ROCHESTER HILLS – Joe Juszczyk of Dearborn Heights, a touring professional golfer playing one tour or another for 13 years, came home to Michigan to win the biggest check of his career.
The 36-year-old journeyman shot a closing 2-under 69 and finished two shots clear of the field at 12-under to win the Hall Financial Michigan Open presented by Make The Turn, Brighton Ford and Coppercraft Distillery Thursday at the Katke-Cousins Course at Oakland University Golf & Learning Center.
“I’ve won tournaments before but nothing that meant this much,” he said just before receiving the $18,000 first-place share from the largest purse in the 106-year history of the state championship, $122,500.
Grand Valley State University golfer Charles DeLong of DeWitt, the leader by one shot over Jusczcyk starting the final round, shot a closing 72 and tied for second at 10-under with mini-tour golfer James Holley of Howell, who shot 67. DeWitt, the recent Jack Nicklaus Award winner as the best player in NCAA Division II, was the low amateur of the championship.
Tyler Copp of Ann Arbor finished fourth after a 70 for 9-under, and Otto Black of Brighton, 2021 Tournament of Champions winner, moved up to fifth with a closing 65 for 8-under.
Two former Michigan Open champions, 2012 winner Barrett Kelpin of Kalamazoo, and 2017 winner Matt Thompson, now the golf coach at Hillsdale College, tied for sixth at 6-under. Kelpin shot a 72 and Thompson a 66 in the final round.
Juszczyk, who has status on PGA Tour Canada, said playing mini-tour events and chasing the PGA Tour dream is tough, and joked that he thinks about giving up the road every winter..
“It’s a tough road, especially if you can’t handle the failures along the way and just be patient,” he said. “I’ve worked at being patient. Seriously though, I have thought about quitting a handful of times since I was 28 or 29, but I’m a golfer and I keep going.”
Jusczcyk kept going Thursday. He and DeLong traded the lead or were tied for the lead through the final round. It turned in Jusczcyk’s favor when he saved pars after missing the greens on Nos. 13 and 14 and DeLong missed the greens at Nos. 14 and 15 and couldn’t save pars.
“A couple bad swings got me in tough spots and I wasn’t able to recover from them,” DeLong said. “Joe was super solid all day and when he was in trouble a couple of times he was able to get back on track really well. He made a clutch par on 14 and that was kind of the turning point. It was a fun battle back and forth.”
DeLong, who has a year remaining at Grand Valley, said he will head into next week’s Michigan Amateur Championship at Oakland Hills North with confidence.
“I really feel like I didn’t have my best game this week; it was pretty good though and I was able to be in contention and be in the final group,” he said. “That was nice. I just have to clean up little mistakes and I will be there, in contention again.”
Juszczyk said he is not a scoreboard watcher and wasn’t sure where he stood throughout the round.
“I just try to keep my head down and keep playing,” he said. “I have to take care of my business, and if that’s good enough, it’s good enough.”
It was good enough for his biggest check by $3,000. The previous was $15,000 from a tournament in Brainerd, Minn., in 2019.
“This will pay a lot of bills,” he said. “It’s great to win my state open and its great they have Hall Financial and the other sponsors to make it possible. Oakland University, the course, everybody here, it was great and it was a great week for me.”
SCORES: michiganpga.com or link to Hall Financial Michigan Open Champ - Michigan Open Championship Leaderboard | Michigan PGA (bluegolf.com)
ABOUT HALL FINANCIAL: David Hall started in the mortgage business in 1996 and his passion for the business and his clients has never been stronger. After working for others for over 20 years, David started Hall Financial in 2016 with the core mission to be the most client-focused mortgage company in the industry. Media contact for Hall Financial: Mark Gildersleeve, Vice-President-Marketing & Strategy, 248-590-0131, email@example.com. Website: callhallfirst.com
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