Teen Hunter Eichhorn opens 9-stroke lead at U.P. Golf Association Men’s Championships

Riley Thomson, left, of Iron River and Kyle Pouliot of Gladstone look over their putts at No. 18 on Wednesda during the second round of the U.P. Golf Association Men’s Championships held at Oak Crest Golf Course in Norway. Pouliot will be a junior on the Northern Michigan University men's golf team this fall. (Iron Mountain Daily News photo by Burt Angeli)

104th U.P. Golf Association Men’s Championships

Top 12 and ties

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Hunter Eichhorn 64-65–129

Nick Markell 68-70–138

From left, Bryce Douglas, Gunnar Stein and Hunter Eichhorn watch a drive on No. 11 sail wide right by Rob Ryan of Manistique in the second round on Wednesday of the U.P. Golf Association Men's Championships held at Oak Crest Golf Course in Norway. (Iron Mountain Daily News photo by Burt Angeli)

Mark Clements 72-67–139

Ryan Pepin 74-65–139

Gunnar Stein 71-68–139

Mike Solda 68-72–140

Tom LaVigne 73-69–142

Kyle Pouliot 67-78–145

Joe Pontbriand 72-74–146

Steve Schmidt 73-73–146

Korey Smith 75-71–146

Johnny Kositzky 76-71–147

Carter Mason 75-72–147

Nate Rousseau 73-74–147

Scott Sanders 73-74–147

Joe Strong 74-73–147

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NORWAY — Hunter Eichhorn has appeared to put the 104th Upper Peninsula Golf Association Men’s Championships into a race for second place.

The Marquette University ace from Carney opened up a nine-stroke lead after two rounds Wednesday, following his 8-under-par 64 from Tuesday with a 65 to put him 15-under at 129.

Standing nine shots behind the college sophomore-to-be is Iron Mountain’s Nick Markell, who has rounds of 68 and 70 for 138.

Ryan Pepin, like Markell a Pine Grove Country Club golfer, matched Eichhorn with a 65 Wednesday.

Pepin shares third place at 139 with two-time U.P. champion Mark Clements of Ishpeming and 2017 U.P. champion Gunnar Stein of Houghton. Clements bounced back Wednesday with a 5-under 67 following an even-par 72 the first day, while Stein turned in a 4-under 68 Wednesday after he opened with 71.

“Everybody’s playing for second,” said Markell, son of 2012 U.P. champion Jim Markell. “It’s Hunter’s tournament. It should be fun to watch for two days.”

For the second straight day, Eichhorn threatened to erase the Oak Crest course record 63 he shares with three others. On Wednesday, he posted a 29 on the front nine, though the back nine was a different story with three bogeys for a 36.

“It was all right,” Eichhorn said of his round. “Obviously, to shoot 65, I’m happy. But quite honestly, I’m disappointed because the back nine was awful. That made it even worse.”

Eichhorn recorded a 30 on the front nine Tuesday. His 29 performance Wednesday on the front included five birdies and an eagle on the par-5 470-yard sixth hole.

“I was able to get on the green from 20 feet and made it,” said Eichhorn, who had to deal with trees after the tee shot on No. 6.

Bad tee shots near trees led to bogeys on Nos. 10 and 15. He missed a four-footer for par on the 10th.

“But it was all in the tee shot,” Eichhorn said of the 10th hole. “I hooked it into the trees. I hit a good chip. I had a good look at par and missed it.”

On the closing 18th, Eichhorn’s drive traveled more than 350 yards. However, he dubbed the chip shot, found the green on the next and missed the putt for par.

“Back nine was very disappointing,” said Eichhorn, who did produce three birdies there. “That’s the only way I can put it. It was awful.”

Markell isn’t surprised to find himself challenging for U.P. runner-up honors.

“To come out and shoot 6-under for two days, you have to play real good golf for that, especially in a UPGA tournament or on any course,” said Markell, who credited his putting and driving for two solid rounds. “When I miss putts, I don’t miss by much. I made a couple of them I really didn’t expect to make.”

Markell figures he hit 14 greens in regulation for both rounds.

“My ball striking has been really good,” Markell said. “If I hit greens and make a couple putts, you’re going to be right there. But it’s tough for anybody to shoot what Hunter shoots. If you’re in second place, consider it a success.”

Pepin, playing in his first U.P. tourney, shot a career-low Wednesday with 65. His previous best was 68 at Pine Grove.

“My goal was to shoot sub-70,” said Pepin, who shot a 74 on Tuesday. “Everything was going well. There was nothing special. I got off the tee very well and that was the difference between today and yesterday.”

Pepin had seven birdies — four on the front nine for a 32 — and 11 pars.

“I made only one long putt,” he said. “The rest were fairly short. I’m thrilled. I hope I can shoot under par the next two days.”

Norway’s Mike Solda slipped from 68 to 72 but still holds down sixth with 140. Seventh is Iron Mountain’s Tom LaVigne at 142, benefitting from a 69 Wednesday.

Gladstone’s Kyle Pouliot, second after the first round with a 67, tumbled to a 78 Wednesday and eighth place at 145. He will be a junior on the Northern Michigan University men’s team this fall.

Eichhorn, Markell, Clements and Pepin are expected to form one of the championship flight foursomes beginning the third round at about 11 a.m. EDT today. The tournament concludes Friday.

“You have to know your place,” Markell said of challenging Eichhorn. “You don’t have to go out and try to chase him. You’re just playing against the course. If you’re nine back and two days to play, you have some ground to make up. It’s doable but it’s going to take a bunch.”

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NOTES

• Eichhorn’s score will not be counted toward the Oak Crest team championship total. His name was added to the list past the deadline. Oak Crest has three teams competing for the team trophy

• Escanaba’s Nate Rousseau, one of five high-school golfers in the field of 102, stands tied for 12th after rounds of 73 and 74

• The 2019 U.P. men’s championships will be staged at Terrace Bluff in Gladstone