Eric Lilleboe’s Sizzling 66 Gives Him Lead at Halfway Point of the Michigan Open

  ACME – Eric Lilleboe of Okemos has been working on his long irons and making progress, but it’s clear his wedge game is spot-on.

  Powered by a bogey-free 6-under 66 on the Bear the 30-year-old mini-tour professional wedged his way into the lead through two rounds of the 101st Michigan Open Championship Tuesday at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.

  “The wedges were really good,” he said. “I’ve made a lot of confident swings. I’ve been working on my game and I feel good about it right now.”

  Lilleboe’s 66 put him at 8-under 136 at the halfway point of the championship presented by Yamaha Golf Cars Plus, MercyElite Sports Performance and Jani-King of Grand Rapids.

  He had a two-shot lead on amateur Jake Kneen of White Lake, who shot 68, and was three shots up on two-time champion and first-round co-leader Tom Gillis of Lake Orion, who shot 70, and 2016 champion Jeff Bronkema of Caledonia, who shot 68.

  Tom Werkmeister of Grandville, the 2013 champion and a PGA Tour Champions player, shot 67 for 140 and was tied with James Holley of Howell, a mini-tour pro who shot 71 after sharing the first-round lead with Gillis.

  The 36-hole cut fell at 154 with 76 players moving on to Wednesday’s third round. The tournament continues through Thursday.

  Lilleboe has been working with teaching professional Jason Guss, who has an academy at the Hawk Hollow Properties in the Lansing area. He is pleased with the results.

  “I was having trouble with my long irons,” he said. “I was flipping it, which you can get away with on wedge shots and 8 or 9-irons, but when you have to compress on the shot, it was not happening. Jason has helped me with that, and I’m starting to play with more confidence.”

   Kneen, who recently graduated from Oakland University where he was the Horizon League’s Golfer of the Year, had seven birdies in his round.

  “I’m feeling great,” he said. “I really only made one bad swing today at No. 4 and made a double there, but I had a really steady back nine where I was 3-under. I will try to take that momentum into the next round.”

  Kneen plans to turn professional after playing in the Michigan Amateur Championship and trying to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Championship one more time.

  “The U.S. Am is at Pebble Beach, so I really want to try that,” he said. “Then I’ll turn pro after later this summer.”

   Bronkema, a 29-year-old who recently took a job with United Parcel Service and stopped the mini-tour grind, had nine birdies in his round. A double-bogey at No. 13 with bunker trouble and bad read on a putt dropped him from a tie for the lead at the time.

    “I feel like I’m playing as well now as when I was playing full-time, who knows why,” he said. “Maybe less pressure because even when I made the double I kind of shrugged it off. When I was playing full-time, that sloppy double would have made me really mad.”

  Werkmeister welcomed the calm morning in which he played.

  “It was an easier golf course today, and I feel good about it,” he said. “I love it up here, so I’m excited for the final two rounds.”

SCORES: Complete results through round two and pairings for the third round can be found at michiganpgagolfcom

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