Kris Tamulis teed off just after 9 a.m. on Saturday in one of the early pairings for the third round of the Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I.
The Michigan native and avid Detroit Lions fan who now calls Naples, Fla., home went out and shot a round of 64 to move herself onto the top 10 of the leaderboard at 7-under 206. She sank seven birdies and avoided trouble throughout the round at Highland Meadows Golf Club.
Frankly, she had her game on Saturday working like Matthew Stafford connecting on a timing route to Calvin Johnson for a score.
“It was a very easy low-stress round,” she said. “I hit it really well. I didn’t make any bogeys. It was the second day in a row I didn’t make any bogeys.”
Tamulis, who grew up in Lapeer, Mich., birdied Nos. 3, 9, 11, 13, 16, 17, and 18 for a sizzling round.
She started the day tied for 54th after a solid second-round score of 69. She enters the final round tied for 12th and four shots behind the leaders, Laura Diaz and Lee-Anne Pace, who stand at 11-under 202.
Yet Tamulis felt she had an opportunity to put up an even better score.
“I missed some really short putts starting out,” she said. “I missed probably a nine-foot birdie putt on 1, and then like a five-foot birdie putt on 4. I felt like those were really makeable, and I just gave some away.”
The thought conjures up plenty of instances of missed opportunities by the Lions during the recent past under former coach Jim Schwartz.
“Stafford is really good, and if they could actually finish out the fourth quarter instead of relinquishing the lead like they have the last two years, I think we could be really good,” Tamulis said.
The Lions fan didn’t fold down the stretch Saturday.
Tamulis regrouped from the missed birdie opportunities and avoided a meltdown. She stayed the course and finished the front nine at 2-under 32. She carried that momentum and tallied birdies on five of the final nine holes.
She completed the final stretch in a way she would like the Lions to become, more efficient at the end. She played nearly flawless down the stretch, birdieing the last three holes.
Tamulis’ focus on No. 16 was partly inspired after speaking with a local resident whose backyard is near the 400-yard, par-4 hole. The neighbor’s dog, Bela, was put to sleep earlier in the day.
Tamulis, who has played in the LPGA event held at Highland Meadows for eight years now, had become accustomed to seeing the dog roaming around in the yard, even as recent as Friday.
“I was really, really upset,” Tamulis said. “So I [thought], I’m going to do it for Bela. Then I birdied my last three.”
Tamulis’ best finish at Highland Meadows was tied for 10th in 2010, and she has made the cut five times. She tied for 57th in 2005, tied for 61st in 2009, and tied for 79th in 2006.
She heads into the final round thinking there’s nothing to lose.
Of course, the Lions fan understands plenty about what it means not to finish well in the fourth quarter.