Heller holds on at State Mid-Amateur

Parker Heller might want to consider a membership at the Butte Country Club.

Whenever the Helena golfer comes to town to play the old Butte course, good things seem to happen.

That has certainly been the case this week as Heller play his way to the top of a crowded field at the 28th Montana State Men’s Mid-Amateur tournament. Leaderboard

Heller, 46, followed Thursday’s 66 with a 1-over-par 71 Friday. He sits at 3 under par heading into Saturday’s final round of the Montana State Golf Association championship for players over 30.

Michael Williams of Clancy sits in second place after firing a 69 on Friday. Jim Coleman of Billings shot a second-round 67. He had a big hole to climb out of though, and sits six back at 143 after a first-round 76.

Michael Williams of Clancy tees off on No. 14.

A pair of Butte golfers are making a run for a top-10 finish.

Fred  Zemljak, who has just missed a handful of birdie puts through the first two days, followed Thursday’s 75 with a birdie on the last hole for a 72.

Butte’s Dan Mulholand, a late entry in the tournament, was tied for second at 72 after the first day. He shot a 74 on Day 2. Mulholand had a late tee time, which turned out toe be a disadvantage because of the unsettled afternoon weather.

Butte’s Fred Zemljak follows his tee shot on No. 14.

Dan Mulholland of Butte watches his drive on the third hole.

Heller never seems to be unsettled when playing the Butte Country Club.

“I love this course,” Heller said. “The course sets up really well for my game. I don’t hit big spinning wedges and all that. I play that little fade off the tee box and just try to keep it in play and try to hit every green. As long as I’m not chipping, I’m in good shape.”

It took a miraculous shot from Helena’s John Reeves to keep Heller from winning the 2004 Mid-Amateur at the Country Club. Reevse rolled in a long, bending putt from the fringe on No. 18 to make Heller and Butte’s Rick Lyons settle for a second-place tie.

“It was the greatest shot I’ve ever seen for the circumstances,” Heller said.

Heller also had success at the the Labor Day Classic, winning the Club’s biggest tournament three straight years from 2001 to 2003. This tournament, though, marks the first time Heller played the old course since Reeves knocked in that putt a decade ago.

On Wednesday, Heller played bogie-free round, shooting 35 on the front nine and 31 on the back. Thursday’s round wasn’t quite as steady.

Heller boggied No. 7 before chipping in a muddy ball on No. 9 for a 35 on the front nine.

He sat at 1 under par after rolling in a birdie putt on the par-5 hole No. 13. The last four holes, though, didn’t go Heller’s way.

Heller birdied the 16th, but he took bogie on 15, 17 and 18.

“Today I missed three greens and boggied all three of them,” Heller explained. He also three putted No. 17.

“I thought I made the first one, then I missed a little 2-footer coming back,” he said.

Still, Heller, who has been driving back and forth from Butte to Helena each day because he’s coaching his son’s eighth-grade football team, is sitting in good shape heading into the final round.

Heller has won nine club championships at the Green Meadow Country Club, two club titles at the Bill Roberts Golf Course and two Helena city titles. He said a Mid-Am crown would easily be the best accomplishment of his career.

That, however, is 18 long holes away, and Heller said he expects to have a fight on his hand against a talented field on Saturday.

“It’s going to be tough tomorrow,” Heller said. “I don’t know if I can keep it together for three days. I’m going to give it a try and see if it’s still there.”

Butte’s Pete Yerkich drives on the third hole.

Joe Little of Butte hits a tee shot.

Ben MacIntyre of Helena hits an takes aim at the pin on the par-5 13th hole.

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