BROOKFIELD – Piercen Hunt takes a five-shot lead into the final round of the 120th Wisconsin State Amateur Championship, on a course that has given up just eight sub-par rounds through 54 holes and only one score better than 68.
In other words, it’s highly unlikely that someone is going to throw a course record at him in the final round Thursday at Westmoor Country Club.
Hunt’s closest pursuers, however, weren’t ready to hand him the trophy. This is Westmoor, after all, where tiny mistakes turn into bogeys and the wrong decision, compounded by the poorly executed shot, can turn any hole into a scorecard wrecker.
“I think 18 pars around here is a good round, regardless of what kind of shape you’re in in a tournament,” Hunt said. “I’m just going to go out and play the golf I know I can and if I’m playing well and able to take it under par, that’s great.”
Hunt, a rising sophomore at the University of Illinois from Hartland, shot an even-par 70 on Wednesday, a day that produced just one sub-par round, a 68 by Jack Schultz. Hunt was at even-par 210 through 54 holes, five shots ahead of Cameron Huss (72-215), six ahead of Adam Garski (72-216) and seven ahead of Adam Miller (71-217).
“There’s definitely going to have to be some help from Piercen,” said Garski, of Wauwatosa, who has a pair of top-25 finishes in the State Amateur on his resume. “But it’s doable. Even if Piercen stays at even par, you can go out there and shoot 5-, 6-under.”
Easier said than done. Other than Zak Kulka’s sensational opening 64, not a single score in this State Amateur has been better than 2-under.
“You can’t ask too much from this golf course,” said Miller, who lives in Nekoosa and caddies at Sand Valley. “You’ve really got to stay patient. That’s the thing with every State Am every year. You’ve got to be patient. But this one especially. The way they’ve got it set up out here, it doesn’t give you a lot of opportunity.”
The left-handed Hunt shook off an opening bogey Wednesday and played a solid, if unspectacular, round. He birdied Nos. 3 and 7, bogeyed Nos. 8 and 11 – the latter after his tee shot came to rest in a sand-filled divot – and rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt after a huge drive on No. 16 to get back to even par.
“I started today a little shaky,” he said. “That’s kind of final-group nerves. It’s a thing that exists and everyone deals with it. I was able to steady myself pretty early in the round and get back to playing the golf that I know I can.”
Huss, of Kenosha, a rising sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, has had a good summer. He lost in a playoff at the Ray Fischer Amateur Championship last month and tied for fifth in both the WSGA Match Play and the Balance & Believe Invitational.
Playing alongside Hunt for the third straight day, Huss made three consecutive bogeys on Nos. 6-8 but finished strong, posting a 1-under 34 on the back.
“I got off to a little shaky start at the end of the front nine with those three bogeys,” Huss said. “But I knew the back has been playing a little easier all week. I just stayed steady and patient and knew I’d get a birdie or two there to finish. If I can get off to a good start tomorrow and try to close that gap on the front nine, maybe I can make a run at it.”
Hunt and Huss will play together again Thursday, joined by Garski in the final group at 11:40 a.m.
“Cam and I have played an unbelievable amount of golf together over the years,” Hunt said. “It seems like every summer in the State Am or the State Open, we get paired together at some point.
“Cam’s a great player. He hung in there really well today. He’s a grinder. He’s got the right mentality to stay in a tournament like this on a tough course. And the other part of it is, he’s a really good friend and a good competitor and we have a lot of fun playing together.”
Garski stayed within striking distance despite a double-bogey on No. 7 and back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11. He played the final seven holes in 1-under.
“I’ve stayed within myself,” he said. “I really didn’t want to make a double-bogey coming into the week. I did have a double-bogey today, which irritated me slightly. What’s worked for me is hitting aggressive shots to conservative lines, not going after pins unless they’re a perfect number and just trying to give myself a birdie putt on every hole.”
Three players were tied for fifth place, eight shots back at 218: defending champion Thomas Longbella of Chippewa Falls (72), Gabe Dahl of Green Bay (71) and Schultz, a former University of Michigan player who sandwiched a 69 and Wednesday’s 68 around an uncharacteristic 81 in the second round.
They’re not out of it, but they’ll likely need a career-best type of round and some help from the players ahead of them.
“I’ve shot a couple over par every single day, but I’ve had my ‘D’ game on the greens,” said Longbella, who finished up recently at the University of Minnesota and plans to turn pro next month. “For me, it’s just going out there and trying to do what I’ve done ball-striking and get some more putts to go in. If I shoot an under-par round on a hard day, you never know.”
Hunt couldn’t break into the lineup as a freshman at Illinois, a Big Ten powerhouse, but gained valuable experience playing as an individual in tournaments. He is a former two-time WIAA state champion, won the 2019 Western Junior Amateur and shot a 60 earlier this summer at The Club at Lac La Belle.
“He does everything well,” Garski said. “He hits it very far. For the length that he can hit it, he’s relatively accurate. And then his short game is very good. I haven’t played with Piercen in a couple years but I’m sure he’s just gotten better from what he was in high school. It’ll be fun tomorrow.”
Hunt has been what he calls “strategic aggressive” at Westmoor.
“It pretty much is my excuse to hit driver everywhere,” he said with a laugh. “I feel good about how I’m driving it. It’s been pretty solid the whole week. There’s a lot of tee shots that suit my eye, a lot of lines that are pretty comfortable for me. If I’m able to drive it well and put it in play, I think I can give myself the best birdie looks possible and so I see no reason why I would change what I’m doing right now.”
He is 18 holes away from claiming the State Amateur title. But he knows it won’t be easy.
“There’s going to be nerves tomorrow again, for sure,” he said. “Everyone who is up near the top of the leader board in the last few groups is going to have them. It’s just something I have to go out and deal with and put behind me.”
|1||-||Piercen Hunt Hartland, WI||E||F||E||68||72||70||210|
|2||Cameron Huss Kenosha, WI||+5||F||+2||74||69||72||215|
|3||Adam Garski Wauwatosa, WI||+6||F||+2||71||73||72||216|
|4||Adam Miller Nekoosa, WI||+7||F||+1||74||72||71||217|
|T5||Thomas Longbella Chippewa Falls, WI||+8||F||+2||73||73||72||218|
|T5||Jack Schultz Milwaukee, WI||+8||F||-2||69||81||68||218|
|T5||Gabe Dahl Green Bay, WI||+8||F||+1||72||75||71||218|
|8||Hunter Eichhorn Carney, MI||+9||F||+1||72||76||71||219|
|9||Matt Tolan Eau Claire, WI||+10||F||+4||69||77||74||220|
|T10||Matthew Raab Hartland, WI||+11||F||+3||75||73||73||221|
|T10||Ethan Wilkins Sussex, WI||+11||F||+2||74||75||72||221|
|T10||Jon Sauer Appleton, WI||+11||F||+6||70||75||76||221|
|13||Zak Kulka Beaver Dam, WI||+12||F||+9||64||79||79||222|
|T14||Kevin Van Rossum Hartland, WI||+13||F||+6||72||75||76||223|
|T14||Jed Baranczyk Green Bay, WI||+13||F||+12||72||69||82||223|
|T14||Dylan Brown Reedsburg, WI||+13||F||+10||72||71||80||223|
|T14||Tom Boockmeier Oak Creek, WI||+13||F||+6||72||75||76||223|
|T14||Christopher Colla Fond Du Lac, WI||+13||F||+2||73||78||72||223|
|T19||Steven Sanicki Menomonee Falls, WI||+14||F||+1||76||77||71||224|
|T19||John Blair Wauwatosa, WI||+14||F||+3||75||76||73||224|
|T19||Aidan Lafferty Downers Grove, Illinois||+14||F||+2||76||76||72||224|
|T22||Zach Place Roselle, IL||+15||F||+4||74||77||74||225|
|T22||Evan Myers Northbrook, IL||+15||F||E||78||77||70||225|
|T22||Joe Forsting Edgerton, WI||+15||F||+5||73||77||75||225|
|T25||Michael Bielawski Waukesha, WI||+16||F||+4||75||77||74||226|
|T25||Michael Harris Brookfield, WI||+16||F||+5||74||77||75||226|
|T27||Nick Nelson Milwaukee, WI||+17||F||+4||78||75||74||227|
|T27||Daniel Ozga Edgerton, WI||+17||F||+9||69||79||79||227|
|T29||Carl Christiansen Naperville, IL||+18||F||+5||74||79||75||228|
|T29||-||Mason Schmidtke Sheboygan, WI||+18||F||+6||75||77||76||228|
|T29||Ryonen Faris Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin||+18||F||+8||78||72||78||228|
|32||Bennett Swavely Hudson, WI||+19||F||+4||75||80||74||229|
|T33||Jason Jahnke Kewaskum, WI||+20||F||+7||74||79||77||230|
|T33||Matt Polivka Muskego, WI||+20||F||+6||78||76||76||230|
|T33||Alex Yost Hartland, WI||+20||F||+4||78||78||74||230|
|T33||Sam Van Galder Janesville, WI||+20||F||+9||75||76||79||230|
|T33||Sebastian Kasun Elm Grove, Wisconsin||+20||F||+4||74||82||74||230|
|T33||David Brock Mequon, WI||+20||F||+8||77||75||78||230|
|T39||Ed Dzirbik Brookfield, WI||+21||F||+6||76||79||76||231|
|T39||Nathan Daugherty Lake Villa, IL||+21||F||+6||71||84||76||231|
|T39||Nate Thomson Greendale, WI||+21||F||+8||76||77||78||231|
|T39||Jim Doing Verona, WI||+21||F||+5||78||78||75||231|
|T39||Bob Tierney Lake Geneva, WI||+21||F||+8||72||81||78||231|
|T39||Billy McKay Milwaukee, WI||+21||F||+8||78||75||78||231|
|T45||Matthew Davidson Mcfarland, WI||+22||F||+8||79||75||78||232|
|T45||Maxwell Schmidtke Sheboygan, WI||+22||F||+7||74||81||77||232|
|T45||Drake Wilcox Sheboygan, WI||+22||F||+12||73||77||82||232|
|T45||Joe Weber West Salem, WI||+22||F||+13||76||73||83||232|
|T45||Daniel Benedum Colgate, WI||+22||F||+6||77||79||76||232|
|T50||Tyler Church Holmen, WI||+23||F||+8||78||77||78||233|
|T50||Tyler Leach Spring Valley, WI||+23||F||+7||79||77||77||233|
|T50||Eli Myers Northbrook, IL||+23||F||+12||73||78||82||233|
|T53||Joe DuChateau Fond Du Lac, WI||+24||F||+8||83||73||78||234|
|T53||Robert Gregorski Menasha, WI||+24||F||+11||76||77||81||234|
|T53||Logan Haight Hartland, WI||+24||F||+10||77||77||80||234|
|T53||Derek Hilmershausen Wausau, WI||+24||F||+9||72||83||79||234|
|T57||Ryan Smith Eatonton, GA||+25||F||+13||75||77||83||235|
|T57||Rocky Sperka New Berlin, WI||+25||F||+9||77||79||79||235|
|T57||Jarrett Simonson Kenosha, WI||+25||F||+11||78||76||81||235|
|T60||Grant Boyson Neenah, WI||+26||F||+13||73||80||83||236|
|T60||Ryan Zikeli Hartland, WI||+26||F||+12||77||77||82||236|
|T62||George Botts Madison, WI||+27||F||+13||75||79||83||237|
|T62||Travis Meyer River Falls, WI||+27||F||+12||74||81||82||237|
|T62||Matt Werner Appleton, WI||+27||F||+13||74||80||83||237|
|T65||Tom Schoewe Sun Prairie, WI||+28||F||+12||78||78||82||238|
|T65||Jeff Anderson LaCrosse, WI||+28||F||+14||76||78||84||238|
|T67||Austin Gaby Verona, WI||+31||F||+15||76||80||85||241|
|T67||Trent Meyer Lake Nebagamon, WI||+31||F||+18||77||76||88||241|
|69||Sam Cianciola Nekoosa, WI||+34||F||+19||76||79||89||244|