Fox, Kubica, Menser, Stalcup In Michigan Junior Am Final Four

MICHIGAN JUNIOR STATE AMATEUR: Konner Kubica, Connor Fox, Julian Menser, Parker Stalcup Make Final Four

  BIG RAPIDS – Stroke play medalist Konner Kubica of Northville, last year’s runner-up Connor Fox of Lake Orion, Julian Menser of South Lyon and Parker Stalcup of Lake Orion will play Thursday morning in the semifinals of the 46th Michigan Junior State Amateur Championship.

  Each of them won two matches Wednesday at Ferris State University’s Katke Golf Course to earn spots in the final four. Kubica will take on Fox at 7:30 a.m., and Menser will meet Stalcup at 7:40. The winners will play in the afternoon for the championship.

  A final four was also determined in the 15-and-under age group bracket. It includes David Han of Midland, Austin Helsel of Cedar Springs, Julian Sinishtaj of Macomb and Chris Quayle of Grand Blanc. Each of them won round of eight matches Wednesday. Han and Helsel will play at 7:50 a.m., and Sinishtaj and Quayle will meet at 8 a.m. Thursday. The final match will be played in the afternoon.

  The winner of the overall championship will have his name added to the Wright Memorial Trophy and earn an exemption into the U.S. Junior Amateur, being played in just over two weeks at Oakland Hills Country Club.

  Kubica, 16 and homeschooled, built leads on the front nine in both of his matches and won them by identical 5 and 4 scores. First, he topped Zach Spencer of Howell, and then beat Ryan Kruschka in the quarterfinal match. It was Kruschka who rallied late in the match and knocked out defending champion Will Preston in the morning round of 16, 1-up.

  Kubica, who won the Michigan State Pro-Am last month with one of his teachers, Meadowbrook Country Club teaching professional Frank McAuliffe, said he had high expectations coming into the week.

  “I’ve been working very hard, and I’ve slowly been progressing and progressing,” he said. “I felt I was going to do well today.”

  He said staying disciplined and continuing his solid play will be critical on Thursday.

   “Like today, I played a little squirrely with the driver early on, but then I kind of straightened it out and played some really solid golf after that,” he said. “That will be the goal tomorrow. Stay focused, stay disciplined.”

    Fox, who is a senior-to-be at Lake Orion High and has verbally committed to play college golf for Michigan State University, topped Andrew Chang of Bloomfield Hills in the morning round of 16, and then had to battle Troy Nguyen of Macomb for 19 holes before emerging with the quarterfinal win.

  He was 1-up through nine holes in the match with Nguyen when last year’s 15-and-under champion started sticking approach shots to within inches of the hole and made three consecutive conceded birdies to take a 2-up lead.

  “He hit them all so close and suddenly I was 2-down and knew I had to go for birdies if I had any chance at all,” Fox said. “He helped me some with tee shots out of position on the last few holes, and I think I hit the best 3-wood of my life on 18 when I was 1-down.”

  After a tee shot that hit the trees left of the fairway, Fox launched a 280-yard 3-wood shot to a greenside spot on the par 5 hole and then promptly made a birdie to tie the match and force extra holes. He closed out the match on the first extra hole when Nguyen found trouble off the tee on No. 1 and eventually conceded the hole and match.

  “I wanted to get back to the finals because I came so close last year, and when I saw that Will Preston lost, I thought, well, I won’t have to play him again,” Fox said. “It’s great to have the chance, but I know there’s a lot of golf to go.”

  Menser earned his shot in the final four by beating Cooper Reitsma of Ada 1-up in the round of 16, and then turning back Drew Miller of East Lansing, a fellow Michigan State University golf signee who is also going to be his Spartan roommate in the fall, 6 and 4.

  “I played well, and Drew had some bad breaks,” he said. “It was tough to have to play him. He’s a great competitor and a really good friend, too. You know, it’s good to surround yourself with the players that are really good because that makes you better. We’re so competitive with each other, it makes us both better. I just had the better day today.”

  Menser is in the final four for the first time and excited to play on the final day.

  “I stayed on the gas the entire time today, and I’ll try to do more of the same thing tomorrow,” he said. “There’s a lot of good players. You can’t let up.”

  Stalcup, 17, beat Michael Houtteman of Glen Arbor 4 and 2 in the round of 16, and then had to go 20 holes to turn back 2022 champion Max VanderMolen of Richland.

  Stalcup played on a pair of high school state championship teams for Clarkston Everett Collegiate High but said this is one of his top individual accomplishments so far in golf.

  “It would be really great to win the whole thing, but it’s cool to get this far because I had some tough matches,” he said.

  Stalcup, a runner-up in the International Junior Masters in New York earlier this year, was 2-down to VanderMolen through 10 holes, but rallied with three consecutive birdies on holes 11, 12 and 13 to take a 1-up lead. VanderMolen tied the match on 14 with a par, and they matched scores on the next five holes. Stalcup closed out the match by winning the second extra hole with a par.

  “I put him in a tough spot and then I just kind of parred my way in,” he said. “He definitely kept the pressure on, and I stayed right in there, tried to keep it straight, make some putts and not get mad. My goal coming into this week was not to get stressed, just play golf, have fun and see what happens. Now we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”


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