Eagles propel Eichhorn into final round
NORWAY — Back-to-back eagles can do wonders for the scorecard.
Especially for the man leading the 104th UP Golf Association Championships by 13 strokes.
Carney’s Hunter Eichhorn, sparked by consecutive eagles on the fifth and sixth holes, shot a four-under par 68 in Thursday’s third round at Oak Crest Golf Course.
Eichhorn shows a three-round total of 197 entering today’s final round. Two-time UP champion Mark Clements of Ishpeming stands second at 210 after a 71 on Thursday.
“That was a huge boost getting those two eagles,” said Eichhorn, noting a bogey on No. 3 left him at one-over through four holes. “I was kind of struggling there. Those two got me back in it.”
On the 339-yard par-four fifth hole, Eichhorn drove the green and followed with a putt from “12 to 14 feet” for the eagle.
His second shot on the 470-yard par-five sixth stopped two feet from the hole. That set up the second eagle.
Eichhorn left the front nine with a 33 but needed 35 on the back for his 68. The Marquette University standout nearly bagged a third eagle when a putt lipped out on the par-four, 343-yard 12th after reaching the green on the drive.
“That was a nice birdie to get,” Eichhorn noted.
A second birdie on the back nine needed some work after his drive on the par-five 16th wound up right in the deep rough.
“I did that on the par fives today,” said Eichhorn, referring to off-line drives. “Those are scoring holes which was kind of frustrating. But I was able to hit a good wedge and convert there.”
Eichhorn’s lone back-nine bogey came on the par-three 14th hole.
“They had some tough pins,” Eichhorn said. “I hit a lot of really good putts. I thought I had a chance. I had a few lip out. I had a few just short in the middle. I had a few burn the edge. But that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Eichhorn said he was pretty happy with the round.
“My wedges weren’t as good as the first two days, so I had some longer looks that were kind of disappointing in the yardages I had,” he said. “But I hit a lot of good shots and some of them just don’t go in. Fortunately, I was able to make a few.”
Clements, who has never finished second in the UP Men’s Championships, turned in nine-hole scores of 35 and 36.
Defending champion Gunnar Stein of Houghton moved up to third (212) after shooting a 73 on Thursday. Stein played the first two rounds with Eichhorn.
“That’s the hard part when you play with a guy like that,” Stein said this week when asked about trying to keep up with Eichhorn. “You have to stick with your plan, with your game, and play how you normally play.”
Iron Mountain’s Ryan Pepin stayed in the top championship flight foursome, notching 75 for a 214 total.
Iron Mountain’s Nick Markell, second after Wednesday’s round, dropped to fifth (215) after shooting a 77.
Championship flight is expected to tee off around noon today.
“Do the same thing and try to shoot the best scores I can, and see how that goes,” Eichhorn sad of his final-round strategy.
NOTES: Menominee’s Steve Schmidt registered a 73 to match Stein with the third-best score in championship flight Thursday … Eichhorn is threatening the 2002 UP victory margin of Baraga’s John (Gus) Koskinen, who blitzed Pine Grove in Iron Mountain and Oak Crest to win by 19 shots … Clements is the son of former UP champions Karen Plaisier and Si Clements … Stein rallied past Mark Clements and Koskinen to win last year’s championship … Iron Mountain’s Jon Ellis, who won the 2009 UP title at Oak Crest by 12 strokes, leads third flight by one shot over former UP champion Jim Markell … Eichhorn on course conditions: “The greens were a lot firmer today than the first two days. I hit some shots that just kept going but I kind of adjusted and was fine after that … Iron Mountain’s Tom LaVigne, tied for seventh in championship flight, sank a hole-in-one during a practice round at Oak Crest.