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MSU student tames 'Monster' with ace

by Kevin Wilson / Detroit Red Wings
Alex Lyall won a trip to Las Vegas when he made a hole-in-one at Monday's Ilitch Charities Celebrity Golf Classic. (Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings)

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – The fearsome finishing holes at Oakland Hills Country Club have proved disastrous for some of the biggest names in the game. But on Monday, a Michigan State student didn’t have any problems taming The Monster's toughest holes during the fifth annual Ilitch Charities Celebrity Golf Classic.

There are few things cooler than making a hole-in-one on a PGA championship course, but that’s exactly what Alex Lyall did in helping his group – led by former Red Wings center Kris Draper – to a second-place finish in the event’s scramble format.

“We saw the ball land and saw it rolling back,” said Draper, of Lyall’s tee shot onto the elevated green on the South Course's No. 17. “ ‘It’s in man, it’s gotta be in!’ And sure enough we got up there and were yelling. It was pretty cool.”

Lyall, who qualified for the USGA Junior Amateur Championship in 2007, and played at the University of Louisville before transferring to East Lansing last year, used a 9-iron on the 175-yard par 3 hole.

“I just tried to hit it and hoped to get it close,” he said, “and I hit it just like I wanted and sure enough … dink.”

The hole-in-one, the second ace of Lyall’s golfing career, made Monday’s event extra special, and earned him a free trip to Las Vegas for his shot on the closest-to-the-pin hole.

“With the company and playing at this great course,” he said, “the whole event was just so much fun. It was awesome.”

Lyall was part of the Roush Industries team, which included his dad, Evan Lyall, and Dean Massab and Chris King. Together, the group fired an 18 under 54 on the prestigious par-72 South Course.

A four-time Stanley Cup champion, Draper was so pumped to see the Novi native enjoying the moment of his big shot.

“I played with him and his dad and obviously his dad was so fired up,” Draper said. “I got a picture of him reaching into the hole to retrieve his ball and I told him that I would send a Tweet out for him.”

Before Lyall’s hole-in-one, the Roush group was already enjoying a very productive back nine with five birdies, a par on No. 14, and an impressive eagle on the par-4 16th. They also birdied No. 18.

“We were coming up on 16, about 100-yards out,” Draper said, “when Dean takes a shot, one-hop, and dunks it for a two. We were high-fiving each other and having a blast. So when we got up to 17 we were still riding a high, and sure enough it goes in. I just looked at Dean and said, ‘Well, there goes the excitement of your two on 16.’ ”

The five-some of Kris Draper, Chris King, Dean Massab, and Alex and Evan Lyall, shot a 10-under 26 on the back nine of The Monster at Oakland Hills during Monday's scramble. (Photo by Kris Draper)

After 18 holes, the Roush team was tied for first place with a group led by actor and Michigan native Mike Binder. Binder’s team eventually won the tie-breaker. On the North Course, Detroit television anchorman Devin Scillian and a group from Campbell Ewald had the best score, shooting a collective nine-under 61.

Monday’s outing featured even more current and former Red Wings than Sunday’s Gala, some of which included general manager Ken Holland, centers Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader, and TV color analyst Mickey Redmond.

“The real winner today was the weather,” Redmond said. “All morning it looked like it was going to rain, but it ended up being beautiful out. It was really great. I don’t play in a lot of these kinds of events, but one thing that really stands out is how there are so many people here. It’s not inexpensive and times are tough, but there’s hundreds of people out here supporting a good cause and giving back, it’s pretty incredible.”

The Celebrity Golf Classic capped a two-day series of events hosted by Ilitch Charities, the other being Sunday’s One Team, One Community Gala. These events are done annually to help support local organizations in need, and have brought in nearly $1 million over the past five years.

This year, Ilitch Charities supported the following organizations to which a portion of the proceeds will be donated: Alternatives For Girls, a non-profit based in Detroit, helps homeless and high-risk girls and young women avoid violence and teen pregnancy; Reading Works, a foundation dedicated to raising the level of adult literacy in metro Detroit; and College for Creative Studies, an art education institution based in Detroit. These particular organizations were selected for their proven ability to achieve measurable, long-term positive change in the community. Each of these institutions serves a meaningful role in the Detroit, and will directly benefit from the funds raised.

Managing Editor Bill Roose contributed to this report.

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