BOYNE FALLS - Kalamazoo's Barrett Kelpin said playing in the 24th Tournament of Champions at BoyneMountain Resort is like a golf tournament and a vacation up north all rolled into one.
"This is a specialtournament and to win it feels so great," he said after shooting a closing1-under 71 on The Alpine course Wednesday for a 14-under total of 202, one shotbetter than two-time defending champion Andy Ruthkoski. "It was touch andgo right to the end, but I'm really glad I was able to finish it off."
Kelpin, 26, the 2012 Michigan Open champion and a one-time winner on the mini-tour circuit, maintained the lead through the day, but Ruthkoski, Brian Cairns and Chris Moryall pulled within two shots at various times.
On the final hole, the par 5 18th, Kelpin had a two-shot advantage on Ruthkoski, who powered a 230-yard shot to reach the green in two for a 25-foot putt at eagle. The 32-year-old 2007 Michigan Open winner ended up making birdie with a two-putt for a 70 while Kelpin went for the green in two with a 3-iron, missed right, chipped over thegreen into the fringe and two-putted for par and the one shot win.
"After Andrew hit agreat shot on the green there I figured he was going to make eagle," Kelpinsaid. "I agonized a little, but I had hit a good drive and I had the yardagefor a smooth 3-iron. I didn't hit it like I wanted, but getting a 5 was enough.I played to win, and it is good experience for me to be faced with thatdecision."
Kelpin,who will attempt PGA Tour and Web.com qualifying this fall, won $10,000 of the $55,000 purse and topped a field of 100 golfers in the unique tournament that brings together men, women, juniors, seniors, professionals, amateurs and evenmembers 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 statetitle to earn the invitation to compete.
Cairns, a teaching pro at Fox Hills Learning Center in Plymouth, finished third with a closing 69 for 205. Mory, a Hawk Hollow Golf Club pro in Bath, shot 72 for 207 and fourthplace. Reigning Michigan Open champion Jeff Cuzzort of Grosse Ile, who shot 70, and five-time championJeff Roth, who shot 71, finished at 208. Joe Hooks of Commerce Township shot 73 for 209 and was the low amateur in the championship. Suzanne Green-Roebuck closed with a 69 for 210 and was the low female player inthe field.
Kelpin, who also won the traditional greenjacket and was awarded the honorary lifetime membership to the Country Club of Boyne, said the final round was a grind.
"I knew Ruthie and Chris were going to keep charging all day, and the thing is, none of us were making any putts, so it was hard out there," he said. "Down the stretch I knew it was going to come down to chipping and putting because I wasn't hitting itt hat great. I'm really pleased I was able to close it out. It feels great."
Kelpin said the win was culmination of a year of hard work with teacher Adam Schriberof Lochenheath in Traverse City. "It has been a while since I won," he said. "I know Adam will be thrilled, too."
Ruthkoski, who charged into the lead Monday with a tournament and course record 61 on The Alpine, said he really wanted to win a third consecutive Tournament of Champions, but that Kelpin was not going to let it happen.
"He played great, didn't make a big mistake and played the way you should play when you are the leader - make everybody come and get him," he said. "I gave myself chances. I just didn't make any putts. From No. 11 on I had chances inside 15 feet, lipped two of them out and a couple didn't break the way I thought they would."
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