James Piot makes Michigan golf history with U.S. Amateur win

·5 min read

Michigan natives have won major championships in golf, played on Ryder Cup Teams and competed on the grand stages of golf like St. Andrews, Augusta National and Pebble Beach.

Until James Piot of Canton, a Michigan State golfer, rallied from a 3-down deficit on the last nine holes to win the 121st U.S. Amateur Championship at Oakmont Country Club there had never been a Michigan native bring home the Havemeyer Trophy.

Nick Carlson, a University of Michigan golfer from Hamilton, made an especially exciting run to the semifinals in the 2016 U.S. Amateur, which was played in Michigan, at our grand stage of golf, Oakland Hills Country Club.

And back in 1956 Michigan golf legend Chuck Kocsis reached the final match of the U.S. Amateur before falling to Harvie Ward. Only Kocsis really wasn’t a Michigan native. He was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and the family that included 14 children moved to Redford shortly after he was born, victims of the historic Johnstown Flood.

Piot, when he rolled in that 20-footer on the 35th hole to save par and close out his 2 and 1 win over Austin Greaser of Vandalia, Ohio, made Michigan golf history with a few exclamation points!

The week before he has won the GAM Championship for the second time, this time at Franklin Hills Country Club. He said then it would be good momentum going into the U.S. Amateur and that he was excited to see what he could do at Oakmont.

“You dream of it, but you don’t really think it’s going to happen,” Piot said. “But you know, I had some momentum rolling when I won the GAM Championship, and it was like, you know I’m playing well right now. I told myself to stay in the moment, take one shot at time and keep it rolling.”

He rolled, and Michigan’s golf community rolled with him.

Fellow Spartans, teammates and coaches he has had at every level, friends, opponents and just happy golf fans from Michigan made their way to Oakmont if they could or stay glued to a television to cheer him on.

The reactions were filled with joy and respect for his accomplishment.

From Dan Ellis, the MSU associate head golf coach who served as his caddie for the week: “It is special and you know James Piot is a big deal now. On the board inside they show who has won championships at Oakmont. Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, so it’s kind of cool James will have his name up there now.”

From his head coach at MSU, Casey Lubahn: “The only limits are the ones we put on ourselves, but when you work as hard as he does, and push up that sand hill, you can get to the top. That’s James. He was calm, he was confident and this is what happens.”

From his long-time teacher at Fox Hills Golf & Banquet Center, Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member Brian Cairns: “The prize at the end for him is the PGA Tour. Sorry, I’m emotional. I still can’t believe he just won. It’s a stepping stone on the journey to where he wants to be, but what a huge stone. There is just something different about that kid. I’ve been saying that for a long time.”

From his high school coach at Detroit Catholic Central, an accomplished player himself, Mike Anderson: “I’ve been fortunate to have several good players at Catholic Central but James’ work ethic is second-to-none. I always thought he would make it on tour. This though, the opportunities it affords him are incredible. The very best players in the world have won this event. I’m so happy for him, so proud for him and his family. He deserves it. He works and works and works.”

Even Michigan State’s famous basketball coach, Tom Izzo, and its most famous basketball player and athlete ever, Magic Johnson, got in on the celebration.

Izzo texted to Lubahn: “It’s a golf school now.”

Johnson went on Twitter and congratulated him with a “Go Green, Go White” message.

Piot, himself, used Twitter to offer a thank you: “Still can’t believe this is real, thank you so much to everyone who has reached out and all those who have been there to support me from the start. Couldn’t have done it without y’all.”

He added a heart emoji and the hashtag “#GoGreen.”

After the trophy ceremony he was moved that so many people had ventured to Oakmont, a little less than a five-hour drive from metro Detroit.

“Aside from golf, it lets me know I’m blessed to have people that support me in my life. It just means everything to have that. All my close friends and family out here makes it so much better and I’m so happy they were here.”

Piot is the fourth GAM member golfer to win a USGA national championship in the last 20 years. Greg Reynolds of Grand Blanc won the 2002 U.S. Senior Amateur, Randy Lewis of Alma won the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur and Tom Werkmeister of Hudsonville was medalist as Team Michigan won the USGA State Team Championship in 2016.

They made some history and Piot historically topped them all. He will be exempt into the U.S. Open, the British Open and probably invited to the Masters Tournament, and he will forever be the first from Michigan to win the U.S. Amateur.