Self-Taught Eichhorn Launches into Elite

May 20, 2016

By Dennis Grall
Special for Second Half

ESCANABA – Hunter Eichhorn is not your typical young golfer. Instead of just pounding drives all over the course, he actually thinks his way around.

The Carney-Nadeau junior, who may be the best of a young core of golfers in the Upper Peninsula, loves to "strategize" his way to low scores. He fired a brilliant 5-under-par 67 on May 16 at Menominee Riverside Country Club, one of the peninsula's most demanding layouts.

He had a career-best 10-under 62 at Royal Scot Golf Club near Green Bay while competing on the Wisconsin Junior Golf Tour in 2015.

"The way he manages his game is quite incredible. He adjusts to the golf course and he adjusts to what the golf course is asking for," said Jacob Polfus, the C-N golf coach. Polfus is also the C-N basketball coach, and Eichhorn was a second-team all-conference selection in 2015-16.

Basketball was his primary sport as a youngster, then he dropped it for golf during grades 3-9 before joining the varsity basketball team the past three years. "I just started loving golf. I enjoy everything about it, the competition, being competitive with other players.

"I love to win and play against good people and beat them. I like meeting new people and making new friends I would never meet if I was not playing the game."

He got into golf with the urging of his grandfather, Steve Pipkorn, who would bring him to Hermansville Wild Pines Golf Course, a 9-hole course about 12 miles from home. Often he would spend the whole day there, getting picked up by his father, Brad, on Brad’s way home from work in Norway.

Escanaba golf coach Brian Robinette, one of only two people ever to give Eichhorn lessons, said those numerous early rounds at "a mom and pop course" were beneficial in those early years.

"He was able to make par and have birdie putts. He played hole after hole out there. It kind of launched his career, shooting good scores at an early age," said Robinette, a former state junior champion and Olivet College Sports Hall of Fame golfer.

Those rounds at Wild Pines were special, Eichhorn agreed. "I play by myself a lot. I can focus on it more," he said of those growing up rounds. He is a self-taught golfer and has never had a swing coach.

"I'm confident where I'm at, the way I do things," he said.

With extensive play on U.P. courses – his favorites are Iron Mountain Pine Grove and Harris Sweetgrass Golf Club – and on the Wisconsin Junior Tour, he has developed a solid game that compares well with the region's top adults. He plays in a Tuesday night men's league at Highland Golf Club, near Escanaba, and also gets into Friday evening adult matches there.

Eichhorn may only hit driver twice on some courses, knowing it is important to keep the ball in play. "I like strategizing more than just attacking it with driver," he said with a smile that comes from drives that went astray. "Strategizing is a big part of scoring, finding the right angles into greens. Just knowing what consequences can come out of the swing (with out-of-bounds or water looming on fairways).

"If you don't pull the shot off, it could cost you a shot or two. It is a constant game of learning from all situations. Just a bad thought can cost you."

Eichhorn pounds his drives 280 to 300 yards (a 7-iron flies about 190 yards) but acknowledges, "I hit plenty of shots off-line. I'll admit it." Because of those wayward balls, he said recovering from bad shots is probably the best part of his game, along with chipping and putting.

Polfus said "the biggest thing is he doesn't put pressure on to hit driver all the time. He can hit all the shots, and the way he can check it up from certain distances, it is amazing to watch him play. The way he has grown most is how he handles himself when he does hit a bad shot."

Eichhorn admits that wasn't always the case, especially by throwing clubs in his earlier years. "My parents were not thrilled," he said with a chuckle. As he gained experience and age, "I realized it doesn't help your game."

Polfus said Eichhorn's primary growth "is his attitude. He calms himself. You can see him smile more now (on the course). He understands you are going to make mistakes and see how you respond."

Robinette likens his playing style to the transformation seen in golf across the country. "I see very athletic kids who just aren't intimidated by anything. They are fearless," he said, citing PGA Tour standouts Rory McIlroy and Jason Day as examples of that mentality and approach.

"They look down the hole and see birdies everywhere. He (Eichhorn) is fearless. He thinks his way around a golf course very well. He has a good routine; he pays attention to all the details to not make mistakes. His fundamentals are very good. He swings pretty hard, but he is still under control. He doesn't miss the middle of the club face. His misses tend to be pin high."

With a year of high school remaining, he already has some big plans. He will play the Wisconsin Junior Golf Tour again this year along with U.P. junior events and will likely play in the Upper Peninsula Golf Association men's tournament in Sault Ste. Marie.

He played in last year's UPGA event in Marinette, Wis., and learned a lot from that experience. "The competition level was really high. You have to play at even a higher level than you think you can," he said.

Eichhorn also may try to qualify for the U.S. Junior Amateur. He has also received attention from college golf teams from Michigan State University, Marquette University and South Dakota State University, where the head coach is Upper Peninsula native Casey VanDamme.

He also has big plans after college. "I want to be a professional golfer. I want to be really, really good," he said. "It will take a lot of practice (something he does at a very high level). I'd like to be the best I can be by (age) 22 or 23. I want to give myself a chance to be good on the PGA Tour.

"It will obviously take a lot. I know it is a far-fetched goal, but it is something I am willing to work for. This will give me the reality check, and that is why I'm going to go to college (for a business degree)."

Robinette believes Eichhorn's passion for golf and strong work ethic will help him reach his goals. "The secret for him is in the dirt. He has probably hit more golf balls his age than anybody I've come across. Mike Nagy, maybe," Robinette said of the former Manistique standout who just completed a four-year golf career at the University of Tennessee.

"He (Eichhorn) is a student of the game. He has a very high golf IQ. This is not a social sport for him," Robinette added.

In addition to Eichhorn, the upcoming MHSAA U.P. Golf Finals at three locations will feature several other promising players. Others with excellent promise are freshman Nathan Rousseau of Escanaba, freshman Jordan Jurmu of Marquette, a participant of the chip, putt and drive national finals at Augusta National in April, and junior Bryce Douglas of Gladstone.

Two outstanding girls are freshman Paxton Johnson of Escanaba and sophomore Kaaren Liston of Houghton, who won the U.P. Division 1 title last year.

Denny Grall retired in 2012 after 39 years at the Escanaba Daily Press and four at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, plus 15 months for WLST radio in Escanaba; he served as the Daily Press sports editor from 1970-80 and again from 1984-2012. Grall was inducted into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and serves as its executive secretary. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for the Upper Peninsula.

PHOTOS: (Top) Carney-Nadeau's Hunter Eichhorn watches one of his shot during a tournament Wednesday at Irish Oaks Golf Course in Gladstone. (Middle) Eichhorn studies the putting line on No. 17 green at Irish Oaks. (Photos by Denny Grall.)

Bloomfield Hills JV Golfer Adds Rare Highlight to Strong Spring with Par-4 Hole-In-One

By Tom Lang
Special for

May 24, 2024

Freshman Lucas Dostal was just aiming for a drive down the middle of the par-4 17th fairway.

Just seconds later, he finished the hole at Hudson Mills Metro Park in that one swing with the driver.

The Bloomfield Hills junior varsity player didn’t see from the tee his ace on the 329-yard hole drop in the cup, so the reaction was delayed – but still refreshing.

“I hit a draw, so the ball started right, then went left and it was kinda going toward the pin but it was too hard to see,” he said in an email. “The ground was firm, and there was some down wind.

“I didn’t see the ball at all go in, but once I realized it, I was in shock. It helped me shoot a really good 71, but I tripled bogeyed (4-putt) the last hole so that kinda ruined it.”

Spoken like a true competitive golfer.

That 71 was good for medalist at the tournament April 20 versus other JV teams like Detroit Catholic Central, Novi and Grand Blanc, and brought way more attention to his game than he’d like.

The program’s junior varsity coach David Lumsden, a North Hills middle school teacher, said a lot of people assumed he’d be bumped up to varsity very soon; even local media talked that way. After all, it was the first tournament of the season, and Dostal comes into the clubhouse with an albatross and a win.

Dostal, standing third from right, is joined by his team after they won the Ace & Bob Byerlein JV Tournament that day. “He is a good golfer, and the first thing I did was email the varsity coach and said I think this kid has got the goods to be on varsity,” Lumsden said. “We had purposefully left two varsity spots open because we have so many young kids who are good golfers; we didn’t know who to choose and left two spots (flexible). I suggested Lucas, but we agreed since he was a freshman to give him a couple more events and see how he does.

“I think he shot in the high 70s the next tournament and the 80s after that. And Lucas came to me after that and said, ‘Coach, can you put me on the B team?’ I think the pressure was getting to him being No. 1 on the A team. So, me and the varsity coach agreed he needs a year on JV to play in some more matches and tournaments and grow into that varsity position.”

The JV team went 9-0 this spring in dual meets and finished in the top 10 in five of six tournaments.

“He’s going to be a great golfer,” Lumsden said. “There’s no part of his game that is lacking. He’s got a great short game. Off the tee he’s amazing. And I’ve watched him make really great recovery shots with his irons. He’s going to be really good; we’re just taking it slow. Don’t want to put all this pressure on him and end up having him quit golf too early.

“Lucas is very mild-mannered. He doesn’t talk a lot. He loves golf and has a brother (Domonic) playing on the varsity team who’s really good too. They are both golf fanatics and love the game. It’s very enjoyable to watch him getting into it and getting used to being a good golfer and getting this kind of recognition. He’s not been bragging about anything, and he’s just a solid golfer.”

If Dostal does make varsity in 2025, he should be joining his brother for that one year together on the team.

“The awareness (of his game) is there,” Lumsden said. “He’s really got the temperament to be somebody that’s going to be a top golfer.

“Many of the top golfers in the state are here in Southeast Michigan, so he’s got a lot of good competition. He might be used to going out with his buddies and beating them by 10 strokes with no problem; now he’s going against kids who are just as good as he is, or better.

“And this is just JV golf. Once you go to varsity, those kids go really low.”

PHOTOS (Top) Bloomfield Hills’ Lucas Dostal shows the ball he drove into the hole next to him for a par-4 hole-in-one April 20 at Hudson Mills Metro Park. (Middle) Dostal, standing third from right, is joined by his team after they won the Ace & Bob Byerlein JV Tournament that day. (Photos courtesy of the Bloomfield Hills JV golf program.)