IRON MOUNTAIN - Pine Grove Country Club proved to be a challenging test for the 98th U.P. Golf Association Men's Championships.
Menominee's Tim Drees launched the four-day tournament with a seven-under 65, one stroke off the course record. Negaunee's Ellis twins, Dan and Dave, also started off hot at 69.
But the scores settled down from there, with Iron Mountain's Jim Markell putting up a two-under 286 (72-70-71-73) for the title Sunday.
Jim Markell receives a champagne shower from Scott Sanders.
None of the past four U.P. champs playing at Pine Grove broke par - 1990, Scott Erickson, 299; 1980, Sy Clements, 303; 1972, Larry Tiziani, 301, and 1967, Dave Confrey, 296.
Markell turned back Dan (290) and Dave Ellis (292) for the title. They leave no doubt why they're two of the best players on Michigan State University's golf team.
"You see how long these guys hit the ball and you worry about that," Markell said.
Drees, who once held a seven-shot lead on Markell, played the final two rounds with the first-time U.P. champ.
"I was pulling for him all day long," Drees said. "It's always nice to see a home course guy win that's never won it."
Markell became the first Pine Grove golfer to win the U.P. title at Pine Grove since FJ Oliver in 1922. Drees copped the 2006 U.P. crown at his Menominee course.
- Markell tipped his cap to Pine Grove superintendent Rich Victorson, who was recognized during the tournament as the 2012 UPGA Honoree.
"Rich did an awesome job," Markell said. "There were some tough pins and you expect that for the UPs."
The pin placement Sunday on No. 12 drew some grumbles from the participants.
"You just had to know what side of the pin to be on," said Markell, adding with a laugh, "You just had to hurry up and mark your ball before it rolled down."
Dave Ellis may be ready to form a fan club for Rich Victorson. Ellis, after the first round, said Pine Grove didn't have a "blade of grass out of place."
After Sunday's final round, Dave Ellis commented, " The course held up incredible but the greens got quicker and quicker. Credit the maintenance staff here. It was perfect."
Markell holed a chip shot out of the sand on No. 11 and nailed a 35-foot on No. 16 in the final round.
"Between Susie (Fox) and Rich, the way they set it up and they way they ran the tournament, I thought it was great."
Susie Fox, Pine Grove pro, and her crew also deserved kudos for operating very efficiently.
- Markell, in dispensing post tourney bouquets, appreciated how 1988 U.P. champion Jackie Hooper of Iron Mountain helped him out.
"Jack is one of the all-time greats and a man that I idolized," Markell said.
- Cory Wicklund of Ironwood's Gogebic Country Club claimed the long drive title with a blast past 305 yards.
- Michigan State University golfer and former Marquette High School star Carley Saint-Onge followed the Ellis' brothers for the final two rounds.
The four-time U.P. medalist tees off Monday in the The GAM (Golf Association of Michigan) Championship at Port Huron Golf Club ...
- U.P. Golf Association officials will meet later this year to determine a site for the 2013 men's tournament.
Gaastra's Dale Ward, secretary-treasurer of the UPGA, said Gladstone will host the 100th U.P. tourney in 2014.
- Baraga's John (Gus) Koskinen, who fired a course-record 64 and 66 in the 2002 U.P. tournament at Pine Grove, serves as the assistant women's golf coach for the University of Miami.
Koskinen, a Michigan State graduate, played in the 2006 (Winged Foot) and 2007 (Oakmont) U.S. Opens.
He finished the 2002 U.P. with a 19-under 269. Two rounds were also played at Oak Crest in Norway. Markell wound up 11th at 304.
- Menominee's Jared Hoffman, according to Tim Drees, works as a Taylor Made representative in Long Island, N.Y. Hoffman won the 2007 U.P. title.
- Pepper Steele, playing out of Norway's Oak Crest Golf Course, was reportedly the oldest player in the 2012 U.P. tournament at age 79.
- No less an authority than Oak Crests Brian Bongi calls Markell the "best putter going."
Markell admits to always putting his best with Bongi around. Sure enough, he was there for Markell's 35-footer on the 16th hole Sunday.
- There's eight men on the University of Tennessee golf team, and freshman Mike Nagy of Manistique said there's talk of him red-shirting (or watching this season).
Crystal Falls' Dustin Dishaw, who finished sixth in the championship flight at 302 and four strokes better than Nagy, hopes to crack the Ferris State golf squad.
- Ontonagon's Andy Borseth, among the 191 golfers in the U.P. tournament, is the cousin of UW-Green Bay women's basketball coach Kevin Borseth.
- Escanaba's Paul Schrader, who caddied for Blair O'Neal in the past two women's pro tournaments at Sweetgrass in Harris, received a "good luck" text from the model-golfer prior to the U.P. tournament.
- Pine Grove's Mike Massie, who played in the tournament's first foursome Thursday and held the very early lead in the clubhouse, wound up second (336) in sixth flight behind Nick Markell (334) - son of the U.P. king.