What It’s Like to Play in a Pro-Am, Ally Challenge Pre-Tournament Day 2

Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club, Grand Blanc, MI — July 30, 2020

Pro-Ams continued at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club today prior to the opening round of the Ally Challenge on Friday. Media interviews with PGA Tour Champions rookies brought Jim Furyk and Ernie Els to the microphone with the ever-popular Vijay Singh wrapping up pre-tournament interviews.

But first, the Lasco Press gained an exclusive interview with the Pro-Am team that played with PGA Tour Champions Professional Tom Byrum.

Tom Byrum / Lasco Press Photo

The Pro-Am Experience From the Amateur’s Perspective

The PGA Tour Champions play in pro-am charity events at every tournament, it’s a part of their job. For amateurs, it’s often a once in a lifetime opportunity to play with a sports professional, compare/learn skills, and socialize with a celebrity. The format is unique to golf and entry fees add to charitable earnings of the tournament.

Often corporate sponsorships pay players fees as an employment perk. The link between companies promoting their brands and golf tournaments is strong and the backbone of the PGA Tours.

Gerald Chiddick, Tanathan Nelson, Ryan Craig, and Russ Dixon played with professional Tom Byrum during the afternoon pro-am. Ryan acted as the spokesperson for the group and talked with us at the conclusion of the round. Gerald is the Vice President of Marketing for Amerisure Insurance headquartered in Farmington Hills, MI. Ryan is the Director of Brand Communications and works in Gerald’s department.

About Amerisure and Their Connection to the Ally Challenge

Amerisure provides premium insurance solutions for America’s manufacturing, construction, and healthcare industries. They are committed to being good citizens in the community and participating in outreach programs is a large part of the Amerisure service culture.

Amerisure matches employee contributions to a range of charities, sponsors community outreach efforts, and supports non-profit organizations that enhance the lives of people in communities touched by Amerisure employees, board members, Partners For Success® agencies, and policyholders through the Amerisure Charitable Foundation.

Amerisure has been involved with golf sponsorship in the greater metro Detroit area for a number of years. Gerald and Ryan have a longstanding relationship with Matt Stephens, the new Tournament Director for the Ally Challenge. When Stephens came to Warwick Hills he encouraged Gerald and Ryan to come and experience the Grand Blanc community and consider it as a place worthy of their sponsorship. Thus the connection to today’s pro-am event.

Tanathan, a friend of Gerald, and Ryan’s longtime pal Russ rounded out the foursome.

(L to R) Russ Dixon, Ryan Craig, Gerald Chiddick, and Tanathan Nelson / Lasco Press Photo

Playing 18 Holes in a Pro-Am

The first thing Ryan commented on was the golf course. Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club have a top-notch staff of groundskeepers and on a normal day the beauty of the course always shines through. But, playing there under tournament conditions was a real treat, perfect conditions and fast greens are how Ryan described Warwick Hills.

Ryan launches a drive with great form / Lasco Press Photo

“Tom and his caddie, Tim Mork, were friendly and engaging,” Ryan said. “Throughout the day their expertise was on display as they provided yardage marks, read greens, and gave us ideal approach suggestions as to where to land on the green.”

Tom Byrum caddie Tim Mork / Lasco Press Photo

Ryan described his highlight of the day. “Putting a couple of shots together I was on the green in two. Tim came over, cleaned, and placed my ball, and pointed out an aiming spot on the green. He defined the line and the speed the putt should have, I stepped up and drained the putt for a birdie, just like a pro.”

Playing without fans on the course was different for the golfers this year. Ryan noted that some residents sat on their patios and decks to observe the action. “It was nice to hear their applause when we hit a good shot. Everyone was friendly and waved us on with encouragement.”

“The day was so special and the thing that amplified it to such an amazing experience was the hospitality staff at Warwick Hills. Everyone went out of their way to make sure we were getting the most out of our day at the course.”

As Ryan and his team discussed after the round it was a deeply personal experience for each of the players. Fist bumps accompanied good shots, lots of laughs, an enjoyable day for everyone, cherished memories for a lifetime.

Gerald addresses the ball on the tee, as the team looks on / Lasco Press Photo

Ryan summed things up with the perfect quote: “I came out to play in a pro-am and was treated as if I was the professional.” He did say his game did not quite live up to that status, but no matter, “the overall experience was beyond outstanding.” Sounds like we might be hearing more from Amerisure Insurance in Grand Blanc in the future.

Tee Times for the Opening Round of the Ally Challenge

The tee times for Friday’s opening round of the Ally Challenge were released today. Some interesting matchups stand out. The 11:20 time on the first tee features John Daly

Doug Barron, Memphis, TN
John Daly, Dardanelle, AR
Tom Pernice Jr., Murrieta, CA

The all-entertainment trio tees it up at 11:05 on #10

Rocco Mediate, Greensburg,PA
Mark Calcavecchia, Jupiter, FL
Colin Montgomerie, Royal Troon, Scotland

Followed directly by the all-international squad at 11:15

Ernie Els, South Africa
Vijay Singh, Fiji Islands
BernhardLanger, Munich,Germany

The rookies hit it together at 11:45, also off #10

Jim Furyk, Jacksonville, FL
Mike Weir, BrightsGrv, ON, Canada
K.J. Choi, Dallas, TX

On Course Pictures from the Ally Challenge

Player Interviews

The complete transcript of each interview is posted at the end of the article.

Jim Furyk – Also making his inaugural start with the PGA Tour Champions is Jim Furyk. Still active on the PGA Tour, Furyk talked about how it was great to start his PGA Tour Champions career here at Warwick Hills, a course he knows well. Plus the camaraderie of the guys he has not seen in a few years.

Jim Furyk / Lasco Press Photo

Ernie Els – Although a rookie on the PGA Tour Champions, Els is already an event winner. He took home the trophy at the last event played before the pandemic shutdown, the Hoag Classic, March 6-8 in Newport Beach, CA. Els talked about returning to Warwick Hills and what a great course it is. He also commented on dealing with the challenges of the COVID crisis.

Vijay Singh – A three-time winner at Warwick Hills when they hosted the Buick Open, Singh knows and likes the layout here. He talked about playing without fans on the course and how the guys miss their interaction, especially on the 17th.

Vijay Singh / Lasco Press Photo

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Jim Furyk


Ernie Els


30 Jul-Singh