IRON MOUNTAIN - Negaunee's Dan Ellis has hit the hot spots of golf this summer.
The Michigan State University senior played at Tucson, Ariz.; Pinehurst, NC, and Chicago for some of the nation's top amateur tournaments.
Now Ellis' travels take him to Iron Mountain for this week's 98th annual U.P. Golf Association Men's Championships at Pine Grove Country Club.
"I've been busy and all over the country, but it has been fun," Ellis, the defending U.P. champ, said last week after missing the cut for the Western Amateur in Chicago.
His summer base of golf operation is also highly regarded, playing at Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City. Escanaba's Scott Hebert, a U.P. Hall of Famer and six-time Michigan Open champion, serves as pro there.
Other than playing Pine Grove four times in high school, Ellis isn't all that familiar with the 6,000-plus yard layout. He hoped to get in a practice round before the four-day tourney begins Thursday.
"I know it's an accuracy course," Ellis said. "I'll have to hit a bunch of fairways and middles of the green.
"But that's really the story of the U.P. no matter where it is."
Ellis, who captured the 2006 and 2011 U.P. titles, ranks seventh on Michigan State's career scoring list with a 74.74 average.
In last year's U.P. tournament in Marquette County, Ellis registered a three-under 283 and prevailed by eight shots over Eric Johnson of Marquette. Dave Ellis, Dan's twin brother and Michigan State teammate, placed third at 292.
Mark Clements of Ishpeming and Paul Raycroft of Sault, Ontario -two of eight former U.P. champs in the field - placed fourth (295) and fifth (299), respectively.
Johnson, a Wayne State University golfer, will return with the other top finishers from a year ago.
The list of former champions includes Iron Mountain's Jon Ellis, who dominated the 2009 tourney at Norway; Menominee's Tim Dreese (2006), Gladstone's Matt Smith Jr. (2004), Marquette's Scott Erickson (1985, 1986, 1990, 1993) and Iron Mountain's Jackie Hooper (1988) along with Dan Ellis, Clements (1997, 2001) and Raycroft (2010).
Scott Sanders, back-to-back Pine Grove men's champ, figures Jon Ellis or any of several club members could bring the title back to Iron Mountain.
"The (Pine Grove) members here have a chance," Sanders said. "There's definitely a bunch of guys here that have a chance."
And Sanders is among them.
"My golf game has come around the last month and I'm playing real well," he said. "I'm looking forward to playing in the UPs.
"It'll be fun, but it'll be tough with those Michigan State golfers out here. I imagine they'll eat this course up."
Another challenger is Manistique High School star Mike Nagy, who heads to the University of Tennessee golf team after the U.P.
The tournament runs Thursday through Sunday. The field of 192 golfers will be divided into 12 flights of 16 after Friday's play.