Special to the Record-Eagle
---- — BOYNE FALLS — Muskegon’s Andrew Ruthkoski shot a 3-under 69 in the third and final round Wednesday to edge four other golfers by a single stroke in winning the 22nd annual Tournament of Champions.
Ruthkoski finished the tournament with a 10-under total of 206 to claim the $10,000 top prize. The round was on the Alpine course at Boyne Mountain Resort.
One shot back at 207 were defending champion Jeff Roth, 2011 winner Lee Houtteman, Jeff Cuzzort and Barrett Kelpin. Drew Preston, who was leading heading into Wednesday, came in at 210. Houtteman is the head pro at Manitou Passage.
“I feel relief because you work hard, you play hard and you come to win, and so it means something to do it,” said Ruthkoski, who had a birdie on the par 3 17th that ignited the win.
“I didn’t know I had the lead until we were in the fairway on 18. I really appreciate this, but it hasn’t sunk in yet. Probably on the ride home, I will be like, yes.”
Besides the $10,000 the 30-year-old Ruthkoski also claimed the Walter Burkemo Trophy, a crystal trophy and honorary membership in the Country Club of Boyne. He heads back to the NGA Tour for a few weeks later this month, and then plans to prepare for PGA Web.com Tour qualifying school.
Ruthkoski had par-saving putts at No. 7 and No. 15— each of about 15 feet.
Roth, the five-time champion from New Mexico and a former Flint and Detroit area pro, shot 71 to close. But he repeatedly missed birdie putts, including a 18-foot effort at No. 18.
“It was just awful,” Roth said. “I was grinding. I tried everything, and just nothing would go in. I was so busy trying to make birdies, I really didn’t notice what was going on with the other guys.”
Kelpin, a Kalamazoo mini-tour pro, closed with a 69 and just missed an eagle-putt at No. 18. Cuzzort, a mini-tour pro from Grosse Ile who shot 67, also missed a final birdie from about 20 feet. Houtteman missed the green with his third shot at 18 to shoot 71.
Ruthkoski said he has worked on his game, including this week, with Brian O’Neill, the director of golf instruction at Boyne, and that he always feels comfortable at the resort.
“I can relax, everything is great about this place and there’s great golf,” he said. “It’s great to be a champion here. I’m so appreciative of the chance to do it.”
Suzanne Green-Roebuck, a former LPGA player from Ann Arbor, shot 72 for 215 (tie for 10th overall) to finish as the low women in the field that brings together seniors, juniors, men, women, professionals and amateurs who have major Michigan titles on their resumes.
Jeff Champine of Rochester Hills, who shot 68, and Jared Dalga of Grand Rapids, who shot 70, tied as low amateurs at 217 (tie for 16th), and Mike Raymond was the low senior amateur with a 74 for 222 (tie for 35th). Roth and Houtteman were low seniors. Low junior honors went to 17-year-old Henry Do of Ypsilanti, who shot 73 for 218 (tie for 22nd). A female amateur did not make the 36-hole cut.