By MIKE ECKERT
BOYNE FALLS — A three-shot victory led to a tie Wednesday for J.R. Roth.
With his win at the Tournament of Champions, Roth tied legendary golfer Al Watrous with 15 Michigan Majors. Watrous, who died in 1983, also had eight PGA Tour victories.
"That was one of the things that keeps me coming back and playing in the event," Roth said. "Now I've tied it and can try to move on and beat that number. But I think about that all year long, for sure."
Roth, a 52-year-old Flushing native who now lives in New Mexico, fired a 4-under on Wednesday at Boyne Mountain's The Alpine for a three-day total of 10-under par. It was his fifth Tournament of Champions victory.
"It's a huge victory, just because it gets me to that number where Watrous is at," Roth said. "That's a number I've been shooting for ever since I got to about nine or 10. It became a real priority to me."
At the turn, David Nolan, Marty Jeppesen and Tim Matthews were tied for the lead at 8-under, with Roth a stroke behind. Roth, though, made four birdies on the back nine, including a 15-footer on 11 to get things going.
"In every tournament, there comes a crossroads," Roth said. "I think the crossroad for me was probably No. 11. I think Marty three-putted and I made that nice birdie."
Jeppesen, 24, finished second at 7-under. His back nine was up and down with four birdies, three bogeys, a double and only one par.
"It was a pretty wild back nine," Jeppesen said. "I got off to a bad start when I bogeyed 10 and 11. I never gave up and kept grinding. J.R. pulled away from me and Tim a little bit, but I was playing for second. I was just happy with the good finish."
Matthews, the first round leader, tied with amateur Wesley Gates for third at 6-under. Traverse City native Randy Hutchison was even par on Wednesday and tied for sixth at 4-under.
"It was one of those days, I hit it well, but nothing really happened for me," Hutchison said. "Deep down, I knew I'd have to get to 10-under. I pressed a little bit early on and it didn't really pay off for me."
Hutchison bogeyed the first, but ended strong with three birdies on his last seven holes. From here, he'll head to North Carolina to continue playing on the NGA Tour, but enjoyed getting in a tournament back in northern Michigan.
"It was really nice, since the NGA Tour had the week off," Hutchison said. "I was home anyway. It's always good, because my mom came out and caddied for me today. She gets to come out and watch the close events, but that's about it."
Grand Traverse Resort & Spa head pro Scott Hebert tied for 10th at 3-under. He carded a 2-under 70 on Wednesday, thanks to an eagle on the 12th and a birdie on 18.
"I hit a good tee shot, hit it on the back fringe and chipped it in," Hebert said of the eagle. "It was just about a 10-foot pitch. I would've liked to make some more putts. I hit it good enough to get to 10 or 12 under, but I didn't putt well."
Also from GT Resort, Lee Houtteman was 2-over for his final round to finish tied for 16th at even. He got off to a hot start with three birdies in the first five holes to close in on the lead, but then had trouble putting.
"I was really feeling good, but then I started three-putting," Houtteman said. "I three-putted the next two holes, one for double and one for bogey. I got back to even and birdied 10, but then I three-putted another one."
Houtteman was the defending champion and presented Roth with his jacket following the round.
"It was neat," Houtteman said. "I got a lot more recognition than if I would have finished second or third. It was nice coming back and defending."
Patrick Colburn, a 2011 Traverse City Central grad, had a tough back nine on Wednesday to finish 5-over for the day and the tournament. He ended tied for 32nd.
"I got a little more aggressive and got in a little bit of trouble, but it was all for fun," said Colburn, who will head to Michigan this month for his sophomore year.
The round of the day belonged to Grand Valley State sophomore Kelly Hartigan — the only woman to make the cut. Starting on the back nine, Hartigan went out with a 41, but closed out with six birdies on the front for a 30 and finished tied for 28th at 4-over.
As a New Mexico resident, Roth will have to wait until next year's Tournament of Champions to surpass Watrous for the state's record.
"In the meantime, guys like Hebert keep winning tournaments," Roth said. "He's got a shot at probably reaching Watrous' number too, if not going higher. Scott's a nice player and he'll probably get there someday, I'd like to get there first."