IRON MOUNTAIN - A hot putter has carried Iron Mountain's Jim Markell to a two-stroke lead entering the final round of the 98th annual U.P. Golf Association Men's Championships at Pine Grove Country Club.
Markell, who required just 10 putts for the first nine holes, fired a one-under 71 in breaking a three-way tie with defending champion Dan Ellis of Negaunee and Tim Drees of Menominee.
"I just got lucky with the putter," Markell said. "I've made a lot of putts the past few days. My putter has been saving me."
Markell, who overcame a triple-bogey on the 17th hole, sports a three-round score of 213. Ellis, a two-time U.P. champ, posted a 73 Saturday for a tourney total of 215.
"He knows where's he's going," Ellis said of Markell's familiarity with the home course. "He's making a lot of putts. He didn't strike it well into the greens at the start but he made putts and that keeps you in it.
"Otherwise you're going to be struggling but he played solid because of it."
The par-4 17th hole reduced Markell's advantage, with his drive finding the brush on the right side. He found the ball under a spruce tree with a dead branch also coming into play.
To make matters almost worse, the ball moved while Markell examined the situation. The rest of his foursome agreed that a penalty stroke would not be assessed because Markell had not addressed the ball.
"When that gets in your head, you get kind of flustered," said Markell, who whiffed at one attempt to get out and dubbed another hitting out of a divot.
However, his mood brightened considerably after the triple-bogey on No. 17. Markell came back to birdie the par-4 18th, hitting a 6-iron shot from 175 yards that bounced into the hole and out. He tapped in a 14-inch putt to end the day.
"Coming onto 18, you don't expect to almost throw it in the hole," Markell said.
Ellis, who started the tourney Thursday with a 69, carded his second straight 73.
"It was a struggle," Ellis said. "The ball-striking and decision-making were there but just never made a putt all day.
"It gets to you after awhile no matter how patient you are. It was just one of those long days you have."
Ellis noted the speed of the greens has changed every day.
"It's hard to deal with and I'm sure it'll be even quicker tomorrow," he said, noting course conditions are tougher later in the afternoon. "I've got the layout figured out correctly."
Dave Ellis, Dan's twin brother, holds down third at 219 after shooting a 76 Saturday.
Drees, after a 43 on the front nine, carded an 80 and 222 total. Joey Collard of Marinette and Mike Nagy of Manistique each stand at 225.
Nagy, the future University of Tennessee golfer, notched a 73 Saturday.
Sixteen-man championship flight tees off this afternoon, with Markell, the Ellis brothers and Drees in the 2:30 p.m. (Central time) group.
"It's a little nervy right off the bat knowing you're playing the Ellis's," Markell said of the Michigan State University standouts. "I'm just a roofer playing with a bunch of good golfers.
"It's fun to play with these guys. The way they play it makes you concentrate a little more. I'm just honored and humbled to be playing with kids that are that talented."
Championship flight from the 98th annual U.P. Golf Association Men's Championships at Pine Grove Country Club in Iron Mountain (third-round score, name and home course):
213 - Jim Markell, Iron Mountain Pine Grove (72-70-71).
215 - Dan Ellis, Ishpeming Wawonowin (69-73-73).
219 - Dave Ellis, Ishpeming Wawonowin (69-74-76).
222 - Tim Drees, Menominee River (65-77-80).
225 - Joey Collard, Marinette Little River (75-73-77); Mike Nagy, Manistique Indian Lake (75-77-73).
226 - Jared Reid, Hurley Eagle Bluff (79-71-76); Bill Langlois, Menominee River (77-73-76).
227 - Dustin Dishaw, Crystal Falls (74-77-76).
229 - Joe Strong, Ontonagon (74-78-77); Mark Siem, Menominee North Shore (76-76-77); Jon Ellis, Iron Mountain Pine Grove (81-72-76).
230 - Mark Ray, Escanaba Highland (75-77-78); Frank Kutcher, Sault (Ont) Crimson Ridge (76-77-77).
232 - Gary Gries, Gladstone (75-76-81).
239 - Dave Jahn, Sault (76-78-85).