105th edition of the state championship is on The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa
ACME – Patrick Wilkes-Krier doesn’t remember if he has ever had a big lead heading into the final round of a golf tournament.
“I don’t play a lot of tournaments anymore,” said the Ann Arbor PGA teaching professional at Kendall Academy in Ypsilanti, who will hold a five-shot lead starting Thursday’s finale in the $85,000 Hall Financial Michigan Open presented by Turtle Creek Casino and Caesars Sportsbook.
Wilkes-Krier shot a 2-under 70 Wednesday on The Bear at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa for a 13-under tournament total. Jake Kneen, a mini-tour professional from White Lake and the 2018 Michigan Open champion on The Bear, was the closest pursuer. He shot 69 to check in at 8-under.
Joe Juszczyk, a mini-tour player from Dearborn Heights, was next at 6-under after he followed up a second-round 63 with a 73.
Four golfers were at 5-under, eight strokes behind, including Baker Stevenson, a mini-tour professional from Hartland and former Nicholls State University golfer who shot a sizzling 66 Wednesday.
The others at 5-under were Matt Thompson, the 2017 Open champion from Hillsdale who shot 71, University of Wisconsin golfer Coalter Smith of Grosse Pointe Farms, who shot 73, and former Michigan Amateur champion Beau Breault of Howell, another mini-tour player and close friend of Stevenson, who shot 68.
Kyle Rodes, a mini-tour player from Plymouth, and University of Michigan golfer Will Anderson of Kalamazoo also moved up in the standings with rounds of 66. Both of them are tied for 14th at 1-under.
Wilkes-Krier came from behind leader and eventual winner Bradley Smithson a year ago to force a dramatic sudden-death playoff. Smithson, a Michigan State University golfer and amateur from Grand Rapids, had his name added to the James D. Standish Trophy, and Wilkes-Krier got the first-place check.
This time Wilkes-Krier wants the check and the trophy.
“I want to win,” he said. “I’ve got a game plan I can adjust based on weather conditions, so it’s going to be mostly about trying to execute good swings and make good putts.”
He wasn’t enamored with his play in the third round, including a final bogey on No. 18 to close.
“I actually did a lot of good today and just didn’t putt well on the back,” he said. “I played a couple of holes nice, but just didn’t get it going.”
He said he will be scoreboard watching tomorrow as well as sticking to his game plan.
“It’s a mixture of both for me,” he said. “I want to know where I stand, but then, yeah, when the times comes to hit a shot I’ll tighten up and just focus on that.”
Kneen, whose highlight in his 69 was making a 60-foot eagle putt on the par 5 No. 6 hole, remembers from his victory in 2018 that the Bear will make an impact in the final round.
“It will be a tough set-up and if we get wind, and it’s hot, who knows what can happen,” he said. “I know the forecast is calling for some higher winds and Mother Nature sure brought the heat today, but I played well, scrambled well when I was out of position. And you know, here we are with a chance. Patrick is a great player. I don’t think he is going to do anything crazy tomorrow so I have to go out there and control what I can control and just try to shoot the best score possible.”
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ABOUT GRAND TRAVERSE RESORT & CASINOS: Owned and operated by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Grand Traverse Resort & Casinos offers world-class gaming, golf, dining, and spa amenities in the northwest corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula. The premier properties include Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel, and Leelanau Sands Casino & Lodge. Media contact for Grand Traverse Resort: Caroline Rizzo, public relations manager, 231-534-6352, email@example.com. Website: www.grandtraverseresort.com.