BOYNE FALLS - Kalamazoo's Barrett Kelpin kept the 61 shot by Muskegon's Andy Ruthkoski in the first round from getting into his head.
The result: He's ahead of Ruthkoski by two shots following a 6-under 66 Tuesday on The Monument course that put him at 13-under 131 through the second round of the 24th Tournament of Champions at Boyne Mountain Resort.
Kelpin, the 2012 Michigan Open champion in his pro debut, said he saw Ruthkoski's 61 posted before he teed off in his first round Monday.
"That's an awkward thing being 11 behind before you hit a shot, and you have to put it out of your head," he said. "I just went out, buckled down and tried to shoot low numbers and stay in the tournament. I expect Andrew will keep playing well. I just want to stay in there and have a chance on the back nine tomorrow."
Wednesday's third and final round will be played on The Alpine course. A cut to the low 50 fell at 6-over 150. The tee times will be early for the final round, starting at 8 a.m. off both nines. The leaders will tee off at 9:10 a.m. The public is welcome. The winner will take home $10,000 of a $55,000 purse.
Ruthkoski, the two-time defending champion, will be in the final group with Kelpin. He overcame a triple-bogey 7 on the Monument's short par 4 No. 6 hole to shoot even-par 72. Coupled with his tournament and course record 61 on The Alpine he was two strokes behind at 133.
"I hit 3-wood (at No. 6) because it was just a 260-yard carry and I pushed it 30 yards right of the green," he said. "It was a case of not being sure all day how to play that golf course and that kind of creeps into the game. It was just the second time I've played it, and I felt a little confused out there and that resulted in a confused shot. Then I had the ball under the lip in the bunker after that, hit it over the green and, well, I made a seven."
Ruthkoski said he was proud he battled back with some birdies in his closing 12 holes to shoot even par.
"That put me back in the tournament," he said. "I put myself closer to the leader and I will have a chance. I will be happy to be back on the Alpine (course) too."
Chris Mory of Hawk Hollow Golf Club in Bath and Brian Cairns of Fox Hills Learning Center in Plymouth were four shots back at 135. Mory, a former Michigan State golfer, shot 68, and Cairns shot 69.
Amateur Joe Hooks of Commerce Township shot a second consecutive 68 for 136. Five-time champion Jeff Roth shot 67 for 137, and Patrick Wilkes-Krier of Ypsilanti shot 69 for 137. Reigning Michigan Open champion Jeff Cuzzort of Grosse Ile shot 69 for 138.
Kelpin said lag putting was difficult for him on The Monument course. He had a pair of three-putt bogeys in a round that also featured seven birdies and an eagle on the par 5 No. 5 hole.
"I felt good about my round overall, but I had a couple of hiccups along the way," he said. "I knew it would be tough putting on a course I don't know that well. I was happy for the most part how I did with the speed. It's not easy to lag putt when an uphill putt can be fast and a downhill slow, but I did a good job having a short memory, kept playing and put up a good number."
Kelpin has counted one mini-tour win since his Michigan Open win and would love to get back in the winner's circle in Michigan.
"It would be great to get this one," he said. "I've been working really hard on my game for the last year. I was in a slump but feel like I'm coming out of it. Winning this would be great for my confidence and boost me going forward as a sign of good things to come."
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