Major golf returning to Oakland Hills? Gary Player believes it's overdue

(WXYZ) - "The home of golf in America."

That's how Gary Player describes the state of Michigan.

The state holds more public courses than any other in the country, yet there remains no professional tournaments. Ever since advertising budget cuts took the Buick Open away from Warwick Hills in 2009, fans have had to leave Michigan to watch the world's best.

In a recent conversation with WXYZ while spreading the word about fitness with Humana, Player said his solution to Michigan's golf problem is similar to many in the area. He believes major golf needs to return to Oakland Hills.

"It's certainly one of the great golf courses in the world. Michigan is such a great state for golf. They really deserve a major championship," he said.

WATCH THE INTERVIEW WITH GARY PLAYER IN THE VIDEO ABOVE

Oakland Hills will host the 2016 U.S. Amateur, and more often than not, a U.S. Open usually follows at the same site. The course most recently hosted the 2008 PGA Championship, the 2004 Ryder Cup, and the 1996 U.S. Open. The 2008 PGA Championship reportedly brought an estimated $75 million to the metro Detroit area.

The acquisition of the U.S. Amateur was announced in 2011, but three years later, there is no news about a U.S. Open accompanying it. Future dates are locked up at courses through 2019, so the earliest a major could return would be 2020.

"It's a very sports state. People just love their sports (there). It's just fantastic," Player said.

There's no arguing with that. For a state that has four major sports teams, and a slew of top-tier college athletics, the lack of professional golf is a bit baffling. The automobile bailout contributed to Buick and GM's pulling of its sponsorship in Warwick Hills, but there is no shortage of potential sponsors in the area.

As for Player, his memories of Oakland Hills are fond ones. He made history at the 1972 PGA Championship, famously hitting a chip shot from behind the willow tree onto the green on No. 16. He went on to win the event and his face's image rests on a plaque on the course's first tee.

There are open plaques next to his; sitting, waiting, and empty until they are filled with new memories for golf fans in Michigan.

Hopefully that happens sooner, rather than later.

Brad Galli is a Sports Reporter at WXYZ Detroit. Follow Brad on Twitter @BradGalli

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