GREEN LAKE — Phillip Johnson knows a two-stroke lead going into the final round of the 118th Wisconsin State Amateur is hardly safe, especially on a golf course that punishes even the slightest error in judgment or execution.
He also knows that being in front by two is preferable to trailing by any amount.
“Mathematically,” Johnson said, “it’s way better to be leading.”
The former University of Dayton golfer from Colgate will start the final round on the Links Course at The Golf Courses of Lawsonia with that two-shot margin, thanks to his closing eagle in the third round Wednesday. Johnson shot a 4-under 68 and was at 11-under 205 through 54 holes.
His lead would have been bigger, but Marquette University rising junior Hunter Eichhorn kept pace with birdies on Nos. 17 and 18 to finish off a 69. He was at 207.
And it’s hardly a two-man race. University of Minnesota rising senior Thomas Longbella of Chippewa Falls and 2017 State Amateur champion Matt Tolan of Eau Claire shot 66s to climb into contention at 209. Both have posted identical scores of 75-68-66.
Joining them in a three-way tie for third, four shots back, was Wisconsin golfer Sam Anderson of Stoughton, who started the day with a one-shot lead and battled to a 71.
When the dust had settled, helped by a late-afternoon burst of rain with accompanying lightning that caused a 50-minute suspension in play, the State Amateur was looking like a five-man race.
But Johnson, runner-up in the 2017 State Open and winner of the Milwaukee District Match Play Championship earlier this summer, can’t worry about who’s behind him if he wants to win his first major Wisconsin title. Instead, he can only concentrate on what’s immediately in front of him.
“If Hunter comes out and shoots a 64 or something, I can’t do anything about that,” Johnson said. “I’m just going to go out there and keep playing the game that I’ve been playing. I’m just going to keep doing the same stuff.”
There’s no reason to change a game plan that has resulted in 45 of 54 greens hit in regulation. Johnson has made nine birdies and three eagles – one each day – and has bogeyed just two of his last 40 holes.
On Wednesday, he escaped potential disaster when he had to hit a provisional ball off the par-5 fifth tee after slicing his first drive into foul territory. But his first ball was located, inches from a road – another foot and it would have been on the pavement and out of bounds – and he hacked back into the fairway and went on to make par. He followed with a bogey on the sixth hole but then settled down.
“Obviously, it was a little stressful out of the gate,” Johnson said. “I mean, if it wasn’t, you’d almost be concerned. There were a couple holes where I wasn’t comfortable. The wind direction was a little different today so I kind of second-guessed a couple club choices off the tee.
“I really calmed down on the back nine and played some better golf.”
Eichhorn pulled to within one with an 18-foot birdie putt on the 17th and then birdied the par-5 18th, but Johnson trumped him with the eagle, rolling in a 15-footer after hitting the green with a 4-iron from 228 yards.
“It was just kind of a ho-hum day,” Eichhorn said. “I didn’t hit a lot of shots inside makeable (birdie) range. I hit a decent amount of greens but I was hitting it to like 30 feet all day. You’re just kind of two-putting from there and being patient. I was happy the way I finished and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
In the 2018 State Amateur, Longbella and Vanderbilt golfer Harrison Ott tied after 72 holes and Longbella eventually lost on the eighth hole of sudden death.
“It’s always a good experience to be near the final group or in the final group and to have a chance,” he said. “I think the more I can give myself those chances, the better golfer I’m going to become, whether I win or not. It’s just gathering experiences and how I play under pressure and in different situations. I’m excited. Really excited.”
Tolan played the last 14 holes in 8-under and finished birdie-birdie to join the chase. On the par-5 11th hole, he hit a 6-iron from 208 yards to 18 inches for a kick-in eagle, then birdied Nos. 12 and 13.
“I’ve really been getting in a groove on the back nine,” he said.
Tolan is just two years removed from winning the State Amateur.
“It’s definitely a big confidence boost, knowing that I have done it before and it wasn’t that long ago,” he said. “It’s definitely a boost in the right direction that a lot of people don’t have, obviously. It’s one of the biggest tournaments in Wisconsin to win and to say that I’ve won it, I’m super humbled.”
Anderson made only a couple mistakes Wednesday but one of them was costly. With the flagstick tucked on the extreme left portion of the green on the par-3 10th, he short-sided himself in a greenside bunker and went on to make a double-bogey. He bounced back with birdies on the par-5 11th and 18th holes to fight his way into the mix.
Michael Harris, 41, of Brookfield, and 15-year-old Jacob Beckman of Middleton High School were tied for sixth place at 5-under 211. Harris shot a 69 and Beckman a 72. Matthew Bachmann of Sheboygan Falls, a rising senior at Marquette University, was alone in eighth at 212 after a 72.
|1||Phillip Johnson Colgate, WI||-11||F||-4||70||67||68||205|
|2||Hunter Eichhorn Carney, MI||-9||F||-3||73||65||69||207|
|T3||Thomas Longbella Chippewa Falls, WI||-7||F||-6||75||68||66||209|
|T3||Matt Tolan Eau Claire, WI||-7||F||-6||75||68||66||209|
|T3||Samuel Anderson Stoughton, WI||-7||F||-1||68||70||71||209|
|T6||Michael Harris Brookfield, WI||-5||F||-3||69||73||69||211|
|T6||Jacob Beckman Middleton, WI||-5||F||E||69||70||72||211|
|8||Matthew Bachmann Milwaukee, WI||-4||F||E||70||70||72||212|
|T9||Christopher Colla Fond du Lac, WI||-2||F||-5||72||75||67||214|
|T9||Tyler Leach Spring Valley, WI||-2||F||-2||74||70||70||214|
|T9||Cameron Huss Kenosha, WI||-2||F||-3||73||72||69||214|
|T9||Piercen Hunt Hartland, WI||-2||F||-2||72||72||70||214|
|T13||Johnny Decker Madison, WI||-1||F||-5||70||78||67||215|
|T13||Garrett Jones Madison, WI||-1||F||-1||70||74||71||215|
|15||Pete Kuhl Madison, WI||E||F||+3||69||72||75||216|
|T16||Cal Meyers Richfield, WI||+1||F||E||70||75||72||217|
|T16||Jamozzy Skenandore De Pere, WI||+1||F||E||73||72||72||217|
|T18||Drake Wilcox Sheboygan, WI||+2||F||-4||75||75||68||218|
|T18||Nate Thomson Greendale, WI||+2||F||-1||71||76||71||218|
|T18||Austin Resop Berlin, WI||+2||F||-1||76||71||71||218|
|T18||George Kneiser Oconomowoc, WI||+2||F||E||74||72||72||218|
|T22||Adam Garski Wauwatosa, WI||+3||F||E||76||71||72||219|
|T22||Zak Kulka Beaver Dam, WI||+3||F||+1||72||74||73||219|
|T24||Matt Polivka Muskego, WI||+5||F||-3||81||71||69||221|
|T24||Adam Miller Adams, WI||+5||F||-3||74||78||69||221|
|T24||P.J. Clemins Cedarburg, WI||+5||F||-2||72||79||70||221|
|T24||Matthew Raab Hartland, WI||+5||F||-2||72||79||70||221|
|T24||Emmet Herb Middleton, WI||+5||F||-1||75||75||71||221|
|T24||Dylan Brown Reedsburg, WI||+5||F||+2||76||71||74||221|
|T24||Nicholas Bauer Oshkosh, WI||+5||F||+2||71||76||74||221|
|T31||Clayton Tribus Madison, WI||+6||F||-3||73||80||69||222|
|T31||Nathan Daugherty Lake Villa, IL||+6||F||-3||77||76||69||222|
|T31||Brady Sarauer Fond du Lac, WI||+6||F||-1||79||72||71||222|
|T31||Joe DuChateau Fond Du Lac, WI||+6||F||-1||76||75||71||222|
|T31||Jason Jahnke Kewaskum, WI||+6||F||+5||72||73||77||222|
|T31||Jeremy Wesemann Merton, WI||+6||F||+7||69||74||79||222|
|T37||Joseph Ploch Oconomowoc, WI||+7||F||-1||77||75||71||223|
|T37||Russell Dettmering Merrill, WI||+7||F||-1||76||76||71||223|
|T37||Robert Gregorski Menasha, WI||+7||F||E||71||80||72||223|
|T37||Max Pasher Mequon, WI||+7||F||+2||75||74||74||223|
|T41||Peter Flory Glencoe, IL||+8||F||+4||77||71||76||224|
|T41||Cory Aune Lake Geneva, WI||+8||F||+4||76||72||76||224|
|T43||Zach Dybul Big Bend, WI||+9||F||+2||74||77||74||225|
|T43||Mike McDonald West Bend, WI||+9||F||+2||75||76||74||225|
|T43||Derek Hilmershausen Wausau, WI||+9||F||+2||73||78||74||225|
|T43||Todd Westrich De Pere||+9||F||+2||77||74||74||225|
|T43||Sam Van Galder Janesville, WI||+9||F||+2||76||75||74||225|
|T43||Grant Boyson Neenah, WI||+9||F||+4||72||77||76||225|
|T43||Danny Sanicki Menomonee Falls, WI||+9||F||+7||75||71||79||225|
|T50||Rocky Sperka New Berlin, WI||+10||F||E||79||75||72||226|
|T50||Gabe Dahl Green Bay, WI||+10||F||+2||76||76||74||226|
|T50||Joe Weber Onalaska, WI||+10||F||+2||76||76||74||226|
|T50||Chris Wood Mount Pleasant, WI||+10||F||+4||76||74||76||226|
|T50||Daniel Ozga Edgerton, WI||+10||F||+5||76||73||77||226|
|T55||Daniel Benedum Menomonee Falls, WI||+11||F||+1||78||76||73||227|
|T55||Christopher Weinfurt Milwaukee, WI||+11||F||+2||78||75||74||227|
|T55||John Stravinski Windsor, WI||+11||F||+6||75||74||78||227|
|58||Ben Gilles Madison, WI||+12||F||+4||72||80||76||228|
|T59||Brent Bartels Pinehurst, NC||+13||F||+3||81||73||75||229|
|T59||Jimmy Albright Scottsdale, AZ||+13||F||+3||72||82||75||229|
|T59||Jack Anderson Brookfield, WI||+13||F||+3||77||77||75||229|
|T59||Robert Hughes Wauwatosa, WI||+13||F||+4||76||77||76||229|
|T59||Kenny Rucker Madison, WI||+13||F||+3||78||76||75||229|
|T59||Connor Brown Racine, WI||+13||F||+4||77||76||76||229|
|T59||Mark Laken Kenosha, WI||+13||F||+4||76||77||76||229|
|T59||Derrick Meier Waunakee, WI||+13||F||+11||72||74||83||229|
|T67||James Gunsalus Brookfield, WI||+14||F||+5||79||74||77||230|
|T67||Garrett Gosh Wauwatosa, WI||+14||F||+5||77||76||77||230|
|T67||Ben Nichols Waukesha, WI||+14||F||+5||76||77||77||230|
|T70||Benjamin Shafer Brookfield, WI||+15||F||+5||78||76||77||231|
|T70||Austin Gaby Verona, WI||+15||F||+6||74||79||78||231|
|T70||Steven Sanicki Menomonee Falls, WI||+15||F||+7||76||76||79||231|
|T73||Matt Fladten Eau Claire, WI||+19||F||+9||79||75||81||235|
|T73||Jake Dunn Trempealeau, WI||+19||F||+10||76||77||82||235|