Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Pickerel bests Kline for Jermain crown

Local golf history was made yesterday in the championship match of the S.P. Jermain Tournament at Ottawa Park, but there's no need to put a "Tiger watch'' on the winner, Craig Pickerel.

True, he became the first player ever to capture the first two legs of the local grand slam, but the rising sophomore at Bowling Green State University will be unable to compete in the final event, assuring yet another slam-less season.

Pickerel needed two extra holes to dispatch Bill Kline, 1-up, in the championship flight finals. Thus, he added the Jermain, believed to be the nation's oldest existing public course golf championship, to the Great Lakes Spring Amateur crown he won earlier this year.

He'll attempt to win a third straight major in the Toledo Amateur on Aug. 17-19 at Detwiler Park, but his college schedule combined with NCAA competition rules will preclude the 19-year-old Pickerel from playing in the Fall Classic in September.

Those four events are considered the local grand slam because they are Open events that do not require membership in a local association. Also, in the case of the Jermain, the field is not restricted by handicap requirements. Instead, the event is flighted based on scores in a qualifying round.

Pickerel was surprised to learn that he became the first golfer to complete a daily double of the Spring Amateur and the Jermain.

"That makes it pretty special,'' he said.

So was Pickerel's shot to the 17th green on the 20th hole of his match with Kline, who drove into the light rough and then hit his approach shot fat into the front greenside bunker.

Pickerel responded with a sand wedge shot from 102 yards that stopped less than a foot from the cup and clinched the title.

Pickerel missed a two-footer on the first extra hole, No. 16, allowing Kline, who missed both the fairway and the green, to extend his bid another hole.

"I thought I hit a pretty good putt there, but it just broke at the end,'' Pickerel said. "Bill made a lot of good saves down the stretch, but I didn't get frustrated because I knew I was hitting it pretty well.''

Kline made a great up-and-down from a greenside bunker for a birdie at the par-5 15th hole in regulation and was able to halve the hole when Pickerel barely missed a 10-foot eagle putt. The 24-year-old Kline then made a nice par save that won the 16th for a 1-up lead.

But he bogeyed both the 17th and 18th holes, allowing Pickerel to pull even with a par at 17 and send the tournament to extra holes.

"The locals call that stretch of 16-17-18 Amen Corner and it just ate my lunch,'' Kline said. "Finishing with two bogeys killed me. I only made three mistakes all day and two of them came there at the end. I tried to scramble and do the best I could, but I lost to a phenomenal player.''

Some of the best golf of the final round was played in the A Flight, where Ben Vanderwyst and Brian Simmons combined for an eagle and 12 birdies before Vanderwyst won, 2 and 1.

Greg Reece won the B Flight over Lyle Patrick, 5 and 4; Russell Strouse defeated Mike Guziolek 2 and 1 in the C Flight, and the D Flight went to Dave Pierce, 3 and 1, over Scott Gawle.

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