UPGA Men’s Championship: Manistique’s Nagy the favorite at Indian Lake

ESCANABA – Mike Nagy hopes to continue a recent trend when he plays in the 99th annual Upper Peninsula Golf Association tournament this week at Indian Lake Golf and Country Club in Manistique.

The Manistique golfer is considered the favorite on his home course, and if he comes through, he would be the fourth straight golfer to win the title at home. The tournament begins at 9 a.m. Thursday for the field of 104 players, with two days of qualifying setting the flights for the final two days.

Nagy is a sophomore on the University of Tennessee golf team and played in the NCAA tournament this spring, tying for 136th place.

Nagy, who averaged 74.81 in 10 tournaments at Tennessee, is a four-time men’s champion at Indian Lake and holds the course record with a sizzling 12-under 60 in 2011.

Nagy also won the Highland Open last month, beating Chris Rhoades of Marquette in a playoff for his second title in that event.

“Nagy is playing great. He knows every single blade of grass here,” said UPGA co-director Rob Ryan of Manistique, who’s also a likely title contender. “I would be surprised if anyone challenges him.”

Seven former champions will be among those trying to end that string of hometown champs, including Matt Smith of Escanaba. He won the title with a 17-over-par 305 in 2004 when Indian Lake and Munising Pictured Rocks in Munising shared host duties and everyone played two rounds at each course.

The two-host format ran from 1992-2007 and drew as many as 432 players to Iron Mountain Pine Grove and Norway Oak Crest in 1998 to just 155 at Pickford Munoscong and The Oaks at Kincheloe in 2007. The 104 players entered this year is one more than at Sault Ste. Marie (Ontario, Canada) in 2010. The largest field since returning to the one-course format was 192 players last year at Iron Mountain Pine Grove and 185 players in 2009 at Oak Crest.

Defending champion Jim Markell of Pine Grove will be on hand along with five-time champion Scott Erickson of Marquette; four-time champion Mike Thomsen of Menominee; two-time champion Mark Clements of Ishpeming Wawonowin; Tim Drees of Menominee Riverside; and Jon Ellis of Pine Grove.

There are about a dozen entrants with handicaps of 0-2, including such challengers as Joey Collard of Menominee Riverside and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay; Tim Kramer and Steve Schmidt of Riverside; Patrick Sweeney of St. Ignace; Darren Niemi of Houghton Portage Lake; Gary Sharp of Sault Ste. Marie; and Scott Lancour of Escanaba.

Dan Ellis of Negaunee, a former Michigan State University golfer who won the 2008 and 2011 titles, will not compete. He has accepted an assistant golf coach position at Coastal Carolina University near Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“Nagy is the favorite,” Markell said “You’re pulling for young guys like that. It will be fun to watch him.”

Nagy entered the UPGA after failing to qualify for the U.S. Amateur recently in downstate Bay City. He will leave for school Monday, and the Vols open their fall tourney schedule Sept. 6 in Dalton, Ga.