Grand Blanc’s Willie Mack Clubs The Bear, Takes Lead at Michigan Open
ACME — Willie Mack III of Flint came home from his mini-tour wanderings for the Michigan Open Championship with some new, hot clubs in his golf bag.
“I’ve won two of the last three events I’ve played so I’ve been playing pretty good,” he said after shooting a 5-under 67 Tuesday to take a one-shot lead at the halfway point of the state championship being played on The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.
“I put some new clubs (Miura irons from Japan, PING wedges and driver, 3-wood) in the bag a few months ago and I’ve been playing good ever since.”
The 36-hole cut fell at 8-over 152 and 73 golfers out of the starting field of 156 will move on to Wednesday’s third round in the 102nd Michigan Open presented by Grand Traverse Resort & Casino/Yamaha Golf Cars Plus/Lake Trust Credit Union. The leaders will tee off in the third round at Noon. The $55,000 championship continues through Thursday.
Mack had a one-shot lead on mini-tour player Francesco Ruffino of Bloomfield Hills, who shot an 8-under 64 with a 7-under 29 on the back nine to check in at 6-under 138 for two rounds, one shot behind Mack at 7-under for the tournament.
Ruffino had company at 6-under – first-round leader Darren Husse of Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club, who shot 70, and Eric Lilleboe, a mini-tour professional from Okemos who shot 69.
Andrew Ruthkoski of Muskegon, the 2007 Michigan Open champion, shot 66 to check in at 5-under with Mike Nagy, a mini-tour professional from Manistique who shot 70, and Barrett Kelpin of Kalamazoo, the 2012 Michigan Open champion, was at 4-under after shooting a 68.
Mack won a mini-tour event in Orlando recently, and on May 20 won the Advocates Pro Golf Association Tournament at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, Fla. That win netted him $7,000, but also an exemption into a PGA Tour event and a paid entry into Web.com Tour Qualifying this winter.
“I’m hitting it and putting it pretty good and everything kind of came together today,” he said. “I was bogey free until 17, and the greens were smooth and the wind wasn’t bad. Luckily, we had nice weather. We got the right wave of the draw yesterday in the afternoon, and this morning was great, too.”
Mack, 30, has topped the Advocates Tour and the Florida Pro Golf Tour money lists in his eight years as a professional. He counts 53 wins on various mini-tours around the country, and he made national golf news last winter while on the road in Florida when his car caught on fire. The ultimate goal remains the PGA Tour for the former Michigan Amateur champion, but he would love to catch fire the last two days and add a Michigan Open along the way.
“I’ve had a couple of good tries in the Michigan Open,” he said. “I think to win both the Amateur and Open would be like icing on a cake.”
Ruffino, 24, turned professional in 2018 and battled a neck injury. He played in the Metropolitan Open in St. Louis last week and will try to qualify for the PGA Tour’s upcoming Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club.
“I’ve been hitting it really good and just not getting any putts to drop,” he said. “Yesterday I struggled. I hit it out of play six times, so I spent a lot of time on the range and got my numbers dialed in. On the back nine I finally trusted it, and it worked out really well.”
He started hitting his approach shots close, as in five-feet for birdie on 10, five-feet on 11, two-feet on 12, five-feet on 15, two-feet on 16 and four-feet on 18.
“It’s my lowest round as a professional and it’s cool to do it in the Michigan Open,” he said. “I feel good about my game, and I’m healthier than I’ve ever been in my life. I had injury problems in the past, but I started working with a trainer and it has helped a lot with doing the right training for golf. I feel great, and I’m excited about it helping me.”
via Greg Johnson