HARBOR SPRINGS – James Piot of Canton and Andrew Walker of Battle Creek, a pair of Michigan State University teammates, lead the way in a rain-suspended 109th Michigan Amateur Championship presented by Carl’s Golfland.
Rain, sometimes heavy coupled with cool temperatures and strong gusting winds in the afternoon Tuesday soaked The Heather course at Boyne Highlands after a two-hour delay in the morning and finally caused a cease in play because of unplayable conditions on the greens at 7:45 p.m.
About 10 groups of golfers out of the starting field of 156 will be asked to return Wednesday morning to complete the second round and identify the low 64 scorers for the match play bracket. Match play will start afterward and continue through Friday afternoon.
Piot and Walker each shot morning wave rounds of 3-under 66 on an adjusted course set-up for the second round. The normal par 71 became a par 69 because the water-laden par 5 No. 5 hole was turned into a par 3 for the day, and other tees were adjusted to avoid standing water problems.
It didn’t seem to bother the Spartans, who played in the calmer conditions of the morning wave. They ended up with 6-under 134 totals, and they will likely each get their name on the celebrated Chuck Kocsis Medalist Trophy when play is completed. That would make them the likely top two seeds as match play starts.
Nick Gunthorpe of East Lansing was third with a second-round 68 for a 3-under 137 total. Grant Haefner, a Wayne State golfer from Bloomfield Hills shot 70 for 139 and was tied with 68-shooting Will Anderson from Portage, who is headed to play college golf at the University of Michigan.
Three golfers checked in at 140 including Coalter Smith of Grosse Pointe Farms and the University of Wisconsin, who shot 68, Ian Martin of Saline, a former UM golfer, who shot 68, and former MSU golfer Sean Friel of Rochester Hills, who shot 70. All those among the leaders played in the morning wave.
For Walker it would be the second time he has earned medalist honors in the state championship. Two years ago, at Country Club of Detroit he set the 109-year-old tournament’s stroke play scoring record of 131 with rounds of 66 and 65. He also lost a first-round match to the No. 64 seed, which in 2018 was Jimmy Chestnut of Royal Oak, the 2008 Michigan Amateur champion.
“Match play is a different beast,” said Walker who will return for a final season with the Spartans in the fall. “You are playing less against the course and more against your fellow competitor. Two years ago, it was definitely a learning experience for me. Looking at my game right now, it is trending in a very good place compared to where it was two years ago going into match play. I do feel confident, and that bit of experience is going to help me also.”
Piot, who has two years of eligibility remaining with the Spartans, said a top seed was the goal all along and that he doesn’t mind the rain.
“Rain bring it on, it’s the Michigan State way to play in anything that comes,” he said. “It was wet in the morning wave, but the afternoon wave is getting unlucky overall with today’s conditions.”
Despite wind kicking up as he finished, Piot birdied his final two holes of regulation to jump into the tie with Walker.
“I want to keep it going from there,” he said. “I gained a lot of momentum with the birdies and I want to keep it going into match play.”
Piot, the 2018 GAM Champion, said he is a fan of match play as well as rain.
“I’m kind of a gritty player and I get it up and down from everywhere,” he said. “I want a good draw and to get off to a good start. The past few years in the Am I played my opponent too much. It’s ok, but I let myself slip away from being as aggressive as I usually play. I’m going to reassess and think of strategies to get after things tomorrow.”
Walker said his putter make good contributions in the second round.
“I was able to make the momentum keepers,” he said. “I was iffy on my long putts in the first round, but today I made birdie on my second hole (No. 11) with about an 18-foot putt, I had a good up-and-down on the 12th hole, and I made a 25-30 footer on 18 for birdie. That’s my hole I guess.”
He said rain isn’t his favorite golf condition, but that college golf has taught him to deal with it.
“It’s good to see my game stays in shape even if the weather goes negative,” he said. “We caught the much better half of the day, too. The wind was starting to kick up when we finished.”
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