Stein places third at UP Golf Championship
NORWAY — A formality became reality Friday in the 104th UP Golf Association Men’s Championships at Oak Crest Golf Course.
Carney’s Hunter Eichhorn, already established as one of the nation’s premier golfers, captured his first UP men’s title by 13 strokes after shooting a two-under par 70 Friday.
Eichhorn, who had hoped to be preparing this week for the US Amateur, signed on with the UP event when his schedule cleared.
“It means a lot,” said Eichhorn, who won four UP titles at Carney-Nadeau High School and went on to earn 2017 Big East Conference Player of the Year at Marquette University. “I was excited to come here and get a victory.
“There’s a lot of great UP players on that trophy. I’m really thrilled to join them.”
Runner-up Mark Clements, who matched Eichhorn’s 70 on Friday for a 280 total, won the UP title in 1997 and 2001. Mark’s dad, Si, was the UP king in 1980 and 1991.
“Hunter is one of the best, there’s no doubt about it,” said Clements when asked where Eichhorn ranks over the years in UP golf. “His all-around game is phenomenal. He takes a cut at it and he’s a pleasure to watch.
“I’m glad he came and glad his name is on that trophy because he deserves it. It’s special having it on there, too.”
Eichhorn’s closing round had birdies on the sixth, eighth, 11th and 16th holes.
“It was solid,” Eichhorn said of the final round. ” I didn’t make many putts. I hit the ball pretty good. All in all, it was pretty stress-free. That’s what I was hoping for.”
Eichhorn admitted a fourth-round collapse in last month’s Wisconsin State Amateur provided motivation for shooting 21-under at Oak Crest.
“One of the worst losses I’ve ever had,” said Eichhorn, the third-round Wisconsin Amateur leader who ballooned to a 78 in the final round and finished in a tie for fourth. “It was unfortunate it was the last round.
“All in all, it was good for me. It kind of lit a spark under me to come here and compete again.”
Eichhorn, who carried a 13-shot lead into the final round of the UP, didn’t let the Wisconsin tourney shake him despite one of his two bogeys Friday in the second hole. His other bogey was on the par-three 17th.
“I got off to a tough start today, kind of like I did a couple weeks ago,” Eichhorn said. “I kind of hung in there and got it back together.”
Eichhorn shot one-under on each nine Friday. His previous rounds were 64, 65 and 68. Clements, finishing second in the UP tournament for the first time, posted rounds of 33-37 Friday.
“Today was kind of ho-hum,” said Clements, who was in contention to win the 2017 UP title. “Hunter struggled a little bit on the greens. He was close all day but he couldn’t get one to go. It was tough putting out there.”
Eichhorn said Oak Crest’s “greens are the defense.”
“They had real solid pins,” said the Marquette University sophomore. “They tricked a lot of us. I was tricked multiple times.
“Credit to them for putting them in tough spots to give us some challenges.”
Houghton’s Gunnar Stein, who rallied past John (Gus) Koskinen and Clements to win the 2017 UP championship, finished third at 284 — four strokes behind Clements.
Iron Mountain’s Ryan Pepin, who electrified the gallery by holing a 90-foot chip shot Friday to birdie the 17th hole, placed fourth at 290.
Iron Mountain’s Nick Markell, 291, and Tom LaVigne, 293, claimed the next two spots. Menominee’s Steve Schmidt and Norway’s Mike Solda shared seventh at 294 in championship flight.
There’s no telling now if Eichhorn’s 2019 schedule will allow him to defend his UP title at Terrace Bluff in Gladstone.
“Schedule permitting, I hope to make it back next year,” he said. “This year, if I would have made it to the US Am, I wouldn’t have made it. We’ll see what next year brings.”
NOTEBOOK: Pine Grove in Iron Mountain took home team honors for the first time since 2009. That’s also the year that Jon Ellis won the UP title by 12 shots at Oak Crest. Ellis, Pepin, LaVigne, Chad Menza and Jim Markell comprised this year’s PG squad … Northern Michigan University golfer Carter Mason of Negaunee took first flight by one stroke over Ontonagon’s Joe Strong, 291-292. Mason tied for fifth overall in the tournament.
Final results from the 104th UP Golf Association Men’s Championships at Oak Crest Golf Course in Norway:
267 — Hunter Eichhorn (64-65-68-70
280 — Mark Clements (72-67-71-70)
284 — Gunnar Stein (71-68-73-72)
290 — Ryan Pepin (74-65-75-76)
291 — Nick Markell (68-70-77)
293 — Tom LaVigne (73-69-77-74)
294 — Steve Schmidt (73-73-73-75); Mike Solda (68-72-78-76)
296 — Korey Smith (75-71-77-73)
300 — Kyle Pouliot (67-78-76-79)
301 — Johnny Kositski (76-71-77-77)
308 — Joe Pontbriand (72-74-82-80)
First — Carter Mason 291; Second — Tom Gereau and Jeff VanHolla 305; Third — Jon Ellis and Jim Markell 298; Fourth — Scott Prunick 300; Fifth — Glen Reinke 314; Sixth — Tom Ward 332; Seventh — Wayne Paul 344; Eighth — Bill Menza 368