Boyne Golf Instructor Jeff Roth Wins Record Sixth Michigan Tournament of Champions
BOYNE FALLS – At age 61 Jeff Roth admitted he had wondered if he had enough golf game to win another major Michigan championship.
He did. The Boyne Golf Academy instructor shot a 3-under 69 on The Alpine Course and topped 70-shooting Barrett Kelpin of Kalamazoo by one to win his record sixth Tournament of Champions title Wednesday at Boyne Mountain Resort.
“It’s an emotional victory,” he said with a cracking voice after winning the 28th version of the unique tournament that invites male, female, senior, junior, professional and amateur golf champions of significant Michigan events to compete for one title. “I’m thrilled to have won again, and I’m going to keep trying to compete as hard as I can for as long as I can.”
Roth, who won wire-to-wire and collected the $8,000 first-place check, was tied with Kelpin, a 30-year-old PGA Tour Latinoamerica player, to start the final round.
After Kelpin made bogey on holes 10 and 11, Roth, who birdied 10, had a three-shot lead. Roth made an uncharacteristic three-putt bogey on No. 14, and then Kelpin pulled within one shot at No. 16 with a 15-foot birdie putt.
It came to the par 5 18th, where Kelpin bombed a second shot into the back of the green, while Roth played an errant tee shot out from under a tree to wedge distance and hit his third shot to five feet. Kelpin’s 40-foot putt for eagle rolled close, but he settled for a birdie and Roth knocked in his birdie putt for the win.
“I knew Barrett was going to go for it on 18, but I can only do what I can do,” he said. “I was fortunate to hit two nice shots to get that birdie putt and then make it. When Barrett didn’t make eagle, I knew I was going to win. There was some pressure to make that putt in the moment, but I stayed in the moment and made it. If felt really good. It was really emotional.”
Roth’s sixth win knocked him out of a tie with Michael Harris of Troy for the most TOC wins at five, and it put him into a tie with Scott Hebert of Traverse City Golf & Country Club at 16 for the most Michigan major championships in history.
Hebert, who was in the final group, shot 71 for 210 and a tie for third with Mike Nagy of Manistique, the 2017 TOC champ, who rallied with a closing 65.
Henry Do of Auburn Hills, the low amateur in the tournament, was fifth with a 71 for 211, and Steven Cuzzort of Grosse Ile, now a Florida professional, shot 69 for 212 and sixth place.
Suzy Green-Roebuck of Ann Arbor, a Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member like Roth and Hebert, shot 71 for 213 and was the low female in the field. She tied for seventh with two-time TOC champion Andy Ruthkoski of Muskegon, who also shot 71, and Jeff Bronkema of Caledonia, who shot 73. Korey Mahoney, the 2016 TOC champion from Manton, rounded out the top 10 with a 71 for 214. The low senior amateur was Brian Miller, who now lives in Fountain Hills, Ariz. He shot 74 for 218 and a tie for 22nd.
Kelpin said his bogeys at Nos. 10 and 11 made it difficult for him to win his second TOC.
“JR (Roth) made a birdie on 10 while I was making bogey and that was a big momentum shift,” he said. “I made a good birdie at 16 and had to go for the eagle at 18. I came after him, but JR hit the big putts and all the shots down the stretch he needed to win. He’s a great player and he pulled it out.”
Hebert, who is 50 and played in the final group with Roth and Kelpin, missed several birdie chances inside 10-feet through the day.
“The putter and I didn’t get along too swell,” he said. “JR and Barrett made some putts. I didn’t.”
Roth, who teaches at Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs in the summer and lives in Farmington, N. M., in the fall and winter where his wife Maureen teaches school, recalled winning his first TOC in 1995.
“There’s a picture of me and (Boyne vice-president Bernie Friedrich) in the locker room at (the Golf Club of Boyne), me with my mullet and some fancy-dancy shirt and Bernie looking like he is just out of college. This place has meant so much to me and my family over the years. We used to bring our kids here. Now we’re here with our grandson Bryson. I get to work here as an instructor, and it feels so great to win here and to represent Boyne the way I did.”
In recent weeks Roth admitted he took a break from golf and didn’t practice or play as much as usual.
“Playing in the pro-am helped me get some feels back and build toward the tournament, and then I just had a really strong mental game all week,” he said. “I was able to just play one shot at a time and play with a clear mind. That is something I haven’t done in the last few years.”
Roth was one of 18 Michigan Golf Hall of Fame members in the starting field of 119, and he wasn’t the only one that celebrated on the last day. Two other Hall of Famers made hole-in-ones during the final round. Ken Allard of Troy had an ace on No. 7 in his round of 71. He tied for 46th. John Traub of Birmingham had a hole-in-one on No. 17 in his round of 75. He tied for 55th.
SCORING: Complete results and payouts can be found at michiganpgagolf.com