Chelsea’s Brian Tillman, Rockford’s Jessica Jolly Win GAM Junior Kickoff Titles

YPSILANTI – Brian Tillman of Chelsea and Jessica Jolly of Rockford are the first Golf Association of Michigan champions of the year after securing wins in the fifth GAM Junior Kickoff presented by Golf Digest Sunday at Washtenaw Golf Club.

Tillman, a sophomore at Chelsea High, shot a final-round 4-under 68 and won the boys’ title by four shots, while Jolly, a junior at Rockford High, closed with a 74 and held off her future college teammate Elise Fennell of Caledonia and East Kentwood High by one shot.

Winners were also crowned in the 15-and-under age division with Nemo Tsai of Ann Arbor firing a second-round 67 to win by seven shots and Sophia Lee of Midland shooting a final 78 to win by nine shots.

It was the first GAM win for Tillman, who in the last year made the decision to give up basketball and concentrate on golf. He trailed Mitchell Strickland, formerly of Ann Arbor and now Eatonton, Ga., by one shot after opening with a 70 Saturday, but rallied with the 68 to pull away.

Strickland shot a closing 73 for 142 and second, and Andrew Slade of Ann Arbor shot 76 for 145 and third place.

“It feels good to start off the season with a win,” Tillman said. “I’ve been playing in GAM events for a long time and to finally take one is great.”

Tillman said he was able to get away to Florida over the winter and work with his teacher, Brian O’Neill of Orlando Golf Academy, a former Boyne Mountain Resort professional.

“I practiced a lot more than ever before this winter after stopping playing basketball,” he said. “I had a lot of free time, so I was able to work in a couple trips south to spend time in Florida and improve my game.”

Jolly, who will be 17 on Tuesday, had a three-shot lead going to the 18th hole in the final round, missed the green long and left and played to a double-bogey 6. She totaled 3-over 147 for the tournament, one better than Fennell, who shot a pair of 74s. Lauren Timpf of Macomb shot 75 for 150 and third place.

Fennell and Jolly have both committed to play at Illinois State University starting in the fall of 2024. The Redbirds are coached by former Kentwood resident and 2003 Michigan Women’s Open Champion Breanne Hall.

“I was trying not to think about where I was and if I was leading, but I knew I was playing well and had a chance and that it was going to be close,” Jolly said. “I took the longer club on 18 and my miss when I do that is turning it over that way. There were probably some nerves on that second putt, but it feels good now to know I had enough.”

Jolly said hard work over the winter paid off early.

“I’ve been hitting it pretty well, and this makes me really look forward to the rest of the season,” she said. “I struck the ball well this week and overall putting was pretty good.”

In the boys’ 15-and-under Tsai made a 10-shot improvement from Saturday’s 77 to his 67 for 144. The 13-year-old was playing in his first GAM tournament. Levan shot 73 for 151 and second place, and Troy Nguyen of Macomb shot 78 for 152 and third.

Lee’s win in the 15-and-under girls’ competition was her first win in any tournament. The 15-year-old’s 156 total was never really threatened as Saisha Patil of Okemos shot 83 for 165 and second place and Esther Zhang of Ann Arbor shot 82 for 168 and third.



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