Eric Lilleboe of Okemos Wins Michigan Open; Final Round Rained Out
ACME – Eric Lilleboe of Okemos was declared the winner of the 102nd Michigan Open Championship presented by Grand Traverse Resort & Casino/Yamaha Golf Cars Plus/Lake Trust Credit Union after the final round was rained out Thursday.
“I was ready to play today, I wanted to play today just because that is how I’ve always been,” the 31-year-old mini-tour players said. “I want to play golf, and I know on a day like today anything could have happened. In a way, I’m grateful, but I did want to play.”
Heavy rain through the night and Thursday morning left several holes on The Bear course with standing water issues.
“Five holes of The Bear were unplayable under the rules of golf so it’s unfortunate we had to cancel the final round,” Justin Phillips, tournament director for the Michigan Section of the PGA said. “Eric clearly played the best through 54 holes and he is our champion.”
Lilleboe, who had a five-shot lead on the field through three rounds, won the first-place check of $8,000 out of the total purse of $55,000 and said winning the Michigan Open is tops in his golf career.
“It is special for me,” he said. “It is my home state’s open and I beat a lot of great players. It’s feels different because I didn’t have to face down those final round nerves of coming up 18 and needing to make a putt or anything like that, but it is sinking in that my name is going to be on that (James D. Standish Jr. Trophy) forever with some amazing other names. It is really cool. I’m happy to be champion.”
Lilleboe shot a 7-under 65 on The Bear Wednesday to make it to 13-under. Barrett Kelpin of Kalamazoo, a PGA Tour Latinoamerica player and the 2012 Michigan Open champion, finished second at 8-under, five shots off the lead.
“You always want to play four rounds if you can, but it has been a long week and I know the PGA would have played it if it was possible,” Kelpin said. “Some weeks you just can’t get it in. Monday was a long day. I was ready to go do it again today, but Eric played really well this week. He did great, so it is great he is the champion. It’s great for him. I know what he is feeling.”
Michael Nagy, a mini-tour player from Manistique, and Willie Mack III, a mini-tour player from Grand Blanc, finished in a tie for third at 5-under, and mini-tour player Brett White of Caledonia and the week’s top amateur, Zach Sudinsky of Ypsilanti, an Eastern Michigan University golfer, were next at 4-under.
Domenic Mancinelli, a mini-tour pro from Northville, finished at 3-under and Francesco Ruffino, a mini-tour player from Bloomfield Hills, was at 2-under. Rounding out the top 10 were 1-under finishers Blaze Hogan, a mini-tour pro from Big Rapids, first-round leader Darren Husse of Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club, and Sam Weatherhead, a mini-tour pro from Grand Rapids.
Lilleboe, who heads for the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic pre-qualifier and a qualifier for the John Deere Classic as well, said he hit his driver well the first two rounds, caught some breaks in the third round and saved some pars with his putter. He also noted that his final shot in the tournament ended up being a 65-foot birdie putt on No. 18 Wednesday that dropped.
“It was a good way to end it,” he said. “I just didn’t know that was the end. I feel really fortunate and really happy at the same time.”
RESULTS: Available at the Michigan Open scoring link at michiganpgagolf.com
via Greg Johnson