Lilleboe shoots 65 To Take Lead In 102nd Michigan Open Championship
Eric Lilleboe of Okemos Charges to Five-Shot Lead
ACME – Eric Lilleboe of Okemos, with the help of a 65-foot birdie putt on No. 18, an eagle-3 on No. 15 and what he deemed good luck, built a five-shot lead Wednesday through three rounds of the $55,000 102nd Michigan Open Championship presented by Grand Traverse Resort & Casino/Yamaha Golf Cars Plus/Lake Trust Credit Union.
The 31-year-old mini-tour professional shot a 7-under 65 on The Bear course to land at 13-under 203. Barrett Kelpin of Kalamazoo, 29 and a PGA Tour Latinoamerica player who won the 2012 Michigan Open, was second at 8-under after a second consecutive 68.
“I was in some pretty bad spots but ended up making a bunker shot on 16 from the middle of nowhere, and at 11 I was so fortunate to find my ball inbounds touching the white line,” Lilleboe said. “I had some really poor swings, especially after it started raining, and I made some quality shots, too. It feels good to put a round together and be in the lead, but it takes luck, too. I made a couple of 30 footers for par. I made eagle at 15. It was that kind of day.”
Lilleboe and Kelpin will be joined in the final playing group at Noon Thursday by Mike Nagy, a Manistique mini-tour pro who shot 72 and was at 5-under, eight shots off the lead. Ted with him in third place starting the final round will be the second-round leader Willie Mack III of Grand Blanc, who shot 74.
Brett White, a mini-tour player from Caledonia who played at Eastern Michigan University, shot 70 and was next at 4-under with amateur Zach Sudinsky, a current Eastern Michigan player who shot 71 and is low among the amateurs in the field.
Kelpin held the lead briefly during the round but lamented some missed putts on the back nine as well as a bogey on No. 15 with a plugged shot in a greenside bunker. It was the same hole where Lilleboe in the group behind then made eagle and took the lead.
“I got a plugged lie in that bunker, but I shouldn’t have put myself in that position with a poor lob wedge,” Kelpin said. “I really was playing well, 4-under through 10 holes, and then I just didn’t make as many good putts coming in as I should have. I hope tomorrow I start out like I did today and put some pressure on Eric. I’m playing well and I’m confident.”
Kelpin has a low-scoring track record, especially in the Michigan Open. He tied the all-time Michigan Open record of 23-under in his 2012 win at The Orchards in Washington Township (tied with Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member Walter Burkemo).
“It would be nice to give myself a chance to win tomorrow,” he said. “Playing well in Michigan events means a lot to me, and I would like to join the club of multiple winners in the Michigan Open.”
Lilleboe is in the final group of the Michigan Open for the second consecutive year, and also was in the final group in the 2016 Open. He said it would mean a lot to finish on top this time, and not just because of the $8,000 first-place check.
“I’ve played in these since I was in college,” he said. “To win would mean everything. I mean, it is the state Open. I was born and raised in Michigan. That makes it mean a lot. I’m going to be ready tomorrow, ready to tee it when it is time to go. I’m not going to call anything, but I’m definitely playing good golf.”
RESULTS: Available at the link at michiganpgagolf.com
via Greg Johnson