FLINT – Jeff Roth made more Michigan golf history.
The 61-year-old Boyne Golf Academy instructor shot a closing 4-under 68 for a 17-under 199 tournament total and victory in the 98th Michigan PGA Professional Championship at Flint Golf Club Wednesday.
It was the fifth Michigan PGA Professional title for the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member who lived in the Flint area and worked at Flint Golf Club as head golf professional through the 1990s, and his second major Michigan section win in the last month. He won the Tournament of Champions just a few weeks ago at Boyne Mountain Resort and moved out of a tie with Scott Hebert of Traverse City Golf & Country Club for the most major Michigan wins in section history. Number 17 came at the same golf club where he claimed his first in the now-defunct Michigan PGA Yamaha Classic 32 years ago.
“This is just a wonderful accomplishment to be able to come back after working here so many years, being the head pro and living in the Genesee County area for over 20 years and getting my first Michigan major here,” he said. “Coming back 32 years late to win number 17 is pretty special for sure. It’s not as emotional as winning last month (Tournament of Champions), but it is special and every victory at my age is a big victory. You never know when it will be the last. I will just keep competing as hard as I can.”
His 17-under total, which earned him the $7,000 first-place check, was four shots better than Ben Cook of Yankee Springs Golf Course in Wayland. Cook, 25, and the first-place money winner a year ago, fired a closing 64 to finish four behind Roth at 13-under 203.
“I always feel some nerves because I want to feel some nerves and I know how to manage them,” said Roth who won his previous Michigan PGA Professional titles in 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2003. “I can’t say I ever felt overwhelmed by anything out there today. I was playing well, putting great like all week. I looked at scoreboard for the first time on 16, and I saw Ben had made a good run. I congratulate him on that score, but it was tough to catch me today.”
Ron Beurmann of Country Club of Jackson, another Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member, shot a closing 72 for 205. He tied for third with Kyle Martin of Lochmoor Club in Grosse Pointe Woods. Martin, the 2015 Michigan Match Play champion, shot a closing 71.
Andrew Dodson of Meadowbrook Country Club in Northville and Josh Fryer of Franklin Hills Country Club each shot 70 for 206 to round out the top five spots.
The championship is essentially two tournaments in one. The low nine golfers – along with Roth, Hebert and Cook who are exempt from qualification by the PGA of America based on past performances – will play in the 2020 PGA Professional National Championship, April 26-29 at Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa in Austin, Texas. The low 20 finishers from that national club pro championship move on to play with the best players in the world at next year’s PGA Championship May 14-17 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Calif. Cook tied for fourth in the 2019 PGA Professional National Championship last year and played in the 2018 PGA Championship
Joining Roth, Cook and Hebert in Texas in the spring will be Beurmann, Martin, Dodson, Fryer, Adam Schumacher of Point O’Woods in Benton Harbor, who shot 70 for 208, Steve Vecillio of Birmingham Country Club, who shot 71 for 210, John Seltzer of Seltzer Golf School in Grand Rapids, who shot 71 for 210, defending section champion Lee Houtteman of Cedar, who shot 72 for 211 and Frank McAuliffe of Meadowbrook, who shot 74 for 211. Houtteman and McAuliffe were survivors of a four-golf playoff at 211 for the last two spots.
Roth, who works in the summer at Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs and lives in New Mexico the rest of the year where his wife Maureen teaches school, said he putted wonderfully through the week after calling on what used to be his back-up putter.
“I putted like I used to putt,” he said. “I was very focused. What I looked at is where I putted. I didn’t have a three-putt all week. I maybe missed a couple I should have made, but overall my putting was outstanding, over the top really. I’m just really thrilled.”
He admitted being familiar with the course where he used to work helped, and it also helped that distance is not the key factor on the classic Willie Park design.
“I’m 30 years older than a lot of these guys, but still in good golf shape and on top of my game,” he said. “I can win on a course like this. I just have to play well and putt well and I did.”
Cook was understandably happy with his 64 but lamented his first two rounds of the championship.
“The first two rounds were frustrating,” he said. “Yesterday I actually played great all day, except at 14 where I made a triple-bogey. I shoot 69 with a triple. You have to go low each day here. You can see that with the scores that were posted. You can’t have a slump round or you are getting lapped.”
Cook, based on his national performance this year, is exempt into the second stage of PGA Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying this fall. He plans to take the shot at being a touring professional once again.
“We’re going to see how that goes before figuring out what’s next,” he said.
Roth gets an additional perk with the title he earned Wednesday. He will receive an exemption into the field for the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club next summer. He has played on the PGA Tour Champions with partial status for several years and plans to try pre-qualifying for the upcoming PGA Tour Champions event, the Ally Challenge, being played at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club in Grand Blanc Sept. 9-15.
SCORING: Complete scores and other information can be found at michiganpgagolf.com
SPONSORS: The Michigan PGA Professional Championship is presented by Cadillac, Club Car and OMEGA with supporting sponsors Titleist/Footjoy, TaylorMade, Nike, Golf Channel and the PGA Tour.
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