FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. – Mix together a Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) president bullish on greater access to the game for young people, the GAM Foundation’s Youth on Course support program, fundraisers like the 100 Hole Hike and YOC Celebration Day and the result is 6,495 golfers under age 18 having a fist-pumping fun and affordable golf season.
Heading into October there were 6,495 YOC members through the GAM playing 12,364 rounds of golf and hitting 1,447 buckets of balls this season, all for $5 or less. In addition, $72,250 had been paid to the state’s participating courses by the GAM Foundation.
GAM president Mark Bultema of Grand Rapids, pushed an agenda of inclusion and pulled off fundraising as well. He said he started playing the game at age eight at city-owned Indian Trails Golf Course in Grand Rapids. In August, the course played host to the first YOC Celebration Day that raised over $50,000 while giving dozens of young golfers and their families a day of golf fun.
“I had a chance recently to look back on my life’s journey and the one thing that has been a constant is the enjoyment I have had playing golf,” Bultema said. “The most memorable times I have are playing with my two children, their spouses and my seven grandchildren. What a blessing, and it all started when I was eight years old and my first round of golf at Indian Trails. I would have been one of the Youth On Course members if the program had been available.”
GAM Executive Director Chris Whitten lauded Bultema’s efforts and leadership.
“Mark’s a planner and he had a great vision for it, both parts, the fundraising to support the kids and then welcoming the kids and letting them play golf,” he said. “It was a special afternoon, and because of all the good planning of Mark and the GAM staff, I thought it just went beautifully.”
Cut to recent weeks and for the third consecutive year the GAM participating in the 100 Hole Hike fundraiser for Youth on Course. It raised over $30,000 thanks to generous donors and GAM staff members and others walking more than 100 holes at two sites (Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs, Country Club of Detroit in Grosse Pointe Farms), each toting their own golf bags after collecting pledges.
“The Michigan 100 Hole Hike exceeded all expectations this year,” Whitten said. “More Hikers took on the challenge and we spread out to two new locations,” Whitten said. “We had a lot of fun and raised some great awareness for Youth on Course Michigan. I can’t thank these golfers enough.”
Whitten said the participating golf courses across the state, over 70 of them, do get subsidized but are playing a key role as well.
“To be fair, what we subsidize is a negotiated rate,” he said. “They have skin in the game, too. They are working with us on a workable rate that makes it all possible. It means in the end it’s going to be good for the game of golf in Michigan because we’ll keep growing it for everybody and making it more and more accessible. The funds raised help pay for a lot of golf rounds.”
Whitten, Ken Hartmann (GAM Senior Director of Competitions), Charlotte Sypula (USGA Boatwright Intern), golf professionals Corey May, Scott Pussehl and Patrick Wilkes-Krier, Ann Arbor philanthropist Michael Nisson and GAM Governor Janina Jacobs were among the hikers, and some were involved in a competition to raise money. Hartmann even made a hole-in-one at Country Club of Detroit while at the event.
“It has been a great year for the GAM, Youth on Course and Michigan golf,” Whitten said.
Those interested in learning more about the Youth on Course program or the 100 Hole Hike can do so at .