ACME – Bradley Smithson went wire-to-wire to win the 104th Turtle Creek Casino Michigan Open Championship at Grand Traverse Resort Thursday but walked a wire of intense final-day drama on The Bear course to do it.
“For sure it’s the biggest win of my life,” said the 20-year-old Michigan State University golfer from Grand Rapids after he accepted the James D. Standish Trophy Thursday.
“At the end I was thinking wow, and I’m really tired, and I’m really hungry. I mean, it’s an awesome feeling. I mean, very emotional but awesome feeling to get it done. For sure, it’s the biggest win of my life.”
Smithson, trailing by two shots on No. 18 tee in regulation play, birdied to land in a playoff when Ann Arbor teaching professional Patrick Wilkes-Krier missed the green and made bogey.
Then playing No. 18 again as the first playoff hole, he chipped in from about 15 yards off the green for birdie matching Wilkes-Krier who hit it to eight feet and made birdie.
Then they went to No. 16 where Smithson had made double-bogey 6 in regulation play with bunker trouble and missed short putt, and he hit it to 10-feet and made birdie to win.
The three consecutive birdies made him the fifth amateur in history to win the state championship, and Wilkes-Krier, 37, a runner-up with the first-place money of $12,000 from the $80,000 purse for professionals.
“I messed up 18 in regulation,” Wilkes-Krier said referring to losing a two-shot lead to a double-bogey when his tee shot landed in the rough area in the middle of the split fairway, his second shot missed the green and he missed a 10-foot par putt.
“But then, you know, he went out and earned it,” said the teacher for Dave Kendall Academy at Miles of Golf in Ypsilanti, who is also a former mini-tour player.
“He made a bunch of putts and played great. He’s a great player. He was a lot of fun to play with. So you know, I lost to a good guy, for sure.”
Smithson, who will be a junior with sophomore eligibility for the MSU golf team in the fall, shot a final 71 in regulation, and Wilkes-Krier shot 70 for the tie at 13-under 275.
Donnie Trosper, a mini-tour player from Canton and former Spartan, finished third, four shots back at 279 with a closing 65, the best round of the day.
Tyler Copp, last year’s Michigan Amateur champion who defends that title starting Tuesday at Cascade Hills Country Club in Grand Rapids, shot a closing 76 for 282. He tied for sixth with Winton Munch, a Traverse City mini-tour pro who closed with a 69.
Defending champion Brett White of Grand Rapids shot 74 for 284 and a tie for sixth with Traverse City mini-tour player Alex Scott, who shot 72.
Early in the final round it appeared to become a two-golfer race. With lead changes almost each hole of the back nine Smithson said it turned into match play in his thought process.
He thought he had lost the tournament finally at No. 16 in regulation when he had bunker trouble and missed a short putt inside two feet. His double-bogey there caused a two-shot swing because he led by one shot starting the hole and then trailed by one shot going to 17 tee.
He then bogeyed No. 17 and trailed by two to set up the three-birdie, two-hole playoff scenario.
“After the double (at 16 in regulation) I just tried to keep myself in it, thinking 17 and 18 are really tough holes especially with the wind today,” he said. “I knew anything could happen, and it kind of did. I mean a lot happened.”
Wilkes-Krier said it was a very unusual ending.
“To be honest he choked it away a little bit at the end of regulation, and then I choked it away, so when we were driving out to the playoff hole I felt like this is probably how it was meant to be determined,” he said.
Smithson said he couldn’t have picked a better championship to win, and that it will strengthen goals in golf.
“It was awesome to have my parents here, really cool,” he said. “When my dad (PGA professional Gary Smithson) hugged me he just told me he was proud of me and stuff. We’ve been coming up here since I was a little kid to watch my dad play, so this is really special.”
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