Justin St. Ours | Daily Press
The members of the Terrace Bluff Golf and Country Club team pose with the plaque after winning the Upper Peninsula Golf Association’s Men’s Tournament team championship in Escanaba Sunday.
Pictured, from left: Tom Gerou, Jeff McCall, Matt Argall, Bryce Douglas and Johnny Kositzky.ESCANABA — In a field containing former champions, it was two of the younger players that entered the final day of the 107th Upper Peninsula Golf Association’s Men’s tournament in the lead, tied at 209.
It was 19-year-old Jiseung Choi of Houghton Portage Lake that earned the latest UPGA Men’s trophy after a 1-over-par 72 on Sunday for a four-day total of 281.
Entering the final day tied with North Central’s Bryson Mercier may have affected some, but Choi just focused on maintaining his game.
“(It’s) surreal. I can’t really process it. I’m just trying to soak it all in. I just wanted to keep it simple and not make any big numbers, and I did just that today,” he said. “I took it one shot at a time.”
Choi actually trailed Mercier by three strokes after the front nine, but that was where the day began going awry for the soon-to-be Jets senior.
Justin St. Ours | Daily Press
Houghton Portage Lake’s Jinseung Choi poses with the Upper Peninsula Golf Association’s Men’s Tournament trophy and championship belt Sunday in Escanaba.“I played good the first three days, and I played good through the front nine today,” Mercier said. “On the back, I just flat out collapsed for lack of a better word. My putter failed me a lot. I got the yips early in the round. I missed shorties on three and five, and then, in the back nine, it just kept on going. I don’t think I made a three-footer today except for 18. I just missed everything. My putter was ice cold today. Other than that, I hit the ball pretty well.”
Mercier eventually finished four strokes behind Choi with a 5-over 76 to total 285. Mercier finished with the second-best score of the tournament but due to MHSAA eligibility rules, couldn’t technically accept second place.
It was then 12-year Escanaba High School golf coach Brian Robinette who moved up from third to second with a 2-under 69 for a total of 289.
“To me, if I win second, third or 10th, to see young people in the game is the most important thing for me,” Robinette said. “I’m happy I was able to play a bit better today. It’s tough to balance family (and everything). (Four-day tournaments) are tough, but I enjoy it. I enjoy the idea of medal play. I enjoy the idea of people struggling and pushing through it and playing golf the way it was designed to be played, and that is what the Men’s UPGA is all about.”
Choi felt he kept his play even throughout the day, with the possible exception of No. 15.
“On 15, I had a fried egg, so I just had to chunk it out,” he said. “I still saved it to a bogey, but that was probably the hardest one. I had (some) trouble with (the wind), but I was able to manage it.”
A four-day stroke play tournament was a first for the Director of Golf at the Escanaba Country Club, Jeff Rae, but he felt he and his team succeeded.
“Honestly, the tournament, in my opinion, went flawless,” Rae said. “I’ve run hundreds of tournaments in my career here, and I was a little bit worried about this because I’d never run a four-day stroke play tournament at our course before. It went flawless. It really did. The staff was great, and the grounds crew got this course in the best shape it’s ever been in. The players were great. The weather was great. It was great play and very competitive.
“When you take on a four-day tournament with two employees in the pro shop, … that’s a lot of work making things work smoothly. If you have good competitors and golfers that are appreciative of what’s going on, it makes it a lot easier. I think that’s part of it, just making sure everyone’s here for the same reason. (Just to) have fun and enjoy the course and play golf.”
Winning the team tournament was Terrace Bluff Golf and Country Club, consisting of Jeff McCall, Matt Argall, Bryce Douglas, Johnny Kositzky and Tom Gerou.
Choi, a relative newcomer to tournament play, doesn’t have many concrete plans other than just enjoying some golf.
“A couple weeks ago, I won my men’s tournament at Portage Lake Golf Course,” he said. “I did a few qualifiers, but other than that, I (haven’t) done many tournaments. I just want to have fun and enjoy it (golf) and just see where it takes me. I just want to thank the course and, particularly, my family and friends for supporting me through everything.”
Mercier and Robinette also extended their congratulations to Choi.
“Hats off to Jiseung,” Mercier said. “He played really good today, on the back nine especially.”
Robinette also extended his congratulations to the whole field.
“Good on Mr. Choi. I’m really glad he won,” he said. “He played really well over four days. He deserves all the praise.
“I look around here, and I don’t even care what your score was. I’m happy that you played. This is what golf really is. It’s not the (scrambles). It’s the play your own ball for four days. The guys that play in this tournament, I have a lot of admiration for.”
Rae also added his own thanks to all the players who entered.
“(I just wanted) to shout out all the players,” he said. “Coming out for four days, it’s a grind. If they asked us to do it again next year — if you would have asked me earlier this week, I’d have told you we’d never do it again, but now on Sunday evening, with the tournament done, we’d take it next year again.”
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