MICHIGAN OPEN: Tom Gillis, James Holley Share Lead

MICHIGAN OPEN: Tom Gillis, James Holley Share Lead
Tom Gillis on Monday at the Michigan Open


MICHIGAN OPEN: Tom Gillis, James Holley Share Lead

Veteran and Newcomer Share Lead in Michigan Open at the Bear

ACME – Tom Gillis of Lake Orion is trying to win a third Michigan Open Championship in a third decade, while James Holley of Howell has only lived in Michigan for four months and is still holding up his hand to point out where he is located in the Great Lakes State.

They shared the lead Monday through the first round of the 101st Michigan Open on the Bear at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa with 3-under 69s.

“Not a lot of people have won three in different decades,” said the 49-year-old Gillis, a 1998 and 2004 Michigan Open champion, Michigan Golf Hall of Famer, and former PGA Tour player awaiting his 50th birthday (July 16) and his shot on the PGA Tour Champions.

“It’s a sign of longevity and a pride thing. The money is nice, but that would run out fast with the kids at home. I want to win. I haven’t won since 2009 (Web.com Tour), so I want to be in there and test myself. It doesn’t matter where you get in the heat. It doesn’t matter if it is the men’s invite. You feel heat, you feel heat. You need that.”

Holley, a 26-year-old mini-tour player who played college golf at San Diego State in his native California, moved here with his fiancé, and had never played the Bear until a practice round Sunday.

“This is the first real tournament I’ve played in since coming to Michigan, and my first time up north as everybody tells me,” he said. “It’s really not a whole lot different than the courses in Northern California. I just have to look at my hand to figure out where I’m at, but a golf course is a golf course when it gets down to it.”

Mini-tour player Eric Lilleboe of Okemos, who finished second last year, and amateurs Jake Kneen of White Lake and Nicholas Bonnema of Troy and Loyola-Chicago University shot 70. Kneen, a recent graduate of Oakland University playing in the final group, was at 3-under through 17 holes, but bogeyed from the greenside bunker on No. 9, his final hole of the day.

Jeff Bronkema of Caledonia, the 2016 champion, Kyle Rodes of Plymouth, Anthony Conaway of Davison and amateur Ian Martin of Saline made up the group at 71, and 2012 champion Barrett Kelpin, 2011 champion Randy Hutchison and amateur Andrew Walker of Battle Creek and Michigan State University were in the group at 72.

Just nine golfers finished under par on a sunny day where the wind increased through the afternoon. The field of 156 golfers will play another 18 holes Tuesday before a 36-hole cut to the low 70 scorers and ties.

Gillis had five birdies against two bogeys in his round and said it could have been better.

“It also could have been worse,” he said. “The bunkers were tough with some new sand in them, and the wind helped you go in there some. I started playing away from them, and I never do that. I’ve always been a good player out of the sand.”

Holley said the wind on the holes surrounded by trees were the most difficult ones for him.

“That’s the biggest difference between Michigan golf and California golf,” he said. “We have trees, but they are not as dense as here and you can feel the wind coming through them. You can’t feel the wind in the trees here. I was guessing out there some by looking at the (course map) and remembering where the wind was coming from on other holes.”

The championship, the first in 10 years at Grand Traverse Resort where it was played 28 times previously, is being presented by Yamaha Golf Cars Plus, MercyElite Sports Performance and Jani-King International with additional support from Pepsi and Traverse City Tourism.

SCORES: Complete results and pairings for Tuesday can be found at michiganpgagolf.com

via Greg Johnson

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