Michigan Golf Hall of Fame Inducts Four New Members

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BIG RAPIDS – An LPGA Tour winner from the upper peninsula, a golf amateur, a pioneer turfgrass teacher, and a multi-media journalist have been elected to the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.

Becky Iverson, Tom Werkmeister, Paul Rieke, and Vartan Kupelian will be inducted June 8 in ceremonies at Ferris State University in Big Rapids.

Iverson, born in Escanaba and raised in Gladstone, played for 14 years on the LPGA Tour, was named to the U.S. Solheim Cup Team in 2000, won the 1987 Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship, and played collegiate golf at Michigan State University where she was an Academic All-American in 1987-88.

Her playing career highlights include winning the 1995 Friendly’s Classic Title on the LPGA Tour, where she recorded a career-best 63 during the second round with nine birdies and a tie for second in the 2000 Women’s British Open. She had LPGA Tour career earnings of more than $1.5 million, and also won six times while playing on three mini-tours, including the Central Florida Challenge Tour where she was Player of the Year in 1993.

Iverson started golf at eight years of age, and credits her parents George Clifton and Vickie Layton as the individuals who have most influenced her career. She is the director of golf at The Bridges Golf Course in Madison, Wis., and recognized for leading a junior program emphasizing life lessons as well as golf skills. In 2013, she became eligible for and started playing on The LPGA Legends Tour.

Werkmeister, a Kentwood resident who was born in Warren, became the first amateur in 38 years to win the Michigan Open Championship. His 2009 Michigan Amateur title along with the Open title placed him with Chuck Kocsis, Randy Erskine, and Lynn Janson in the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.

Werkmeister also won the 2013 Michigan Mid-Amateur for the fifth time in the last six years. He made history in the Grand Rapids area by being the first to ever win the four local “Grand Slam” events, and was a qualifying medalist in the Michigan Amateur before falling to eventual champion Andrew Chapman in match play. His 2013 season added to an amateur career that including three-time Golf Association of Michigan Player of the Year, reaching the Michigan Amateur’s Sweet 16 six times, and qualifying for the U.S. Amateur twice and U.S. Mid-Amateur four times. 

Werkmeister started playing golf at age seven, was a two-time high school All-State player, a Junior College All-American, and has been a force on the amateur scene in Michigan for almost 20 years. He currently runs his own internet sales business, and his wife Leslie is known across the state as a gallery member and sometimes caddie.

Rieke, a professor emeritus at Michigan State University since 1999 and affiliated with the university since 1960, is knowledgeable on turfgrass soils and nutrition, and is credited by his peers in the international development and advancement of turfgrass science.

He has co-authored five books in the area of soils and plant nutrition, published 32 journal articles and over 400 non-technical papers, taught over 5,000 students, worked with countless others on extension and research projects, served six years as leader of the MSU Turfgrass Team, served the International  Turfgrass Society, the Michigan Turfgrass Foundation, the USGA Turfgrass and Environmental Research Committees, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, the PGA Tour Agronomy Advisory Committee, and the Golf Association of Michigan Green Committee.

He helped develop the Hancock Turfgrass Research Center at MSU, was involved in the indoor turfgrass project at the Silverdome for the 1994 World Cup, and has played a role in securing some $1.2 million in external grants and donations to Michigan State. Rieke of Okemos has received service awards from the Golf Association of Michigan and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

Kupelian was the third Detroit golf writer to be elected president of the Golf Writers Association of America, an international organization of 950 members.  A graduate of Highland Park High School and Wayne State University, he has authored three books on golf, including one on Tiger Woods, the most recent 100-year History of Red Run Golf Club and Chuck Kocsis, Michigan’s Golfer of the 20th Century, which he wrote pro-bono with proceeds going to the Michigan Golf Foundation. This year, his book on Oakland Hills Country Club will be published to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the prestigious club in 2016.

Currently, the Farmington Hills resident is part of a weekly radio show in the Detroit market, writes a weekly column for PGATOUR.com as champions tour insider, works as a lead writer for Masters.com during the Masters Tournament each year at Augusta National Golf Club, is a senior correspondent for Global Golf Post, and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Golf Association of Michigan and chairman of the GAM communications committee.

The induction of Iverson, Werkmeister, Rieke, and Kupelian brings hall of fame membership to 105. In November, it was announced that Ferris State University had been selected as the new location of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame and its collection of plaques, portraits, and memorabilia that commemorate its members.

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