BATH – Nick Krueger of Spring Lake and Grand Valley State University lost a lead, rallied with dramatic shots and won the 111th Michigan Amateur Championship presented by Carl’s Golfland Friday at Hawk Hollow.
The 21-year-old with two years remaining at Grand Valley emerged the winner after a tense 19-hole battle with 21-year-old Patrick Deardorff of Clarkston, who has two years of golf remaining at Eastern Michigan University.
Krueger had a 2-up lead through 12 holes when Deardorff rallied winning holes 13, 14 and 15 to take a 1-up lead. He had that same lead at No. 18 where Krueger rolled in a downhill 20-foot putt for birdie to tie the match and force extra holes.
On the 19th hole of the match, hole No. 1 at Hawk Hollow, Deardorff missed the fairway for the first time in eight rounds this week, pulling his tee shot into the marsh penalty area along the right side of the hole. After a drop from an unplayable lie and a few more shots, Krueger, a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference individual champion in 2021, was conceded a birdie putt for the biggest victory of his golf career.
“You dream of making putts on 18 like that to win events like this and it is so cool to be able to finally be in that position and come home with a win,” he said. “It means a lot, and I know this tournament has a lot of history, and it means to much to be able to compete in this and be one of the names on that trophy.”
His Friday march to win the historic Staghorn Trophy started with a tense 1-up morning semifinal win over August Meekhof of Eastmanville and Michigan State University, while Deardorff was topping the Hawk Hollow home course hero, David Szymanski of Holt, 2 and 1 in the other semifinal.
Krueger said he scared himself with his go-for-it tee shot on the water protected No. 18 in an effort to tie the match.
“I kind of leaked it a little further than I wanted and it scared me at first, but it ended up being perfect,” he said of the shot that set up a 119-yard wedge shot to 20-feet above a tucked hole placement.
“At that point it was just trusting that I could hit it close and make a putt, you know. There were a lot of nerves, but the putt almost felt a little stress free because it was a little longer obviously, but one of those where I was so focused on making it that I really didn’t think about missing it.”
Deardorff said Krueger played great all day.
“If I was not going to win, that how I wanted it to go down to be honest with you,” he said. “I mean Nick was very consistent, played great and I did my best to stay with him. If you told me at the start of the week that I was going to come in second and go 20 holes in the championship match against a high-level player like Nick Krueger, I’d be like, heck yeah, I’ll take that right now. Obviously when you get in the moment you want to win, but it just didn’t happen that way. I’m happy enough to say that I did my best.”
Krueger, who thanked his caddie Ryan Livingston, a fellow Spring Lake Country Club member, said being a Michigan Amateur champion is why he puts in the work on his game.
“It’s what I practice for and train for,” he said. “I still have the ultimate golf of playing after school, so this is you know, a milestone to let me know that maybe I’m doing things pretty good and I still have a lot of work ahead of me.”
He said he knows how Deardorff, a former Michigan Junior State Amateur champion, feels.
“That’s how I lost in the Michigan Junior finals to Patrick Sullivan when I hit it out-of-bounds on the first playoff hole,” he said. “Patrick (Deardorff) played great. He kept coming. It was tough, stressful, tiring and fun, too, because I love to compete.”