-Editors Note: Article by Michigan PGA
HIGHLAND TOWNSHIP, MI (June 13, 2016) -- Drew Preston of Ada is looking for a breakout year on the mini tours. Charlie Green of Ann Arbor is looking to play in as many great tournaments as possible before heading back to Michigan State University for his junior golf season.
And Chris McLaughlin of Oakhurst Country Club in Clarkston is looking to make the cut for the first time in three attempts in the Michigan Open Championship, and then see what happens.
The journeyman Preston, the collegiate Green and the club professional McLaughlin were tied for the lead at 4-under 68 through the first round of the 99th Michigan Open Monday, which is being presented by LaFontaine Automotive Group at Prestwick Village for the third consecutive year.
The trio had a one-shot lead on three golfers, including Lake Orion pro Brandon Barrows and amateurs Kyle Rodes of Plymouth and Eastern Michigan University and Sean Friel of Rochester Hills and Michigan State.
The group of 70 shooters, two off the pace, numbered 10 and included 2013 champion and amateur Tom Werkmeister of Grand Rapids, 2007 champion and pro Andy Ruthkoski of Muskegon, mini-tour pro Willie Mack III of Grand Blanc, recent Horton Smith Invitational winner Evan Bowser of Dearborn, White Lake amateur Justin Pahl, Gaylord amateur Alex Dombrowski, and pros Larry Hess of Tam O’Shanter and West Bloomfield, Matthew Little of Warren, Brett White of Caledonia and Eric Lilleboe of Okemos.
Another group of 10 shot 71 as 26 players in the starting field of 156 bettered par. The group at 71 was headed by defending champion Jeff Cuzzort of Grosse Ile, and two-time runner-up Matt Thompson of Battle Creek.
Preston had six birdies against two bogeys in his round.“Both bogeys were three-putts, and the greens were tough, great really,” he said. “I didn’t go back to (Canada PGA Tour) this year so I haven’t played in much, except the U.S. Open sectional. The game was pretty good.”
The former Michigan Amateur champion hopes to stay in contention all week.
“I’m turning 26 in September, and this is my fourth full year as a professional,” Preston said. “I want it to be a good year. I would love to win this for a lot of reasons, especially the confidence it would bring as I head out for the (mini tours).”
Green, 21, said he is coming off a season at Michigan State in which he didn’t play as well as he wanted, but learned a lot from coach Casey Lubahn.
“I’m understanding my game a little better,” he said.His strategy for the first round was a careful plan of when to attack and when to accept a layup shot.“With how fast these greens are I just tried to play to the fatter part of the greens and keep it below the hole,” he said. “I found the ability to make a few putts that way.”
McLaughlin, who is 32 and in his third year at Oakhurst Country Club in Clarkston after moving to Michigan from New York, said he is just trying to play smart golf and not his usual aggressive game.
“For as little as I’ve played and practiced, I’ve been playing pretty well,” he said. “I’m not out there trying to find anything really. If I’m hitting the cut, I play the cut. If I’m hitting the draw, I hit the draw.”
McLaughlin was 5-under at one point, but made a bogey on No. 7 (his 16th hole).
“You had to keep the ball below the hole to have a chance to make putts today,” he said. “I hit my driver only once today. I kept the ball below the hole most of the time. I tried to keep it simple.”
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