The Competitive Edge • Matt Pumford

Matt Pumford is poised to defend his title as Saginaw County’s best golfer

    icon Jun 06, 2019
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The Saginaw District Golf Championship is an annual tournament that determines the top golfer in Saginaw County. As the years go by, however, a name change may be in order.

The Pumford Invitational, perhaps?

Matt Pumford is just the latest (and, thus far, the greatest) Pumford to have taken the title at the annual tournament. In fact, 2018 marked the sixth time Pumford was crowned top golfer in the county.

The fact that the 44-year-old Saginaw native won after taking a few years off to raise three daughters made last year’s victory especially satisfying. “To come back and play at such a competitive level felt good,” said Pumford, who is gearing up for the 2019 tournament, which tees off June 21 at Sawmill Golf Club.

Considering the fact that Sawmill is Pumford’s favorite course to play in the county, the defending champ has a competitive edge as he vies for trophy #7.

Growing up on a farm as the youngest of 12, Matt Pumford learned early on about competition. “That’s how we got our jobs done on the farm,” he says. Common chores turned into competitions to see who could do what the fastest.

Pumford first picked up a golf club at age 5, and he recalls he would hit balls into the pasture. “As long as I didn’t hit any cows, I never got into any trouble.”

Alan Pumford, the second oldest, was the first of the siblings to establish himself as one of the area’s top golfers. Alan has earned one District Championship as well as six Senior Division titles. Next was Roger, who has competed in the tournament for years.

In 2018, it was brother Roger’s son, Saginaw Valley State University talent Dustin Pumford, who gave Matt a late challenge, ultimately finishing two strokes behind his uncle. Alan’s son, Nick Pumford, is another threat on the links.

If that’s not enough Pumford for you, Matt’s eldest daughter, Olivia, a Division 3 all-state golfer who graduated from Freeland High School in 2019, is also SVSU-bound in the fall. Matt’s other two daughters, Grace and Averie, will be entering 11th and 7th grades, respectively, in the fall.

Outside of his family circle, Matt counts his primary golf inspirations as Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, and Tiger Woods. In his day, Palmer’s interaction with the fans did much to popularize golf. As for Woods, Pumford is just glad the focus is finally back on his exploits on the golf course.

Of Player, who has maintained a rigorous regimen of exercise well into his ninth decade, Pumford says, “He’s inspired me with my fitness. My golf season starts in about November. That’s when I start getting my body into shape, working out, getting ready for the next season. I don’t practice as much as I used to, but I spend the time in the gym, working my core and a lot of the muscle groups that have to deal with golf,” he says. “If he can do it at [83] years old, I can certainly do it at 44.”

About the only thing that could derail Pumford’s chances at a seventh title is if he plays too well. Having qualified for the Michigan Amateur this year, Pumford will be playing in Oakland Hills earlier in the week before the Districts begin. If he makes it to the Sweet 16, he won’t be available to defend his District title.

“It happened once before about 15 years ago, that I made it to the Sweet 16 and had to withdraw [from the Districts],” he says. Pumford has competed in the Michigan Amateur seven times before, but 2019 was the first year in many that he had tried to qualify.

“If I’m still playing, it means I’m doing really well, so it’ll be kind of bittersweet [to have to withdraw this year],” he says.

The Saginaw District Golf Championship, held annually the third weekend of June, rotates among Saginaw County courses. Last year’s championship was held at Apple Mountain.

Pumford, a member at Sawmill, likes to add variety to his rounds by switching up which tees (pro, men’s, ladies) he hits from to add variety to his game. His favorite course to play in Michigan? Without hesitation, Pumford names The Bear in Traverse City, site of the Michigan Open.

As the years go by, the number of competitive golfers in the Pumford clan will undoubtedly grow. In July, one of Pumford’s nephews is getting married. “About 25 of us are getting together to play golf,” he says.

Yes, the Pumford Invitational does have a nice ring to it.

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