IRON MOUNTAIN - Iron Mountain's Jim (Marty) Markell chalked it up to luck. His challengers in the 98th U.P. Golf Association Men's Championships credited a golfer for knowing how to skillfully work the greens.
Markell held off the Ellis' brothers, Dan and Dave, to capture his first U.P. title Sunday night at Pine Grove Country Club. He became the first Pine Grove golfer to win a U.P. title at Pine Grove since FJ Oliver in 1922.
"You look at these guys I'm playing against, past champions, guys that were throwing 65 the first day of the tournament, and you think there's no hope," Markell said. "It feels good that I got lucky.
Jim Markell found the cup on this sand shot from the 11th hole Sunday in the 98th annual U.P. Golf Association Men’s Championships at Pine Grove Country Club.
"I made some putts the last two days that I never thought I would make. They were laughable."
Markell finished at two-under par 286, four strokes better than defending champion Dan Ellis (290) and six ahead of Dave Ellis (292). Menominee's Tim Drees, who opened the tourney with a seven-under 65, wound up fourth (295).
"Marty played well and kept it together all day long," said Drees, who won the 2006 title at his home Riverside course. "He's a good guy and I was real happy for him.
"He's a very good putter, these greens are difficult to putt and he knew how to putt them. That goes a long way."
Markell broke a three-way tie with Dan Ellis and Drees by shooting a 1-under par 71 Saturday. That gave Markell a two-shot edge entering Sunday's final round.
Dan Ellis, bidding for a third U.P. title, was frustrated during a birdie-less day.
"It was a disappointing struggle," said Ellis, who was unhappy with his decision making. "Jim did what he had to do. It wasn't excellent golf but it was good enough.
"You can't catch anyone when you're not making birdies or putts."
Dave Ellis appeared to be in the best position to catch Markell, gaining momentum by putting up four birdies with two bogeys on the front nine to move within three of the leader. Both of the Ellis' twins stood three shots back of Markell at the break.
"I did enough on the front nine to give myself a chance, that's about all I could ask for there," Dave Ellis said. "Through '14' I had a decent chance but couldn't find any birdies on the way in."
Markell overcame a double-bogey on the par-4 14th hole, allowing the Ellis' twins to stay within three.
"Jim earned it through the four days for sure," Dave Ellis said. "His short game was just incredible and that's what you need regardless of where you're playing.
"Being six back (after Saturday) was probably too much for the way Jim was playing. That's a credit to him and where he needed it most."
Markell built a four-stroke tourney advantage after holing out from the sand on No. 11.
"The bunker shot on '11' was key to that entire round," Dave Ellis said. "It was fun to watch. He knew what he was doing around the greens, that's for sure."
Markell, noting Dave Ellis was four-feet away from a par putt, expected his margin to slip with his ball sitting in the 11th green sand trap.
"That one out of the sand really turned my emotions," Markell said. "Coming into that hole I knew it was getting tight.
"I was fortunate to knock it in. That was something
that I never thought would go in."
A birdie on the par-3 13th hiked Markell's lead to five, but a double-bogey on the par-4 14th made things interesting.
However, Markell snuffed any Ellis' comeback hopes with a 35-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th hole.
"It (double bogey) was big until I birdied '16,'" Markell said. "That turned it right back around.
"When I watched that thing go in, I didn't know what to say other than laugh."
Markell made 10 putts on the first nine holes Saturday, and tallied 22 for the round. It was more of the same Sunday.
"I didn't really play the way I normally play but my putter made up for 20 strokes," said Markell, who tallied rounds of 72-70-71-73. "The putter was saving me on a lot of holes."
In addressing the crowd during the trophy ceremony, Markell thanked his wife and caddie Kristi, and also told her to make room in the bed because they were sleeping with the putter.
The Markells claimed another title Sunday, with Jim's son Nick winning sixth-flight honors.
Drees dropped out of contention with an 80 on Saturday, but rebounded Sunday with a 73.
"For two days, I didn't hit the ball well and I didn't make putts," Drees said of the middle rounds after shooting the 65. "Today I just wanted to shoot a respectable score. I just wanted to hit the ball well and feel good."
Joey Collard of Marinette wound up fifth at 297 and Dustin Dishaw of Crystal Falls posted a 302 for sixth.
Ishpeming Wawonowin, with the Ellis' brothers leading the way, registered a 1546 to edge Pine Grove One (1552) for the team crown.