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MSU's James Piot has to return the U.S. Amateur trophy — so the GAM bought him one to keep


Bath Township — In a little over three months, James Piot's reign as U.S. Amateur champion will end.

And so will his time with The Havemeyer Trophy, the most recognizable prize in amateur golf, which he soon will have to ship back to the United States Golf Association.

Thanks to the Golf Association of Michigan, however, Piot will receive a keepsake that he can keep forever. The United States Golf Association gives winners of the U.S. Amateur and other major championships an option to purchase a replica trophy, and the GAM decided to foot the bill on Piot's behalf.

"There is some precedence where state golf associations will take over the option from the player and either keep (the trophy) or loan it out, but we're just going to gift it to James," said Chris Whitten, the GAM's executive director. "We just felt like it was the right thing to do. It was historic."

Piot, 23, a Canton native and graduating senior at Michigan State, became the first Michigan-born player to win the U.S. Amateur when he prevailed at Oakmont in Pennsylvania last August.

Piot attended the GAM's annual meeting Wednesday at Eagle Eye to receive his award for being named the GAM's 2021 player of the year, much on the strength of that U.S. Amateur championship win but also a number of other memorable performances last summer.

Piot first held the trophy immediately after winning the tournament, then didn't touch it again till the sun went down — admitting that in the immediate aftermath of winning, he had media obligations, then had two Coors Lights and signed flags for four hours. But, since then, he certainly has made the rounds with The Havemeyer Trophy over the last several months, taking it all over the state for golf functions, photoshoots, meet-and-greets, the 50-yard line at Spartan Stadium and a variety of other cool events. The trophy has enough miles on it that it might as well have a five-star rating on Uber.

When not on the road, the trophy has resided in the MSU men's golf facility. Piot felt that was only right; he's a loyal and loving Spartan, and he appreciates all the program, coaches, teammates and boosters have done for him during his five-year journey in East Lansing. Besides, if he housed it at home, it wouldn't do much for Piot, who has spent several months in Florida training for the variety of marquee events he's played in (Masters, Bay Hill Invitational, RBC Heritage), in between MSU golf tournaments.

"The first week, I took it out a couple times," Piot said, laughing. "And after that, I'm like, 'All right, I don't need to see this every day.'"

The GAM, Whitten said, decided in January to make the purchase of the trophy for Piot, and had to commission it through the USGA's only approved trophy-maker — Nicholas Winton in London.

Winton will create a trophy that is a 90% replica in terms of the details, including all the engraving of past champions (names like Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, etc.). The trophy will be the exact size as the original — or, let's call it the second original. The first trophy, which was silver, was lost in a fire in the 1920s; it was replaced by a gold trophy.

The cost is between $25,000 and $30,000 — it can fluctuate throughout the extensive process, based on the up-to-date cost of precious metals —and is being paid for by the GAM, as well as several anonymous Michigan State golf boosters. The trophy is expected to be completed this fall, with the GAM planning another ceremony for Piot, and with everything, the transaction has stipulations — namely that Piot can't sell the trophy, not that he's hard up for cash, having earned around $100,000 in endorsement deals. 

That includes one from the Ally Challenge in Grand Blanc, when he was paid $10,000 to ride around with Nicklaus for a day. Imagine that. Most people pay $10,000 to ride with Nicklaus. Piot picked a fine time to claim the U.S. Amateur, in this new era of Name, Image and Likeness opportunities for college athletes.

The GAM also gifted Piot with a painting of him holding the trophy, by artist Patricia Kenney, and a framed copy of Piot on the cover of the GAM's monthly magazine, Michigan Links.

"I mean, it's really awesome, the support of the GAM and everybody in the Spartan community in doing that and pitching in to help," said Piot, a three-time, first-team, All-Big Ten honoree who is set to wrap up his decorated collegiate career, starting with NCAA regionals next week.

"I'm extremely blessed and thankful for what they did."

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tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984