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Hunter Eichhorn | 2018 Wisconsin State Amateur 

Bob Gregorski has seen his share of eras in Wisconsin amateur golf since the 56-year-old from Menasha with two Wisconsin State Amateur championships to his name first burst onto the scene himself during the late 1970s.

The former University of Wisconsin golfer saw J.P. Hayes, Steve Stricker and Skip Kendall dominate in the mid-to-late 1980s on their way to the PGA Tour. He watched the likes of Ron Wuensche, Casey Brozek, Jason Samuelian, Tim Cantwell Jr. and Mark Wilson win State Am titles in the 1990s before guys his age — career amateurs like Mark Bemowski and John Pallin — started to re-establish their influence. By the early 2000s, another stream of young golfers with an eye toward the pro ranks emerged and names such as Jon Turcott, Neil Johnson, Garrett Jones, Dan Woltman and Jordan Elsen led another youth movement to the 2010s when Max Hosking, Jordan Niebrugge and Charlie Danielson ushered in another era reminiscent of the 1980s.

And now, deep in the forests of Wisconsin's celebrated Northwoods, the day of another era has dawned and the northernmost Wisconsin State Amateur in the tournament's brilliant history is set to identify its 117th champion. Gregorski, whose 2-over-par 218 total fueled by a 7-under 65 during Wednesday's third round used to be enough for a front-row seat to all the drama on the final day, will watch with interest from 12 shots back to see how it all unfolds. 

Hunter Eichhorn, the 19-year-old Marquette University golfer who captured the Big East Conference championship as a freshman, will have the pole position entering the final round after he broke 70 for the third day in a row. His 3-under 69 helped him stay one shot ahead of first-round co-leader Thomas Longbella, 20, the junior-to-be at Minnesota, who bounced back from a second-round 73 with a 4-under 68 to get to 9-under 207 after 54 holes of this 72-hole event.

Vanderbilt golfer Harrison Ott, 19, of Brookfield put on a dazzling display in the middle of his third round, making five straight birdies starting at No. 9 at the back end of a stretch in which he birdied seven of eight. His 4-under 68 put him alone in third place at 8-under 208 and just two back of Eichhorn.

But the line of young talent doesn't stop there. A high school golfer has never won the State Am — Jeff Bisbee of Stevens Point won the summer that he graduated in 1983 and Stricker did the same in 1985 — and there are two in the mix going into the final round with Hartland Arrowhead junior Piercen Hunt (69), 16, the two-time defending WIAA Division 1 state champion, and Kaukauna senior Brock Hlinak (70), 17, tied in fourth place at 6-under 210.

"I don't know them all, but I can tell you this: I know Hunter Eichhorn; I got to play with him at (in June) the (WSGA State) Match Play and his aunt was my paralegal so I heard about him for years and years and years," Gregorski said. "I got to see him play at the match play and he's the real deal. I really think he could be the next guy out there (on the PGA Tour). He really has fearless offense and a great game. I love watching him play."

The only golfer in the field to break 70 all three rounds, Eichhorn has been worth watching all week. 

For the second day in a row, the native of Carney, Michigan who now plays out of Brown Deer Park GC in Milwaukee, made just one bogey (giving him four for the week — the fewest number of over-par holes in the tournament). He started birdie-birdie, but then made nine pars and a bogey before making two more birdies on the two par-3s on the back nine (Nos. 13 and 16) to put himself in position to take the outright lead after Longbella bogeyed No. 18.

"I knew I was around the lead," Eichhorn said. "I played with Longbella and he played phenomenal and I knew Ott was making a move in front of me. At the end of the day, I knew I'd be close to the lead. I didn't know if I'd be on top."

Sspectacular during the middle of their rounds, Longbella and Ott both took their turns there. 

Ott got there first after he birdied five holes in a row, starting at No. 9, to get to 10-under. In fact, the Commodores' No. 6 golfer made back-to-back birdies after a bogey at the par-3 fifth hole, giving him seven in eight holes before bogeys at Nos. 16 and 18 left him to 8-under and cost him a piece of the lead.

"Right after the round, I was a little down about it," Ott said. "But I started thinking and the 2-footer I missed on 5 (for par) and the 2½-footer I missed (for par) on 18, those were equivalent; it's just that the one on 18 feels a lot worse. Both were just misreads, but the one on 18 was kind of tricky; the worst 2½-footer you could get on the golf course. But I hadn't missed one of those (length putts) in awhile, ... so you kind of take the good with the bad.

"(Thursday) is all about getting better and learning from it. I really want to shoot a low score. The past two rounds, I feel like I haven't gotten everything out of a round — I know it's dumb to say when you have seven birdies in eight holes — so I'm just looking forward to the challenge. I think it's going to be a huge stepping stone for me in my college, amateur and future golf career."

Wednesday was a big stepping stone for Longbella, who played his final three holes Tuesday in 4-over to fall out of the lead. He also started his third round birdie-birdie and then played a nine-hole stretch starting at No. 7 in 4-under.

"(Tuesday), my finish wasn't really a good representation of the other 15 holes, I would say" said Longbella, who "hit a really good shot in a really bad spot" on the par-3 16th hole in the second round and made a triple-bogey. "That's the way it goes. (Wednesday) I hit the ball solid, just kind of kept it in play all day and gave myself birdie looks. It turned out to be a solid round."

Still, with this much talent this close to the top of the leaderboard after what usually is the final day to make a major move, Longbella knows what's next.

"In the last four State Ams that I've played, the third day (Wednesday) is usually where they move a couple tee boxes up and have a couple scoreable pins and that makes it fun, which I think was reflected in the scores," he said. "I think (Thursday) it will play (tough). All the tee boxes will be all the way back, just like expected. There will be pins you have to watch out for and there will be some scoreable ones. They're not going to throw them all in weird spots. I couldn't tell you what wins, but I'm just going to go out there with my same game plan and play the same golf course I've been playing."


 
PosPlayerTodayThruTotalR1R2R3R4Total 
1Hunter Eichhorn  Carney, MI-3F-10696869 206 
2Thomas Longbella  Chippewa Falls, WI-4F-9667368 207 
3Harrison Ott  Brookfield, WI-4F-8697168 208 
T4Piercen Hunt  Canada-3F-6717069 210 
T4Brock Hlinak  Kaukauna, WI-2F-6687270 210 
T6Christopher Colla  Fond du Lac, WI-6F-5717466 211 
T6Kevin Van Rossum  Hartland, WI-2F-5717070 211 
8Johnny Decker  Middleton, WI-2F-4667670 212 
T9Andrew Knoll  New Berlin, WI-5F-3747267 213 
T9Jimmy Albright  Manitowoc, WI-4F-3757068 213 
T9Samuel Anderson  Stoughton, WI-2F-3677670 213 
T9Garrett Jones  Madison, WI-3F-3727269 213 
T9Ben Skogen  Onalaska, WI-1F-3707271 213 
T9Ryan Isaacson  Eau Claire, WI-1F-3677571 213 
15Chris Wood  Mount Pleasant, WI-1F-2717271 214 
16George Botts  Janesville, WI+2F-1717074 215 
T17Brian Murtagh  Milwaukee, WI-3FE717669 216 
T17Austin Kendziorski  Germantown, WI-3FE737469 216 
T17Garrett Loomis  River Falls, WI-2FE727470 216 
T17Tony Romo  Burlington, WI-2FE757170 216 
T21George Kneiser  Oconomowoc, WI+3F+2687575 218 
T21Robert Gregorski  Menasha, WI-7F *+2728165 218 
T23Joe DuChateau  Fond Du Lac, WIEF+3717672 219 
T23Matthew Bachmann  Sheboygan Falls, WI-4F *+3708168 219 
T25Max Rohlinger  Jackson, WI-1F *+4777271 220 
T25Hunter Pipik  New Berlin, WI-2F *+4747670 220 
T25Adam Austreng  Cedarburg, WI-3F *+4767569 220 
T25Joe Weber  Onalaska, WI+8F+4707080 220 
T29Nate Thomson  Greendale, WI+2F+5777074 221 
T29Tyler Leach  Spring Valley, WI+4F+5737276 221 
T31Matthew Zimmerman  Janesville, WI+2F+6747474 222 
T31Jack Schultz  Whitefish Bay, WI+1F *+6767373 222 
T31Jacob Michel  Lodi, WIEF *+6727872 222 
T31Zach Hentrich  Lancaster, WIEF *+6747672 222 
T31Todd Schaap  Kenosha+4F+6737376 222 
T31Mike McDonald  West Bend, WIEF *+6737772 222 
T31Trevor Thomas  Junction City, WI+4F+6707676 222 
T31Colton Duwe  Oconomowoc, WI-1F *+6757671 222 
T39Rocky Sperka  New Berlin, WI+2F+7757474 223 
T39Conner O'Neil  Suamico, WI+3F+7757375 223 
T39Matt Behm  Valders, WI+2F *+7767374 223 
T39Ryonen Faris  Fond du Lac, WI+1F *+7747673 223 
T39Ben Gilles  Madison, WIEF *+7777472 223 
T39Phillip Johnson  Colgate, WI-2F *+7767770 223 
T45Kevin Cahill  Waukesha, WI+3F *+8727775 224 
T45Robbie Morway  Mequon, WI+4F+8727676 224 
T45Grant Boyson  Neenah, WI+2F *+8767474 224 
T45Charles Maleki  Mequon, WI+1F *+8797273 224 
T49James Gilmore  Verona, WI+2F *+9737874 225 
T49Emmet Herb  Middleton, WI+1F *+9718173 225 
51Danny Sanicki  Menomonee Falls, WI+1F *+10747973 226 
T52Josh Thomas  Nekoosa, WI+7F+11737579 227 
T52Steven Young  Cedarburg, WI+6F *+11787178 227 
T52Adam Fazio  Wauwatosa, WI+7F+11727679 227 
T52Jed Baranczyk  Green Bay, WI+5F *+11777377 227 
T52Dawson Hinz  Baraboo, WI+4F *+11757676 227 
T52Tyler Beeck  Sheboygan Falls, WI+4F *+11767576 227 
T58Adam Miller  Adams, WI+5F *+12767577 228 
T58Chip Summers  Richfield, WI+5F *+12767577 228 
T60Josh Dirks  La Crosse, WI+5F *+13767677 229 
T60Paul Zarek  Burlington, WI+4F *+13757876 229 
T62Steven Sanicki  Menomonee Falls, WI+8F *+14747680 230 
T62Garth Gilster  Eagle River, WI+5F *+14777677 230 
T64Eric Goldapske  Sun Prairie, WI+13F+15747285 231 
T64Kari Hannula Jr  De Pere, WI+6F *+15747978 231 
66Derick Disch  Brookfield, WI+10F *+18747882 234 
67Alec Sheaffer  Pewaukee, WI+11F *+19737983 235 
68Austin Gaby  Verona, WI+11F *+20777683 236 
69Jakob Schroeckenthaler  Cottage Grove, WI+14F *+22757786 238

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