Michigan Amateur: Final four set as match play rolls on

HARBOR SPRINGS, Mich. (June 24, 2011) -- The “final four” of match play at the 100th Michigan Amateur will be defending champion Joey Garber (Petoskey/University of Michigan), medalist Matt Thompson (Battle Creek/University of Michigan), Willie Mack III (Flint) and Eric Lilleboe (Okemos).

Mack and Schleicher had a marathon match at Boyne Highlands Resort – The Heather that took 25 holes to decide a winner. Mack was 3-up early in the match but Schleicher closed the gap on the back nine and contest spiraled into extra holes. Both golfers felt that sooner or later someone would make a mistake or sink a great putt to win.

“I felt someone would sink a long putt to win,” said Schleicher. “I had chances to win. I lipped out on one and burned the edge on almost every hole.”

Mack ended up sinking a 2-foot putt on the seventh extra hole to win the match. He had a solid drive and hit his wedge 135 yards to put himself in a great position to make the short putt.

“Erik played very well today,” Mack said. “We both played very well today. If I lost, I wanted it to be because he had a birdie – not because I had a bogey.”

Mack has not competed in the Michigan Am for five years due to conflicts with his college schedule. He was excited to be able to participate this year and came into the tournament on the heels of a victory at the West Michigan championship.

“I’m thrilled to make it to the last day,” said Mack. “I enjoy match play but I really haven’t played a lot of it since my days in Flint Junior Golf when I was little. So I think tomorrow I’m going to draw on some of that experience.”

Both Thompson and Garber went to extra holes in their first matches with each winning in 21 holes. In his second match, Thompson defeated Matt Otsby (Midland) 2 & 1.

“I had some chances to make birdies that I didn’t make and that made the match a little closer than I would have liked,” said Thompson. “I had chances on 2, 3 and 4 and then again on 11 and 15. I missed a 12-foot putt to win it on 16 but then I ended up sinking one on 17.”

Garber cruised in his second match of the day besting Steve McKalko (Troy) 7&6. His stellar drives put him in good position so consequently he didn’t leave himself with many long putts.

“I think this is the best ball striking I’ve had in a while,” said Garber. “This morning’s match was tight but this afternoon I just started hitting my driver better and putting shots where I could make the green in two. I was hoping this would happen at some point this week and I’m glad it happened today. Hopefully I can keep the momentum going for tomorrow.”

Lilleboe (Okemos) lost to Garber in last year’s final and this afternoon defeated Brad Bastion (Clinton Twp.) 7&5 to advance to the final four. His early match against Tim Coffey (Midland) went 20 holes but in the afternoon round Lilleboe’s short game came together and he was able to pull into an early lead which he maintained throughout the match.

“I putted a lot better this afternoon,” said Lilleboe. “I know tomorrow I’m facing Joey Garber on his home course and it’s going to be a tough match but if I play well I can beat him.”

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