Former Ferris golfer wins Michigan Open

Eric Lillieboe

BIG RAPIDS — Former Ferris State University men’s golf standout Eric Lilleboe emerged as the winner this past week in the 102nd Michigan Open Championship, which took place at the Grand Traverse Resort near Traverse City.

The Michigan Open, one of the state’s longest-running golf events, began in 1916 and was first won by Leo Diegel, who also played in the inaugural Ryder Cup matches and The Masters. This year’s edition took place at The Bear Golf Course in Williamsburg.

The former Bulldog golf standout carded a three-round total of 203 and finished 13 strokes under par to capture the individual championship after rain forced the cancellation of the final round. He shot back-to-back 69 scores the first two rounds before coming in with an impressive 65 in round three.

Lilleboe, who wrapped up his FSU career in 2010, was one of several prominent Ferris State men’s golf alumni from recent years who competed in the event, including former graduates Kyle Wittenbach (2012), Ben Cook (2017), Jack Weller (2019) and Andrew Hammett (2019) along with current golfers Thomas Hursey (2022), Daniel Shattuck (2022) and Tanner Moore (2024). Also in the field was six-time Michigan Open Champion and 1993 graduate Scott Hebert.

FSU’s Hursey placed tied for 22nd overall with a 218 score (+2) while Cook also was among the top 35 finishers in a tie for 33rd place at 220 (+4) for the three rounds of action. Hebert placed tied for 38th at 221 (+5) in the field while Weller also made the cut and wound up tied for 50th with a 224 figure (+8).

Historically, some of golf’s most famous names are listed on the Michigan Open’s James D. Standish, Jr. Trophy. Walter Hagen, the father of modern professional golf and captain of the first five U. S. Ryder Cup teams, won the event in 1921. Michigan PGA Professional and Ferris State alum Scott Hebert is tied with Al Watrous for all-time Michigan Open titles with six. Legendary Michigan amateur, Chuck Kocsis, who played on three Walker Cup teams, won three titles.

The event featured 72 holes of stroke play with a starting field consisting of 156 exempt and qualified contestants. The field was cut to the low 70 and ties after second round play with those 70 golfers and ties constituting the field for the final 36 holes.

Lilleboe turned in an outstanding four-year (2006-10) career at Ferris State averaging 73.67 strokes per round (7,588 total strokes) in 103 rounds. The 2009-10 Division II Men’s Golf PING All-America First-Team selection registered 29 top 10-place performances during his career, highlighted by 18 top-five place efforts. He paced the 2009-10 Bulldog squad with a 73.00 stroke average (2,409 total strokes) in 33 rounds.

A two-time (2008-09 and 2009-10) PING All-Midwest Region pick, Lilleboe was also recognized as the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s (GLIAC) Men’s Golf “Athlete of the Year” for the 2009-10 season. The three-time (2007-08, 2008-09, and 2009-10) All-GLIAC First-Team honoree garnered the 2007-08 GLIAC Men’s Golf “Athlete of the Year” recognition as well.

Following the completion of his senior season, Lilleboe was named a 2009-10 co-recipient of the Ferris State Athletics’ Dean Davenport “Bulldog of the Year” Award. The award is presented annually to the most outstanding Ferris State male and female student-athlete.

This past season, under Wittenbach’s direction, Weller and Hammett helped lead the Bulldogs to the NCAA Division II National Championships. It marked the 17th consecutive year in which the Bulldogs had representation in the NCAA Tournament. The 17-year streak of NCAA Championship representation in men’s golf ranks as one of the longest active stretches in the country.

Meanwhile, Cook recently was the only player from the state of Michigan to compete in this year’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.

 

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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