Reigning Michigan Op[en Champ Busy Playing Mini Tours
Defending Michigan Open champion Scott Hebert has some doubt concerning his standing with the Michigan PGA and, therefore, his eligibility for this year's Michigan Open, given his recent participation in a pair of mini tours, but according to the Michigan Section, as long as he maintains a Michigan address, he not only will be eligible to defend his title, he will be welcomed to do so.
After competing in a few events on the NGA Hooters Tour at the beginning of the year, the 31-year old Escanaba native and current Grand Rapids resident has joined the BUY.COM tour, which was formerly known as the Nike Tour. It has been rough going for Hebert on the BUY.COM Tour, with his best showing being a 36th-place finish in the Florida Classic. Hebert, however, did shoot a first-round 67 and his driving accuracy has been sharp, so there are signs he is getting the hang of it.
"It had been quite a while since I set foot on a course," Hebert said. "The first couple events for me on this tour have been like going to Disneyland as a kid. This is like playing the Michigan Open every week."
The 2001 Michigan Open, to be played on The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme, is scheduled for Monday through Thursday, June 25-28. "As far as I know, Scott's playing on the Hooters and BUY.COM tours won't affect his standing for the Michigan Open," said Kevin Helm, the Director of Operations for the Michigan PGA. "The only way he could lose his eligibility is if he moved out of state."
With $4,150 in earnings on the Hooters tour, thanks to an eighth and a 10th-place tie, Hebert was a little surprised at how quickly he snapped back into form after being away from the game. "I went out to California to see one of my former golf teachers for a couple of days and then ended up taking a few weeks off from golf," Hebert said. "I still ended up pretty decent."
Hebert plans on concentrating on the BUY.COM Tour full-time, in order to avoid having to attend PGA Qualifying School once again. If Hebert finishes as one of the top 15 leading money winners on the tour, then it's bye-bye BUY, hello PGA Tour.
"That's why I'm going to try and play in all of them, it's a great reason to miss tour school," Hebert said. "I want to play in as many events as I can, because the PGA is definitely where I want to be playing."
Hebert isn't afraid to ask for advice from the other golfers, saying the older golfers are more than willing to lend a hand to the newcomers. "Mostly the advice you get is just about the ins and outs of the entire tour," Hebert said. "You don't really get information on how to deal with various courses, but generally these are golfers who will help you out."
Hebert won the 2000 Detroit Newspapers Michigan Open at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, shooting a 10-under-par 278 to finish five strokes ahead of second-place Jeff Roth. While Hebert wondered if he will be eligible for this year's 72-hole event, due to his having taken part in 12 Hooters Tour events in 12 months, Hebert thoroughly enjoys playing the course where he used to be an assistant professional.
"The secret to The Bear is you have to be able to hit the ball high unless the conditions are real soft," Hebert said. "You don't have to be a great driver, but you have to be able to hit bunker shots and at least two-putt. It's not really a golf course that a big guy can overpower, but you have to know how far you can hit your irons and how to deal with harder greens. You have to convert your playing style to adapt to this course."
If Hebert should not return to defend his championship, his consolation would be his involvement in the BUY.COM tour, a tour that has already taken him south of the border to Monterey, Mexico (where he did not make the cut) and will also take him north of the border in June for a tournament in Toronto.
"The depth of the players is a lot better," Hebert said. "On the Hooters tour you had 30, maybe 40 guys who could win a tournament each week, and on BUY.COM it's a lot tougher. Just about everyone could win it.
"The courses are a little bit better, the money's a bit better, and the golfers are first-rate."
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