Rousseau edges Mercier to win UP junior tourney

Matt Solda putts on the 18th hole in Monday's UP Golf Association junior tournament at Timberstone. Jeff VanHolla, left, looks on. (Burt Angeli/The Daily News)

IRON MOUNTAIN — The UP Golf Association junior tournament Monday at Timberstone came down to the 18th hole.

Escanaba’s Nathan Rousseau sank an eagle putt on the final hole to nip Powers’ Bryson Mercier by one stroke. Rousseau finished with an eight-over par 80 in taking first.

Rousseau, the MHSAA UP Division 1 runner-up medalist this spring, struggled over the front nine Monday with a 43.

“I made a couple doubles (bogeys) on the front,” Rousseau said. “I was just hitting it out of play. I couldn’t keep it in the fairway and couldn’t keep it together.”

Rousseau was much improved on the back nine with a 37.

“I made a couple birdies on the back which helped but I still had a couple doubles,” said Rousseau, noting the birdies came on holes 12 and 13.

As for the decisive par 5 18th, the Escanaba High School senior “finally found a fairway.”

“I had the range,” Rousseau said of the 521-yard 18th hole. “I knew it was straight downhill and the wind started gusting. I really didn’t think I could get a club there and grabbed one more. I thought I hit it way too long but it ended up pin high and just right.”

Rousseau figured his low-cut 2-iron shot traveled about 210 yards to the green.

“I knew a 2-iron was way too much if I blasted it,” Rousseau said. “But I cut it down a lot. I tried to keep it out of the wind.”

Mercier nearly answered with his own eagle, firing a chip shot that nearly struck the pin. His putt nearly fell.

“Bryson hit one on there right before me, so he threw a little pressure on me,” said Rousseau, playing in a group with Mercier and Marquette’s Tyler Bergwall. “Bryson’s putt grabbed the lip of the hole and it didn’t go in, I couldn’t believe it. I thought he made it the whole way.”

A missed putt was nothing new for Mercier on Monday. He had 43 putts in his round of 81 Monday.

“The hole was small,” quipped the North Central freshman. “The hole looked so much smaller than it actually was. I hit everything pretty good, just my putter let me down.”

Mercier posted a 44 over the front nine and 37 over the final nine.

“I was more efficient on the back nine,” Mercier said. “I didn’t have as many three putts as I did on the front nine.”

Kaiden Bailey and Andrew Macintyre each shot 83 to trail the leaders in the high school-age division. Marquette’s Bergwall followed with an 85. Norway’s Jeff VanHolla carded an 87.

If the majestic Timberstone at Pine Mountain needs good-will ambassadors, Rousseau and Mercier both fill the bill.

They both “love” the 6,000-plus yard course carved out of woods and rock.

“This place is awesome, gorgeous,” Rousseau said. “I want to come out here and play some deeper tees and see more of the course.”

Noted Mercier, “It’s fun to play. It’s not fun to walk but it’s fun to play.”

In the other age groups playing nine holes, Newberry’s Cooper Pigeon took the 10-11 division with a 46.

Norway’s Carson Chartier tallied a 41 in the age 12-13 division.

Iron Mountain’s Rediet Husing was the only girl in the tournament, shooting a 57 in the age 12-13 division.

UP Golf Association junior tour stops today at Riverside Country Club in Menominee.