Jake Kneen withstands high winds, wins Hall Financial Michigan Open

Jake Kneen holds the crystal trophy after winning the 105th Michigan Open in Traverse City Thursday.
Jake Kneen holds the crystal trophy after winning the 105th Michigan Open in Traverse City Thursday.

ACME – White Lake’s Jake Kneen withstood the wicked winds best and emerged the champion of the Hall Financial Michigan Open presented by Turtle Creek Casino and Caesars Sportsbook Thursday.

Kneen won the state championship for the second time behind a closing 1-over 73 for a 7-under 281 total on the wind-whipped Bear course at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.

“Oh my gosh, I’m relieved, I mean it was just a stressful day,” Kneen said. “It was a grind out there, but getting the job done is just a huge sense of relief. I’m kind of in disbelief right now as well. I mean there was no time to think about how nervous I was, or anxious, or anything like that because it was playing so difficult out there. It was so windy, tough pins, tough course, so yeah, I just had to focus on the next shot and I feel like I did that incredibly well today.”

Kneen, whose first win was in 2018 when he was an amateur just out of Oakland University, was able to take home the first-place check for $12,500 this time around. His name will go on the historic James D. Standish Trophy for a second time.

The 26-year-old mini-tour professional started the final round five shots off the lead of Ann Arbor teaching professional Patrick Wilkes-Krier, who led for the first three rounds. Wilkes-Krier shot 81, sealing his fate with back-to-back double-bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17.

“I played terribly and I don’t really understand it,” Wilkes-Krier said. “I had no confidence and I played that way.”

Baker Stevenson, a mini-tour pro from Highland, shot a 72 for 283 and second place money of $8,200.

“It was a grind,” Stevenson said. “It was tough for everybody. Everybody made mistakes today and I’m just glad I got it around. I wasn’t looking at the leaderboard. I knew I was up there someplace, but I didn’t know where I stood.”

Wilkes-Krier, the runner-up a year ago, tied for third this time at 284 with Donnie Trosper, a mini-tour professional from Westland, who shot a closing 71. Josh Gibson of Grandville and Beau Breault of Howell tied at 286. Gibson shot 71, and Breault closed with a 75.

Kneen made two birdies at Nos. 2 and 3 to pull within three shots, then Wilkes-Krier flew the green at the par 3 No. 4 and made double-bogey to make it a one-shot difference. Kneen took his first lead at No. 10 with a par, but then made consecutive bogeys to fall two behind once again. Both made birdies at 14, Wilkes-Krier from five-feet and Kneen with a 28-foot downhill putt, but then Wilkes-Krier played to bogey at 15 and had the consecutive double bogeys.

Kneen said the long birdie putt at No. 14 from above the hole was the most critical shot because he trailed by one shot.

“I knew Patrick was in there close for birdie and I needed to make that to keep myself within shouting distance,” he said. “I rolled that in and it was great to have some momentum for the last couple holes.”

Kneen recently became engaged to Olivia Neumann, who was home working nursing shifts over the last two days. He called the win a big deal.

“I’m incredibly excited and honored to be a champion for the second time,” he said. “Gosh, it means everything. I mean it really does. I’ve had some difficult times. It’s obviously fun playing this sport for a living, but it’s difficult and I’ve contemplated giving it up here and there when things get tough. I’ve just powered through it though and have the best support system in the world. My parents (Scott and Wendy) are always there for me, and I can’t wait to get home to show Olivia the trophy and share this moment with her.”

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