Ann Arbor’s Tyler Copp Sets Pace in 110th Michigan Amateur

   GRAND RAPIDS – Being the defending champion isn’t pressure to Ann Arbor’s Tyler Copp.

  “I think it’s more motivational,” he said after shooting a motivated 4-under 66 Tuesday and taking the lead through the opening round of the 110th Michigan Amateur Championship presented by Carl’s Golfland at Cascade Hills Country Club.

  “I don’t know who the last person was to go back-to-back, but I want to do it again and show that this is kind of my tournament.”

  The last person to win back-to-back championships was Glenn Johnson of Grosse Ile, who won his third in-a-row 75 years ago (1954, ’55 and ’56). Johnson is one of five who have managed consecutive wins in the 110 years of the tournament dating back to the first to pull it off – Howard Lee of Detroit in 1910 and ’11.

  Copp, a recent Mercer University of Georgia graduate who plans to turn professional after this golf season, had several golfers close in pursuit.

  Grant Haefner of Bloomfield Hills, a former Wayne State University golfer planning to transfer for his final year of college eligibility, shot a 67 to stand second. He is a former stroke play medalist from 2017, the last time the Michigan Amateur was in the Grand Rapids area at Egypt Valley Country Club.

  Jimmy Dales of Northville and the University of Wyoming, and John Quigley of Sterling Heights each shot 68, and five golfers shot 69 – Drew Coble of Lake Orion and Grand Valley State University, Colin Sikkenga of Kalamazoo and Oakland University, Jeff Champine of Rochester Hills, Brian Hayward of Grand Rapids and Cameron Lippoldt of Midland.

  James Piot of Canton and Michigan State University, the co-medalist with Andrew Walker of Battle Creek last year and eventually the runner-up to Copp, opened with a 72.

  Bradley Smithson of Grand Rapids, last week’s Michigan Open champion at Grand Traverse Resort and a Michigan State University golfer, shot 70 and was tied for 10th after one round.

  This year’s stroke play medalist will be determined after another 18 holes on Wednesday, and the starting field of 156 golfers will be trimmed to 64 to fill out the match play bracket. Match play through Saturday will determine a champion.

  Copp started his leading round with three birdies in the first four holes.

  “Then I just kind of kept humming along,” he said. “I was just playing the middle of the green a lot, playing smart shots and keeping it stress free. I was comfortable on the greens and I’m pleased with how I managed the course.”

  Copp’s game-plan for the week is to keep the ball below the hole on the fast Cascade greens.

  “They’re pretty fast,” he said. “We found out this morning pretty quickly. I knew there were going to be, so just leaving the ball under the hole because of the slopes is the plan. You can take some chances, you know, when the opportunity arises, but the plan is to stay patient and keep hitting good spots.”

  Copp finished in a tie for sixth in last week’s Michigan Open and was among the leaders in the first three rounds. After this week’s amateur he heads to Pinehurst, N.C., to play in the prestigious North and South Amateur Championship.

  Haefner holed out for an eagle-2 on the par 4 No. 7 hole in his round, and was playing with Dales, who holed out on the par 4 No. 14 hole. Heafner knocked a 54-degree wedge in from 95 yards, while Dales smashed out part of the cup with a pitching wedge from 130 yards.

   “I would love to have another chance at medalist,” Haefner said “But as Jimmy said, you know it’s about making the match play. That’s where the real tournament starts.”