Autumn comes early

Florida resident copes best with blustery conditions at UPGA?tourney

John Koskinen, a Baraga native who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., tees off on the back nine during the third day of the Upper Peninsula Golf Association championship tournament on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, at Wawonowin Country Club near Champion. (Journal photo by Rachel Oakley)

CHAMPION — On a day when Mother Nature tried to prematurely introduce fall to the Upper Peninsula, a golfer from Florida had the round of the day among the top golfers at the U.P. Golf Association championship tournament.

John “Gus” Koskinen might be a Baraga native and L’Anse Golf Club member, but he spends much of the year in Coral Gables as associate head coach of the University of Miami women’s golf team.

With a team made up solely of players from Europe and South America, Koskinen spends significant time recruiting in those parts of the world, too.

On Friday, though, the 37-year-old Fort Lauderdale resident was fully ensconced in misty, windy conditions with temperatures in the low- and mid-50s at Wawonowin Country Club on the highlands west of Ishpeming.

And he thrived, shooting an even-par 72 to make up three strokes of his four-shot deficit to leader and home course member Mark Clements.

He didn’t see it as lucky, though.

“I loved playing today,” he said. “I love these kind of adverse conditions. The harder the conditions, the better it is for me.

“That’s because I feel like I’m a player that can just gut it out. I’m not going to be a player who shoots something like 30-under-par when everything is easy.”

Clements, 44, was forced to scramble after getting stuck with a triple bogey on No. 2 and double bogey on No. 14, both par-4s.

He felt fortunate just to get to the clubhouse with a three-over 75 and three-day total of 6-under 210 to Koskinen’s 5-under 211 heading into today’s final round.

“I had some miscues today, but I just had to grind it out,” Clements said. “I drove it out of bounds on No. 2, then the putt actually bounced out of the cup. But I made a couple birdies, too.”

Koskinen agreed.

“It was a roller-coaster ride for Mark,” the Baraga native said, “but he made way more putts.

“That’s what really hurt me. I thought I hit the ball the best today of the three days so far, and I had a number of good birdie chances, but I couldn’t get them to fall.”

A third member of the final group, Gunnar Stein of Houghton and the Portage Lake Golf Course, had the second-best championship flight score of 74 to stand at 1-under 215.

He’s a 2016 graduate of Houghton High School, where he stood out on the Gremlins’ boys golf team.

“The hardest part out there today was the wind,” Stein said. “It was a north wind that would come and go. I had to bring two clubs to every tee because you never knew what the wind would be like. I made a couple bad decisions.

“It reminded me of high school tourneys,” he added, explaining that they are played in April and May when the weather is more like this.

Those three realistically are the only ones with a chance to win the overall title, since no other golfer is closer than 10 strokes to Clements.

Scott Saari of Wawonowin shot 75 to lead the second-to-last group and move into a tie for fourth with Chad Tirschel of Oak Crest in Norway, both with 4-over 220s.

From the area, Saari’s brother K.C. Saari shot 77 to stand seventh at 223, while Wawonowin’s Carter Mason, a recent Negaunee High School golfer, struggled to 88 to stand 12th in the flight at 236.

Matching Koskinen for low round of the day of 72 was Matt Argall of Gladstone, a golfer with plenty of relatives in western Marquette County who won this tournament in 2015 when it was played in Marinette, Wisconsin.

He had been knocked out of the championship flight and into the first flight on a tiebreaker after Thursday’s round, but his 221 sits him in a tie for sixth overall.

Other flight leaders include Dan Oja of Wawonowin, second flight, 74 on Friday for 229 overall; Dale Bayer of Wawonowin, third flight, 75, 232; Kirk Giotto of Wawonowin, fourth flight, 79, 240; Paul Bujold of Pine Grove in Iron Mountain, fifth flight, 77, 241; Mitch Francois of Riverside in Menominee, sixth flight, 85, 259; Daniel Niemi of Omer’s in Twin Lakes, seventh flight, 81, 261; and Glenn Rankinen of Little River in Marinette, eighth flight, 88, 276.

Golfers tee off this morning and early afternoon, with the final group scheduled to start its 18 holes at 1:20 p.m.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is