CHARLEVOIX, Mich. (June 16, 2014) -- Austin Eccleton said his putter saved him, and Greg Davies just wants to be safely in the match play bracket of the 103rd Michigan Amateur Championship.
Eccleton, a Grand Valley State University golfer from Jackson, and Davies, a 46-year-old former champion (2006) from West Bloomfield, each turned in 3-under-par rounds of 67 to top the starting field of 156 Monday at Belvedere Golf Club.
Another round of stroke play Tuesday will determine the low 64 scorers and their seeds in the match play bracket. The medalist earns the No. 1 seed and the Charles Kocsis Trophy. Two rounds of match play each day Wednesday through Friday will determine a champion and winner of the Staghorn Trophy.
Tom Werkmeister, 46, the qualifying medalist last year and the 2009 champion from Kentwood, Brian Hayward, a 27-year-old certified public accountant from Grand Rapids and University of Michigan golfer Reed Hrynewich of Muskegon each turned in 68s.
Last year’s runner-up Mike Ignasiak of Saline, Brandon Barrows, a senior-to-be at Rochester Adams High School, Jacob Johnson, an Oakland University golfer from Holt, Ryan Johnson, a former Wayne State golfer and reinstated amateur from New Boston, and James Piot of Canton, who is 15 and the youngest player in the field, made up the group that shot 69, two off the lead.
Steve Anderson of Troy, Casey Baker of Novi, Patrick Colburn of Traverse City and Mike Nagy of Manistique each shot par 70 as only 14 players finished par or better.
“It’s playing a lot longer,” said Davies of the Belvedere course that is hosting for an unprecedented 40th time and added length to six holes and a total of 300 yards in the last year. “No. 9 was really long, and I didn’t know 18 had a tee back that far. I played well, and I needed to. It’s demanding.”
Davies was 4-under par at one point, but then his approach shot at No. 16 hit the flag stick, bounced off the green and led to a bogey. He called it a bad break, put it behind him and said his goal is to get into match play.
“Whether you finish first or 63rd, just as long as you’re in,” he said. “You want to start playing better once match play starts. That’s what matters.”
Eccleton, a quarterfinalist two years ago at Oakland Hills, who finished in the top 20 last week in the Michigan Open, was running way from the field at 5-under through 16 holes, but he made consecutive bogeys to finish.
“I had a couple bad iron swings, and a bad driver on the last hole, but my putter saved me today,” he said. “I just wanted to start out as well as I could and put myself in position to make the cut (into match play). But now that I had a good round putting, I might as well go for (medalist.)”
Werkmeister said he had a crazy round.
“I three-putted (No. 3) from inside four feet,” he said. “I didn’t see many fairways either, but I made a couple of good birdies coming in though.”
Hayward, who finished 14th in last week’s Michigan Open, birdied No. 9 to finish his round.
“I drove the ball pretty well today,” he said. “I had some issues hitting driver last week, but I’ve worked them out.”
Hrynewich said he had a smooth round that could have been better.
“I missed two three-footers for par, but then I also made a couple of 15-footers,” he said. “I feel good. I just played steady.”
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