Clements leads U.P. tourney
By Steve Brownlee
Journal Sports Editor
CHAMPION — It seems only fitting that Mark Clements won an end-of-the-day driving contest at the Upper Peninsula Golf Association championship tournament on Thursday evening.
That’s because everything else that happened on the second day of the four-day tournament at Wawonowin Country Club in Ely Township seemed to go his way.
The topper of the day was when he teed up just outside the club house in the early evening and smacked a 309-yard drive to beat out three other drives of at least 305 yards, the next-best 307 by Mitch Francois of Riverside Golf Club.
As possibly the elder statesman at 44 years old in a speciality that caters to the younger set, Clements quashed teasing lines like “Can I get you a wheelchair?” from a small contingent who oohed and aahed the winning shot.
Earlier in the afternoon during a much more important part of the day, he carded a sizzling 6-under-par 66 on his home course to take a three-stroke lead over the man he shared the first-round lead with, John Koskinen of Baraga and the L’Anse Golf Club.
Both shot 69s in their opening round Wednesday as Clements stands at 9-under 135 and Koskinen at 5-under 139 following the latter’s 70 on Thursday.
Gunnar Stein of Portage Lake Golf Course near Houghton is the only other competitor under par after he posted rounds of 70 and 71 for a 3-under 141.
But the most emotional moment of the day might’ve been when Clements and his later father, Si Clements, were the honorees at a post-round ceremony in the Wawonowin dining room.
Each is a two-time champion of the UPGA championship, Si in 1980 and 1991 and Mark in 1997 at Wawonowin and 2001 in Menominee.
“I played my first UPGA tournament in 1991, the last time my dad won,” Mark Clements said with his mother, 2015 U.P. Ladies Golf Association champion Karen Plaisier, sitting one table over.
The top 12 golfers following Thursday’s play were placed into the championship flight. The cut came at 5-over-par 149, where just one golfer — Korey Smith of Gladstone — advanced among a four-way tie at that score after several tiebreakers were employed.
The last golfer knocked out of the tiebreaker was Matt Argall, also of Gladstone, who won this title in 2015 and has numerous family members who live in western Marquette County.
The 2016 champion, Frank Kucher Jr. of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, isn’t in the field of 101 golfers.
The rest of the championship flight has an uphill battle trying to catch Clements, Koskinen and Stein, since scores carry over through Saturday’s final round.
These are the other championship flight qualifiers, with home golf course and two-day score:
Chad Tirschel, Oak Crest of Norway, 72-72–144; Brian Smith, The Oaks of Kincheloe, 73-72–145; Scott Saari, Wawonowin, 70-75–145; K.C. Saari, Wawonowin, 73-73–146; Jim Markell, Pine Grove of Iron Mountain, 77-70–147; Carter Mason, Wawonowin, 74-74–148; Jim Wagner, Little River of Marinette, Wisconsin, 74-74–148; Reese Lassila, Portage Lake, 72-76–148; and Korey Smith, Gladstone, 74-75–149.