Second place still in reach for Stein after Wednesday
NORWAY — Hunter Eichhorn has appeared to put the 104th UP Golf Association Men’s Championships in a “playing for second” mode.
The Marquette University ace from Carney opened up a nine-stroke lead after two rounds Wednesday, following his eight-under 64 from Tuesday with a 65.
Standing nine shots behind Eichhorn is Iron Mountain’s Nick Markell, who has rounds of 68 and 70 for 138. Ryan Pepin, like Markell a Pine Grove Country Club golfer, matched Eichhorn with a 65 Wednesday.
“Everybody’s playing for second,” said Markell, son of 2012 UP champion Jim Markell. “It’s Hunter’s tournament. It should be fun to watch for two days.”
Eichhorn threatened to erase the Oak Crest course record 63 he shares with three others, posting a 29 on the front nine Wednesday. The back was a different story with three bogeys for a 36.
“It was all right,” Eichhorn said of his round. “Obviously, to shoot 65, I’m happy. But quite honestly, I’m disappointed because the back nine was awful. That made it even worse.”
Eichhorn recorded a 30 on the front nine Tuesday. His 29 performance Wednesday on the front included an eagle on the par-five, 470-yard sixth hole and five birdies.
“I was able to get on the green from 20 feet and made it,” said Eichhorn, who had to deal with trees after the tee shot on No. 6.
Bad tee shots near trees led to bogeys on Nos. 10 and 15. He missed a four-footer for par on the 10th.
“But it was all in the tee shot,” Eichhorn said of the 10th hole. “I hooked it into the trees. I hit a good chip. I had a good look at par and missed it.”
On the closing 18th, Eichhorn’s drive traveled more than 350 yards. However, he dubbed the chip shot, found the green on the next and missed the putt for par.
“Back nine was very disappointing,” said Eichhorn, who did produce three birdies there. “That’s the only way I can put it. It was awful.”
Markell isn’t surprised to find himself challenging for UP runner-up honors.
“To come out and shoot six under for two days, you have to play real good golf for that, especially in a UPGA tournament or on any course,” said Markell, who credited his putting and driving for two solid rounds. “When I miss putts, I don’t miss by much. I made a couple of them I really didn’t expect to make.”
Markell figures he hit 14 greens in regulation for both rounds.
“My ball-striking has been really good,” Markell said. “If I hit greens and make a couple putts, you’re going to be right there. But it’s tough for anybody to shoot what Hunter shoots. If you’re in second place consider it a success.”
Pepin, playing in his first UP tourney, shot a career-low Wednesday with a 65. His previous best was 68 at Pine Grove.
“My goal was to shoot sub 70,” said Pepin, who shot a 74 on Tuesday. “Everything was going well. There was nothing special. I got off the tee very well and that was the difference between today and yesterday.”
Pepin had seven birdies — four on the front for a 32 — and 11 pars.
“I made only one long put,” he said. “The rest were fairly short. I’m thrilled. I hope I can shoot under par the next two days.”
Two-time UP champion Mark Clements of Ishpeming shares third place at 139 with 2017 UP king Gunnar Stein of Houghton and Pepin. Clements bounced back Wednesday with a 67 and Stein turned in a 68.
Norway’s Mike Solda slipped from a 68 to 72 but still holds down sixth with a 140. Seventh is Iron Mountain’s Tom LaVigne at 142, benefitting from a 69 Wednesday.
Gladstone’s Kyle Pouliot, second after the first round with a 67, tumbled to a 78 Wednesday and eighth-place at 145.
Eichhorn, Markell, Clements and Pepin are expected to form one of the championship flight foursomes beginning the third round at approximately 10 this morning. The tournament concludes Friday.
“You have to know your place,” Markell said of challenging Eichhorn. “You don’t have to go out and try to chase him. You’re just playing against the course. If you’re nine back and two days to play, you have some ground to make up. It’s doable but it’s going to take a bunch.”
NOTEBOOK: Eichhorn’s score will not be counted toward the Oak Crest team championship total. His name was added to the list past the deadline. Oak Crest has three teams competing for the team trophy … Escanaba’s Nate Rousseau, one of five high-school golfers in the field of 102, stands tied for 12th after rounds of 73 and 74 … The 2019 UP men’s championships will be staged at Terrace Bluff in Gladstone.