HFC alumnus wins Michigan Tournament of Champions title
Even though he had never golfed on the north course of the Detroit Golf Club... even though he was up against some pretty stiff competition... even though there was a 2-hour fog delay... even though he had to fight through a tense, four-hole, sudden-death playoff... 2016 HFC alumnus Jake Kieronski overcame the odds and won the Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) 2018 Tournament of Champions title Oct. 8.
“This win is very special to me,” said Kieronski, who lives in Wyandotte with his fiancée Elizabeth Grey and their son, Michael. “It feels pretty amazing. This is a statewide tournament. You have to win a city tournament to be eligible. I won the Lakes of Taylor City Championship at the end of July to qualify for this one. There is a lot of competition throughout the entire state.”
The Detroit Golf Club, he said, is first-rate.
“I’ve never played this course before,” said Kieronski. “It’s amazing. There’s a sense of history and prestige here. There are pictures of Arnold Palmer everywhere. It’s definitely breathtaking. This course is hosting the Rocket Mortgage Classic in June 2019 as part of the PGA Tour.”
Sudden-death for the win
Kieronski birdied the No. 1 hole three times, including twice in a three-man sudden-death overtime playoff that extended to four holes. He shot 2 under 70 in regulation play, which left him tied with Battle Creek Country Club champion Bill Johnson and GAM Mid-Amateur champion Scott Strickland.
For the playoff, Kieronski and Johnson each birdied No. 1, while Strickland was eliminated with a par. Kieronski and Johnson then tied on hole 2 with pars and hole 9 with bogeys. This set the winning birdie back up at No. 1 for Kieronski, who earned his first GAM title.
“I knew I was hitting well, but I didn’t think I’d win. The course was wet and the ball was covered in mud,” he said. “Johnson and Strickland are good players. I didn’t think I’d beat them because they’re that good.”
In the zone
Kieronski described what he felt the moment he realized he won the tournament.
“I had a sense of calmness come over me because I hadn’t been playing as much as I used to, with a 5-month-old at home,” he said. “Winning this tournament humbled me. I knew that my game was solid. You put the work in, and it’s coming to fruition.”
Kieronski, who is currently an independent insurance agent for the KSP Agency in Wyandotte, attended HFC on a golf scholarship. He earned his associate degree in business administration in May of 2016.
Three days later, Kieronski won the Michigan Community College Athletic Association (MCCAA) Individual Championship title for the second consecutive year at the State Tournament in Port Huron.
“It was an all-around beautiful day,” recalled Kieronski.
Coaching and fatherhood take a front seat; golf is on the back burner
For the last two years, he has been the head golf coach at the Summit Academy North High School in Romulus.
“The student athletes are great. It’s definitely where I want to be,” he said. “The high school coaching experience will definitely help me if I decide to coach at the college level.”
Still riding high from his GAM championship, Kieronski is setting golf aside for the moment.
“I’m learning the ropes of being a father,” he said. “Golf is temporarily on the back burner.”