Patrick Sullivan: From late bloomer to Michigan Amateur champ

·5 min read

Patrick Sullivan has a message for those freshman and sophomore high school golfers who have big dreams for their games, but don’t feel like they are making progress.

“I was a late bloomer,” said the University of Michigan golfer who recently won the Michigan Amateur Championship two years after being a runner-up in the state championship.

“I didn’t really play well until I was a junior in high school, so those freshman and sophomores who are thinking they are not good enough, there’s time. Golf is crazy. You can get good at any point.”

Sullivan, whose game first blossomed at Grosse Pointe South High School, has two years remaining at Michigan with the NCAA’s granting of a COVID-19 extra year of eligibility, but he isn’t sure he will use both. He will earn his degree in sport management with an emphasis on marketing next year and may opt out of the extra year.

“I honestly don’t know yet,” he said. “I do know that when I leave Michigan it will be to head to Florida and take my shot at being a pro. I’m definitely going to give it a go. My mindset in college has been to get good enough to give pro golf a shot, and once I get there, try to make it work out.”

Sullivan made the 110th Michigan Amateur work out when he turned back Eastern Michigan University golfer Tyler Rayman of Otsego, 2 and 1, in the championship match at Cascade Hills Country Club. His name is on the prestigious Staghorn Trophy, two years after he lost in the championship match to Ben Smith of Novi and Georgia Tech, and where he wanted it to be before turning professional.

“It was a big goal since losing (to Smith at Oakland Hills North) to get back and win,” he said. “My name is going on the trophy and it means a lot. Getting to the finals is an accomplishment in itself, and you don’t really know if you’re going to be back in that situation. It’s so hard to win all the matches it takes. I was lucky enough two years later and I knew I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes I did then.”

Instead of mistakes in the final he made birdies, including one at No. 10 to pull even and consecutive birdies at Nos. 14 and 15 to take the lead.

“Tyler was very tough,” Sullivan said. “I just kept making birdies the guys told me. To be completely honest I had no idea. I was just playing to what he was doing. Yeah, luckily some putts fell and they needed to fall. For a while I was trailing and it was just one of those matches where if you get to three down, you’re probably not going to get back in it because we were both playing so well.”

Rayman, past the round of 16 for the first time, called it a great match.

“I played solid on the front and on the back really and felt I had a great chance,” he said. “Patrick just got hot. He’s an amazing player.”

Sullivan’s father Tom is an accomplished golfer who has played in the Michigan Amateur, including a couple with sons Patrick and Tommy. Patrick said he never pushed the game on the boys but taught them and let him find their own way.

“I definitely wouldn’t be where I am if he didn’t play golf,” Patrick said. “He started playing a lot after college and loved it, then he played with us and we got into it. It was about middle school where all of us got the bug.”

All of us includes three boys, Patrick, Tommy, who will be a sophomore at Michigan State University, and Brennan, who will be a sophomore in high school. Tommy isn’t on the MSU golf team, but still competes in Golf Association of Michigan tournaments and was part of the starting field in the Michigan Amateur. Brennan was playing in a tournament in Northern Michigan the same week as the Michigan Amateur. Their mother Theresa is part of the support system.

“The support has always been there,” Patrick said. “They will support whatever I chose to do with golf. I know that.”

Patrick has worked with Patrick Wilkes-Krier, a teaching professional in Ypsilanti for the Dave Kendall Golf Academy at the Miles of Golf facility. Wilkes-Krier, who is a former University of Michigan assistant coach and recruited Patrick, recently finished second in the Michigan Open Championship.

“I’ve always hit the ball a long way off the tee, so there hasn’t been a lot of concern with that,” Patrick said. “I realized once I got to college golf how important the short game is and it is the part of the game where I’ve shaved off the most strokes. We’ve worked on my game from 150 yards and in. I spend probably 80 percent of my practice time on that.”

Along his way in golf being a professional tour player became the dream that was behind the practice. He even has a dream foursome that makes perfect sense – Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan would join him.

“I’ve always admired Spieth and Tiger, obviously, and they say Hogan hit it unbelievable even with bad clubs,” he said. “It would cool to see what he could do with today’s clubs.”