Birchmont Men's Championship: Lilleboe outlasts Krigbaum for title
An early mistake turned into an uncomfortable situation for Eric Lilleboe.
It was his quick response that made him a Birchmont champion.
After losing the first hole of the championship match to Bemidji native Kevin Krigbaum, Lilleboe rebounded to win the next three and never relinquished the lead in a 5-and-3 win Saturday at Bemidji Town & Country Club.
"This was a big win and I really had a lot of fun," Lilleboe said. "This is a great tournament and it was fun to play in it with some of my friends. I really enjoyed the vacation atmosphere out here."
Lilleboe, who will play in the upcoming U.S. Amateur, was consistent from tee to green in the title match of the 86th Birchmont.
The Okemos, Mich., native birdied the par-3 second hole, birdied the par-4 third and eagled the par-5 fourth in a flawless stretch of golf to take a 2-up lead.
"The key was getting off to that good start," Lilleboe said. "I did have that bogey on the first hole that put me down early, but it was important to get the lead back and I was able to win the next few holes."
The recent Ferris State graduate went 3 up when Krigbaum bogeyed the par-4 sixth after his approach shot missed left of the green.
It was a tough afternoon for Krigbaum, who played exceptional golf throughout the tournament to reach his first championship match.
"I was pleasantly surprised with how I played this week," said Krigbaum, a 1997 Bemidji High School graduate and 2002 Bemidji State graduate. "Every day it seemed like I was playing a little bit better and I was just trying to get to the next step."
Krigbaum advanced to the title match by defeating Matt Skarperud 1 up in one semifinal Saturday morning. Lilleboe advanced by defeating two-time Birchmont junior champion Sam Matthew 2 up.
One of Lilleboe's best shots came on the par-4 eighth hole. He drained a 15-foot chip shot for birdie to go 4 up.
"It was one of the easier chip shots I had," Lilleboe said. "I pulled the pin but I didn't expect it to go in."
Krigbaum won the par-5 ninth with a birdie made easier when one of Lilleboe's few wayward shots of the match sailed over the green.
Lilleboe led 3 up after the front nine.
While Lilleboe was making shots, Krigbaum scrambled to keep the match within reach. He did not hit a fairway off the tee until the fifth hole and needed to go up-and-down for par on the seventh to halve the hole.
"I didn't hit the ball as well as I did earlier in the day, but I don't think it really would have mattered," Krigbaum said. "Eric hit the ball really well today and didn't leave me very many openings out there."
After losing the ninth, Lilleboe responded once again to win the par-5 10th with a two-putt birdie.
The match went out of reach for Krigbaum on the par-3 11th.
On the same hole where he recorded his first hole-in-one Thursday, Krigbaum hit an errant tee shot and made bogey. Lilleboe hit the green and made par to go 5 up.
Lilleboe's last mistake was a three-putt bogey on the treacherous 13th green.
It allowed Krigbaum to cut into the lead for the last time when he made a regulation par to win the hole.
Krigbaum halved the 14th with an up-and-down par and Lilleboe won the match with an eagle on the par-5 15th. It was his second eagle of the day.
Lilleboe and Krigbaum shook hands on the green after the cordial match, which was played in just under three hours.
Lilleboe then walked off the green shaking hands with his father, Tim, who served as his caddy for the day.
Krigbaum's card read even par through 15 holes. Lilleboe was 6 under.