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LA CROSSE COUNTY MEN’S AMATEUR GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP

Local golf: Church goes low to lead County Am

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Tyler Church

Tyler Church putts for birdie on No. 13 during the first round of the La Crosse County Men's Amateur Golf Championship at The Golf Club at Cedar Creek in Onalaska on Saturday. Church shot 5-under 66 to take a four-shot lead at the tournament's midpoint. 

ONALASKA − The rest of the championship flight in the La Crosse County Men’s Amateur Golf Championship will have one objective on Sunday − chase down Tyler Church.

The 25-year-old from Holmen made eight birdies and seven pars at The Golf Club at Cedar Creek to fire a 5-under 66 in Saturday’s first round. Church leads by four strokes over Jordan Graf and is five shots better than Shaun Borre heading into Sunday’s final round.

Despite making three bogeys, Church’s putter carried him throughout the round.

“I just went out there and played my game,” Church said after the round. “I made a lot of putts. I felt comfortable over everything and rolled it well all day.”

Saturday’s round got off to an up-and-down start for Church, as he birdied Nos. 2 and 4 and bogeyed Nos. 3 and 5. But he finished strong, going 5-under on the final 13 holes, including making back-to-back birdies on Nos. 16 and 17.

“I had just bogeyed No. 15, but 15 is a hard hole out here so I was fine with bogey. I hit a really good one in there on No. 16 and made a good putt,” Church said.

On No. 17, Church reached the 564-yard par-5 in two shots and narrowly missed a 20-foot putt for eagle, settling for a tap-in birdie.

Church hit 3-iron off the 18th tee but missed the fairway and was in danger of giving back a stroke after his approach sailed left of the green. He faced a chip shot over a mound, but he had some green to work with.

“I didn’t have the best lie. It was kind of sitting down, so I just wanted to pop it up, get in anywhere on the green and hope it ran up there close,” Church said.

He perfectly executed his plan, as his chip rolled all the way to the pin, and Church finished his round by sinking a short par putt.

Mike Drugan, who won the Seniors County Amateur championship last weekend at Forest Hills Golf Course, shot 1-over 72 and sits alone in fourth place. Ross Wilhelm and Joe Weber, last year’s Men’s County Amateur champion, are tied for fifth after shooting 2-over 73.

In the first flight, Jon Strangstalien pulled away from the pack with three-consecutive pars in his final three holes to shoot 3-over 74 and lead by four shots at the tournament’s midpoint. Bruce Lindseth, Jeff Pigorsch, Nick Skibba and Jim Socha are tied for second after carding rounds of 7-over 78.

The tournament will change venues on Sunday, with the championship and first flights moving to Drugan’s Castle Mound in Holmen, which hosted the second, third and fourth flights on Saturday. A change in weather is also expected − after a hot, muggy round in Saturday, rain is forecasted for Sunday morning.

With the four-shot lead, Church said he hopes to replicate his game from Saturday in the final round regardless of the course conditions.

“I’m sure the course will be a little wet tomorrow. If it’s not downpouring while we’re playing, it should make it scorable,” Church said. “I’m not really going to change a whole lot. I’ve played (at Drugan’s) for years, so I’m going to go out there, play my game and see what happens.”

Andrew Polk can be reached at andrew.polk@lee.net or via Twitter @apolk17

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