Ruthkoski's T of C win is 'loud' and clear
Andrew Ruthkoski of Muskegon hoists the Walter Burkemo trophy after winning the 22nd annual Michigan Tournament of Champions Wednesday at Boyne Mountain. Ruthkoski finished with a 10-under par 206 to win tournament by a stroke over four others including defending champion J.R. Roth. (Drew Kohanny/News-Review / August 1, 2013)
His sponsored Loudmouth golf pants were tough to miss.
On Wednesday at the final day of the event, it was even harder not to miss Ruthkoski for another reason though as the Muskegon native took center stage at the trophy ceremony with a win in hand after a 10-under par, three-day 206 on Boyne Mountain’s Alpine.
“I’ve been close, it’s fun to come up here and see the guys,” Ruthkoski said. “To be able to do it, it’s nice. It’s a relief. It’s a little too soon to describe it. It’s a relief because you work hard, you play hard, you come to win and to do it means something to actually have it pay off.”
Ruthkoski, 30, won the $10,000 purse and Walter Burkemo Trophy after a first round 68 to go along with a pair of 69s in the second and final rounds.
He was the only player to shoot in the 60s throughout the tournament.
“The goal is probably five under each day, but if you can’t get to that whatever is best,” Ruthkoski said. “Really the main goal that we had this week was no three puts. I had that in mind and made sure I didn’t three put on these greens and it paid off.”
Limiting the three puts certainty helped Ruthkoski, who finished second after a playoff loss in the 2011 T of C, as he’d turn in a final round without a bogey blemish to his credit and just three throughout the three days, compared with 13 birdies.
“I didn’t make any bogeys, made a good par put on No. 12 from about 15 feet. Then I had a par put on No. 7. Those two, if they would have got away from me, would have cost me the tournament but other than that, I just putted solid all week,” he said.
Finishing second, Jeff Cuzzort of Grosse Ile turned in a 5-under par final round to push for a four way tie at 9-under, 207.
Along with Cuzzort, Barrett Kelpin of Kalamazzo, Lee Houtteman of Manitou Passage Golf Club in Traverse City and J.R. Roth of San Juan Country Club, Farmington, N.M., also shot 207.
Drew Preson of Ada, who led after the first and second rounds after a first round 64, finished 6th with a 210.
Roth, the defending champion and five time T of C champ from Flint, finished with a pair of bogeys in his final round, which would stall his quest for his 16th Michigan Major title, the most all-time in the state.
“I felt a little bit of pressure from the standpoint of getting that 16th major,” said Roth, who now lives in Farmington, N.M. “That’s really important to me and I only get one shot at it a year since I’m not living here anymore. I hit so many good shots on that back nine and just didn’t capitalize.”
A neck and neck final round, Cuzzort birdied four holes on the back nine, including 14, 16 and 17 to finish within a stroke of Ruthkoski at the end.
Kelpin, a former University of Iowa standout, made his own push at the end, with birdies on 17 and 18.
“I didn’t realize I was in the lead until the middle of the fairway on No. 18,” Ruthkoski said. “The two years ago when I lost in a playoff, I laid up and ended up making bogey because I got a bad kick and went into the right bunker. This year I hit a three wood.”
Heading into the final round tied for third, Ruthkoski never felt pressured to push for the lead and was able to play his game throughout the week.
“I was just very comfortable all week. This place makes you feel comfortable,” he said. “The great lodging, the hotels, the mountain cabins, you can go hang out at the pools. It’s fun, it helps you take your mind off golf while you’re not at the tournament.”
Ruthkoski said he has also worked on his game including this week with Brian O’Neill, the director of golf instruction at Boyne.
“It’s great to be a champion here,” Ruthkoski said. “I’m so appreciative of hte chance to do it.”
Ruthkoski, the 2007 Michigan Open champion, also received the traditional winner’s green jacket — which just so happened to match his colorful “Island Girls” pants from his clothing contract with Loudmouth Golf — a crystal trophy and honorary membership in the Country Club of Boyne. He will head back to the NGA Tour later this month and then plans to prepare for the PGA Web.com Tour qualifying school.
Suzanne Green-Roebuck of Ann Arbor and a former LPGA player, shot a 215 to tie for 10th overall, best for the women in the event.
Low senior honors went to Roth and Houtteman, while the low junior score went to Henry Do of Canton, who shot a 218.
Jeff Champine of Rochester Hills, who shot 68, and Jared Dalga of Grand Rapids, who shot 70, tied as low amateurs at 217 in a tie for 16th. Mike Raymond was the low senior amateur with a 74 for 222, tied for 35th.
Among golfers with local ties to make the cut, Kyle Roman of Hidden River Golf and Casting Club in Brutus finished tied for 16 with a 217, while Barry Redmond of the Boyne Golf Academy shot a 218, good for 22nd.