf at Western Michigan University, made a long birdie putt to top Shasta Averyhardt of Flint in 19 holes in the title match.
Michigan PGA Professional Championship
The championship for Michigan PGA Section member golf professionals has been presented twice at our club.
Dan Urban, who is now head professional at Gull Lake Country Club, had worked at Egypt Valley as an assistant professional in 2012 for one golf season, so he felt comfortable when the 94th Michigan PGA Professional Championship was hosted by the club in the summer of 2015.
He even managed to make a birdie on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to win. The then 35-year-old professional hit a pitching wedge to three feet at No. 18 on the Classic course and made the putt to beat three-time past champion Brian Cairns of Fox Hills Learning Center in Plymouth.
Scott Hebert, who early in his career worked as a golf professional at Sunnybrook Country Club in Grandville, won the 2016 Michigan PGA Professional Championship. The Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member won a rain-shortened tournament in a playoff, topping John Seltzer of Grand Rapids with a par on the first playoff hole. It was his 15th major Michigan PGA title, which tied him for the most section wins all-time with Al Watrous and J.R. Roth.
Arthur Hills, Course Architect
Arthur Hills was building his resume as one of the world’s finest golf course architects when he designed the Ridge and Valley courses for our club.
The Toledo, Ohio, native, who has degrees from both Michigan State University and the University of Michigan and has been inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, is the founding principal of Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest and Associates. His firm has designed over 185 courses around the world, including 44 in Florida, and renovated 125 others while winning dozens of awards. Egypt Valley’s two courses are among the 25 he has designed in Michigan.
He said in 1989 when Egypt Valley opened its two courses that he was impressed with the site the first time he arrived.
“Great soil, elevation changes, wonderful hardwoods, some great natural areas from where there had been a farm and beautiful scenery, it was perfect for a golf course,” he said.
Great Golfers Play Here
Current members Joan Garety and Jack VanEss are in the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame based on their many accomplishments in the game, as are Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll, the daughter of long-time members David and Sharon Slobodnik, and Lynn Janson, a former longtime professional at the club. Each of them have won multiple state championships and had success in national events during their golf careers.
Joan Garety, Current Egypt Valley Member
The club can lay claim to two golfers who have won the Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship in Garety, a two-time winner (1982, 1997), and Slobodnik-Stoll who has also won the state championship twice (1996, ‘98). Slobodnik-Stoll is the head coach of the women’s golf team at Michigan State University and the winningest golfer, male or female, of Golf Association of Michigan tournaments. Andy Matthews’ family had membership at Egypt Valley when he won the Michigan Amateur in 2001, and member Kurt Hassberger was runner-up in 1994 when Egypt Valley hosted the state championship.
Russ Jimeson won three Michigan Senior Amateur Championships (1996, ’97, 2000) while he was an Egypt Valley member. Barb Schmid has won two GAM Women’s Senior Championships (2005, ’11) and was the 2009 Michigan Women’s Senior Amateur Champion. Judy Moleski, a long-time member, won the 2003 and ’04 Michigan Women’s Senior Amateur titles.
Former assistant professionals at the club, Tom Harding (1997), Joe Pollack (2004) and Dan Urban (2015), have won the Michigan PGA Professional Championship.
Jack VanEss, Current Egypt Valley Member
In 1996 alone VanEss won the Michigan Senior Open at age 69, Jimeson won the Michigan Senior Amateur, Slobodnik-Stoll won the Michigan Women’s Amateur, Garety won the Golf Association of Michigan Women’s Championship and Danny Janson was the Michigan PGA Junior Champion. The club had 20 members that year with handicap indexes of 2.0 or better.
In 1931, a group of individuals bought the Masonic Country Club, which was perched on a scenic bluff overlooking the Grand Rapids, Michigan, skyline. They renamed it, Green Ridge Country Club. Over a half century later the members of Green Ridge voted to sell the property and construct a stunning new facility and two courses on a beautiful 357-acre property just east of Grand Rapids.
The new facility, which opened in 1989, eventually offered members a unique combination of two 18-hole golf courses designed by the renowned Arthur Hills, an Olympic-sized pool, four regulation tennis courts and a stately clubhouse. A combination of old-growth forestland and river-valley plateau marked an area that in the mid-19th century became known as Egypt Valley. The name Egypt Valley Country Club was appropriately adopted.
In the first 25 years Egypt Valley served as West Michigan’s largest private golf club, hosted multiple state championship tournaments, the only USGA championship ever in West Michigan (2010 U.S,. Junior Amateur) and 11 times was visited by the legends of professional golf who play on the Champions Tour. Lee Trevino, Gary Player made regular visits, and champions at Egypt Valley included Larry Nelson, David Stockton and George Archer. Two members, Joan Garety and Jack VanEss have been named to the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame along with former longtime PGA professional Lynn Janson.
Meanwhile, members have enjoyed more than rubbing shoulders with golf’s greats. Egypt Valley has offered and continues to offer a world-class private club experience unmatched in this region.