White Lake amateur Jake Kneen finished 5-under 67 Wednesday to powered into the lead through three rounds of the 101st Michigan Open Championship on the Bear course at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.
Kneen's 11-under 205 total gave him a three-shot lead on third-round leader and mini-tour professional Eric Lilleboe of Okemos, who shot 72 for 208. James Holley of Howell, another mini-tour professional, shot 70 for 210 to set up the final threesome pairing for Thursday’s final round in the $55,500 state championship.
“A lot of things were going well for me,” said Kneen, 22, a recent graduate of Oakland University where he was named the Horizon League Golfer of the Year this spring.
Former PGA Tour player and two-time Michigan Open champion Tom Gillis of Lake Orion shot 74 for 213, eight off the lead in fourth place alone, and Kyle Wittenbach, the head men’s and women’s golf coach at Ferris State University, shot a 69 for 215 to round out the top five.
Kneen had seven birdies on his card when he made a double-bogey on the par 4 No. 16 hole with a drive that drifted into the long grass, and he came up short of the green on the par 3 17th and made bogey.
“I was hitting it really well and making a lot of putts,” he said. “I had one bad swing at 16 and had to chip sideways out of the heather and made a double (bogey). A four isn’t all that bad at 17. As a whole though, I will very much accept the score and look forward to tomorrow.”
Kneen, a former Michigan Junior Amateur champion, can become just the sixth amateur to win the state Open championship, and just the second in the last 43 years. Tom Werkmeister of Grandville, who became a professional this year at age 50, broke a streak of 38 wins by professionals in 2013.