Okemos Pro Eric Lilleboe Sets Pace in 25th Tournament of Champions at Boyne Mountain
BOYNE FALLS – Eric Lilleboe plans to be in contention in every tournament he plays.
The 28-year-old mini-tour professional from Okemos opened with a 7-under 65 on the Alpine course at Boyne Mountain Resort to take the first round lead in the 25th Tournament of Champions Monday.
“The game is good, I’m making progress,” he said. “Over the last year I’ve gotten a lot better and my game is to the point I am in contention to win, and I plan to do it every week versus the expectation of maybe making cuts that I had my first two years (as a professional).”
Lilleboe, a former Ferris State University golfer, had a one-shot lead on 66-shooting John Seltzer, the head golf professional at Blythefield Country Club in Grand Rapids, and two on each of the last two Michigan Open champions, 2016 winner Jeff Bronkema of Wayland, and 2015 winner Jeff Cuzzort of Grosse Ile.
Steven Cuzzort, Jeff’s younger brother and mini-tour pro, shot 68, as did Country Club of Jackson head professional Ron Beurmann.
Owen Rush, a recent Lansing Catholic Central High School graduate and amateur, Chris Mory, a teaching professional at Hawk Hollow in Bath, and Al Kuhn, the head professional at The Fountains in Waterford, each checked in at 69.
The field of 111 golfers playing in the $55,000 tournament include male, female, professionals, amateurs, juniors, seniors and super seniors playing from four different sets of tees for the same championship. All have been invited to the tournament because they have won a recognized championship.
The field played Alpine Monday, and will switch to the Monument course for Tuesday’s round. A 36-hole cut to the low 60 scorers and ties follows the second round with the third and final round slated for the Alpine course Wednesday.
Rush was the low amateur through the first round with his 69. Former LPGA standout Elaine Crosby of Jackson shot 71 and was low among the women in the field.
Lilleboe, who teed off on the back nine in the afternoon, started with a birdie on No. 11, an eagle on the par 5 No. 12 hole with a 20-foot putt, and a birdie on No. 13.
“I was hitting it well and I just told myself to keep going and not let anything get in my way,” he said.
Lilleboe, who plans to play mini-tour events on the Dakotas mini-tour and then go to Web.com qualifying in the fall, said his strategy chances just slightly when he gets off to a great start.
“I might play a little more conservative on a shot or two just to make sure you are not staring at double-bogey, but when I get in the right position I keep taking dead aim,” he said.
Seltzer, 37, also had a hot start and made eagle on No. 12 in his round.
“This is my second round in July, so I didn’t have a lot of expectations to play well, but I did,” he said. “I made a few key putts to keep round going. It was fun. It’s nice to get away after a busy stretch of the summer, good to be in the hunt at a great place and fun to see my name on the leader board.”
Bronkema’s putter served him well.
“I made a lot of putts, and the game is easier when you do that,” said the 27-year-old mini-tour golfer who last week achieved conditional status on the PGA Tour Latinoamérica via qualifying and also is headed for Web.com qualifying in the fall.
“This is the first time I’ve played here, and it’s going great so far. I loved the golf course, and playing with players you usually don’t get a chance to play against is great. I played with Suzy Green-Roebuck (Michigan Women’s Open champion who shot 72) and she hits it great. It was fun.”
RESULTS: Complete first-round results and live scoring can be found at www.michiganpgagolf.com