ACME – The lead isn’t as big for Bradley Smithson, but the Michigan State University golfer from Grand Rapids remained on top for a third consecutive round in the Turtle Creek Casino Michigan Open Championship.
“I’m sticking to my plan that’s worked these first three rounds, and just making sure that I keep doing that,” he said after a 1-under 71 Wednesday on The Bear course at Grand Traverse Resort put him at 12-under with a one-shot lead on Ann Arbor’s Patrick Wilkes-Krier, and two-shot lead on Ann Arbor’s Tyler Copp.
They played as the final group Wednesday and will do so again in Thursday’s final round of the $80,000 championship that awards a $12,000 first-place check to the top professional.
Smithson had a five-shot lead starting the third round but Wilkes-Krier, a teaching professional at the Kendall Golf Academy at Miles of Golf, shot 67 to check in at 11-under, and Copp, a recent Mercer University of Georgia graduate playing this summer as an amateur, shot 68 for 10-under.
Smithson maintained the lead with the help of a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to finish his round.
“I kind of had it in the back of my head that I needed that to stay ahead of Patrick,” he said. “It was a really good looking putt for me, uphill going a little left to right. I just made a good solid stroke and it went in.”
Third rounds, also known as moving days in golf, proved to be just that for more golfers than just Wilkes-Krier and Copp.
Amateur Grant Haefner of West Bloomfield checked in at 8-under with a 67 and defending champion Brett White of Grand Rapids, who last year went wire-to-wire as leader, shot 67 to move to 6-under, 6 shots back.
Local Traverse City mini-tour professionals Alex Scott and Winton Munch also had good days. Scott shot 67 and is 4-under for the tournament, and Munch shot 66 and is 3-under.
Smithson, meanwhile, maintained his lead and smile.
“I didn’t make as many birdies as I did the first two rounds, but I played pretty solid,” Smithson said. “I pulled a wedge shot into the (water) on No. 5 that I would like to have back, but I still feel good about my game. I’m having fun. Today was a bit more of a grind, but it’s going to be awesome to be in the final group and try to win.”
Wilkes-Krier said he enjoyed the pairing with Smith and Copp on Wednesday.
“They play like professionals already,” he said. “They were very nice. It was pleasurable. I would like to play close to 18 holes with just reasonable ball-striking though. It seems like every day I’m kind of losing something here and there and having to grind it out. It would be nice to have a comfortable 18.”
Wilkes-Krier has been teaching and coaching golf in recent years and came to the Open without big expectations.
“I just pretty much play scrambles and qualifiers these days and I’m exhausted at this point,” he said. “I will get some sleep and hopefully I can scrape it around, you know, good enough tomorrow. I mixed this tournament with a little bit of vacation time so my family is up here. I’m going to enjoy them and hopefully have one more good round and have the best of both worlds.”
Copp, who birdied holes 15 and 16, felt his third round was the best of the week.
“The first two rounds there was some good, but there was a lot of bad, too,” said last summer’s Michigan Amateur Champion. “Today my ball-striking was better and I felt good. I had some good things happen and some good thoughts going. Tomorrow I just want to go out and get off to a good start and maintain it.”
He said he likes being in the final group.
“I’m a scoreboard watcher and like to know where I’m at so I can adjust my game accordingly,” he said. “I’m excited about it.”
TV 9&10 of Cadillac is planning to have a camera crew on hand to follow the final group the last round just as they did the third round and livestream the feed. It can be found at the following link: https://www.vuit.com/live/16207/wwtv%20-%209&10%20news%20plus
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