One minute with Michigan golf pro Bob Ackerman
Ackerman then headed south to Indiana where he attended the Hoosier state’s top university to display his golf and basketball skills. He graduated and joined the Pro Golfers Association Tour and became a club pro in both Illinois and Michigan. This summer, he’ll be inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.
Still competing and teaching, the Spinal Column caught up with Ackerman to learn more about his storied career.
Where are you from originally and where did you go to college?
“I grew up in Bridgman near the Indiana state line. I went to Indiana University and I graduated in 1975. I was awarded a full golf scholarship, and when I was down there my team and I won the Big 10 Titles my sophomore, junior and senior years. My senior year, I was a co-medalist in the Big 10. So, I have four Big 10 Medals – three for team championships and individual. I was also a Second Team College All American.”
1975? Was that when the basketball team went undefeated?
“No, they lost in the semi-finals that year to Kentucky, but then the next year they won every game. When I was there as a freshman I tried out for the basketball team and was one of four walkon spots for the freshman team. I got cut right before the season started and I would have been on that team.”
“I’ve actually been coached by Bobby Knight and I’ve been personally sworn at right in the face by Bobby Knight. That was a heck of an experience. They had a heck of a golf coach. Everybody says college is the best time of your life and they were right.”
Did being coached by Bobby Knight help your golf game, other than knowing how to swear on the course?
“My dad was my coach throughout life and I just remembered and did what he taught me. The golf coach at Indiana was looking for guys who were self-reliant, hard workers and would take the time on their own to play and practice, and that’s the kind of guy I was. I was just doing what my dad taught me to do as a kid.”
“One of the reasons I got the scholarship was that my high school team won the Michigan High School State championship and I won the individual champion. So, I got a nice background as a team player and as an individual. I was also a good student. I graduated fourth in my class, plus my dad knew the athletic director at Indiana University – they played semi-pro basketball together.”
“I got a full ride to go to IU. They knew they were getting a good kid. The summer after I graduated I won the Michigan Open as an amateur. I was the first amateur to win it since 1946. I won it again a few years ago as a senior (2003). Prior to that I won the Michigan Senior Open. I’m the only guy to ever accomplish that feat (winning the Michigan Senior Open and the Michigan Open.)”
“In between that time, I spent 14 years in Chicago. I won the Illinois Open and the Chicago Open. I won the Illinois PGA twice and the PGA Advanced Play Championship five times – this all while I was working as the head pro at a private club.”
So, you’ve always been a golf pro somewhere?
“I’ve always been a golf pro. I made the PGA tour after I won the Michigan Open. I did play one season, 1982, but I wasn’t playing well and went broke. Then I became a club pro and then a teaching pro.”
Did you go head to head with (Jack) Nicholas and those guys?
“I played a practice round with Arnold Palmer at the US Open and I’ve played with John Daly in a practice round for the PGA at Southern Hills. I’ve played with Gary Player in a practice round, Hal Sutton, Jay Haas, Hale Irwin – I’ve played with 10 or 11 guys who have won championships on the PGA Tour. I’ve butted heads with the cream of the crop.”
What brought you back to Michigan?
“I came back in 1998. I got the head pro job at Pine Lake Country Club, but that only lasted one season. Since then I’ve been teaching pro and I’ve been operating the driving range across from the Commerce Township office building for the past 12 years. If it wasn’t for Pulte [Homes] I’d still be out there. That driving range served a wonderful purpose for the high school teams. I’m very, very disappointed and sorry that Pulte pulled a power play on us and I’m not going to be out there. I’m really sad about that.”
So, you’re looking for a nice spot to land?
“Yes, I’m open. I’ve got a place to teach outdoors in Wixom, but I’d certainly like to own my own place. I never stop playing and I’ll play my usual schedule. I’ll play in the Michigan Open, the Michigan Senior Open, the Michigan PGA, the Michigan Senior PTA, the Michigan Tournament of Champions and the Toledo Open. I’ve been a tournament golfer ever since I was a little boy. It’s in my blood and it’s something I look forward to. With my background as a competitive golfer, I have a deep respect for what it takes to win tournaments and work on your game. That really translates into my teaching skills and my club fitting skills. I enjoy the competition and I take it super seriously.”
How early did you start playing? Did your dad put a club in your crib?
“Kind of, I started around the age of nine. My dad was a club champion. I grew up on a 5,500- yard, par 67 golf course. It was perfect for kids. They were so nice to me and they still are. We used to call it the Bridgman Country Club, but now it’s called Pebblewood. My dad was also a state champion basketball player. My dad has all of his trophies on the TV set. That’s how I grew up, in a real athletic environment. That’s what I looked at every day, so that got ingrained in me. And I had a lot of natural athletic ability.
So, what do you do when not on the golf course?
“I go hunting and fishing and I play guitar. I’ve been married for 36 years and I’ve got five grown kids and one grandson. Three of my kids played high school golf and one played basketball.”
Do you have a website or Facebook page?
“Yes, my website is www.bobackermangolf3.com and my Facebook page is Bob Ackerman Golf Academy.”