BOYNE FALLS -- Muskegon's Andrew Ruthkoski already loves this place, but if possible he loves it even more after shooting a tournament and course record 11-under 61 in the first round of the 24th Tournament of Champions at Boyne Mountain Resort Monday.
The 32-year-old mini-tour pro and two-time defending champion had nine birdies and an eagle on The Alpine course where 62 was the previous best on the course and in the tournament. It left him with a four-shot lead on Barrett Kelpin, a mini-tour pro from Kalamazoo.
"It's really fun, really nice to go out and play that way," Ruthkoski said. "This tournament is great. My family - they come up here and love it. They laugh at me because I tell everyone they love it, but it's the truth. We look forward to coming up here every year and when I play well that makes it all that much nicer to be here."
A unique field of 100 golfers started play Monday in the 54-hole tournament that brings together men, women, juniors, seniors, professionals, amateurs and even members of the same families competing against each other from three sets of tees for the same coveted championship.
Each player in the field has won a Michigan major golf tournament or state title to earn the invitation to compete.
The field played The Alpine course Monday in bright sunshine, no wind and perfect scoring conditions, and will play The Monument course Tuesday with the final round on The Alpine on Wednesday.
Ruthkoski, the 2007 Michigan Open champion shot a 7-under-par 29 on the front nine with an eagle-3 on the par 5 No. 5 hole. He hit a hybrid shot to 5-feet from the rough to set up the eagle.
"I hit a couple of wedges close, but I also made a couple in the 15 to 18-foot range," Ruthkoski said. "The greens are in perfect shape. No wind. It was a great day for scoring, and I had a good day at the same time."
Kelpin, who set a scoring record when he won the 2012 Michigan Open, had a 6-under back nine in his 65, which was his first nine of the day. He holed an approach pitch on the 18th for eagle.
Brian Cairns of Fox Hills Learning Center in Plymouth shot 66 for third, and Chris Mory of Hawk Hollow Golf Course in Bath was standing fourth with a 67.
Joe Hooks of Commerce Township was the low amateur in the first round with a 68. Also at 68 were pros Wes Gates of Novi and Patrick Wilkes-Krier of Ypsilanti.
The low woman in the first round, former LPGA Tour player Suzanne Green-Roebuck, shot 69.
Others at 69 included 67-year-old five-time Michigan Open champion Randy Erskine of Rochester Hills, reigning Michigan Open champion Jeff Cuzzort of Grosse Ile, Jeff Gniewek of Knollwood Country Club and mini-tour players Randy Hutchison of Traverse City and Drew Preston of Ada.
A 36-hole cut to the low 50 scorers and ties will follow Tuesday's second round.
Live scoring and more information is available at www.michiganpgagolf.com, and check out the Michigan PGA on Facebook.
More information on Boyne Mountain Resort can be found at www.boynemountain.com.
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