BOYNE FALLS, Mich. - Andy Ruthkoski kept his mistakes to a minimum and managed to win a second consecutive Tournament of Champions at Boyne Mountain Resort Wednesday.
The Muskegon mini-tour professional shot a closing 1-over-par 73 for a 13-under-par 203 total and one-shot win over Commerce Township teaching professional Bob Ackerman, who shot 69 for 204, including a little-too-late 35-foot birdie putt on the final hole.
"It feels good because of the work I put in at home," said Ruthkoski. "I play and practice with the idea that it is going to get me to the next level. To see the work that I put in actually turn into wins at the professional level is a good feeling."
Ruthkoski, 31, won $10,000, donned the green jacket befitting Michigan's unique version of the Masters Tournament and is able to take the Walter Burkemo Trophy home for another year. He bested a tournament field that included men, women, professionals, amateurs, seniors and juniors competing for the same championship from three different tee positions.
After shooting 64 and 66 in the first two rounds he started the final round with a five-shot lead.
"I knew it got within two shots a couple of times, but I just kept telling myself you have a two-shot lead and there is nothing wrong with that," he said. "It's not really that hard to play with the lead if you can just keep trying to make the right shots and make them come to you. That's really what I did."
Escanaba native Scott Hebert of Grand Traverse Resort and Spa shot a closing 69 for 205 and third place. Five-time champion J.R. Roth of San Juan Country Club in Farmington, New Mexico, shot 70 for 206 and fourth place, and Brian Cairns, the reigning Michigan PGA champion from Fox Hills Learning Center in Plymouth shot the day's best round of 68 for 207 and fifth.
Ackerman, 61 and playing as a senior professional in the field, made a birdie on No. 12 while Ruthkoski made bogey to pull within two shots. He then three-putted for bogey at No. 13, however.
"That first putt at 13 fooled me, and I should have made the second one, but let's face it you spot a guy with game like that a five-shot lead to start, you have to pull a rabbit out of your hat or he has to fall apart," Ackerman said. "He really played solid as a rock. There is a lot of pressure on you when you have a lead to keep from doing anything silly. The pressure was on him and he handled it like a touring professional."
Hebert, one of eight former TOC champions in the field, said he doomed himself with a slow start.
"I couldn't put any heat on him and he just played pretty darn good," he said. "I told him he needs to get back out (on tours) and just keep playing. He has a lot of game."
Matt Pesta of Lincoln Hills Golf Course in Birmingham, who shot 72, and James Dieters of Midland Country Club, who shot 69, finished tied for sixth at 212. Kevin Muir of The Wyndgate in Rochester Hills, who shot 71, and Willie Mack III of Grand Blanc, who shot 74, each finished at 213. Ian Ziska of Katke Golf Club at Ferris State University, who shot 75, and Drew Preston of Ada, who shot 76, rounded out the top 10 at 214.
Patrick Colburn of Traverse City, a University of Michigan student who recently qualified for the U.S. Amateur, finished as low amateur at 216. He shot 75 to close. Aya Johnson of Muskegon, a University of Wisconsin golfer, finished as the low woman player. She shot 74 for 220 and a tie for 23rd. The low senior amateurs were Ian Harris of Bloomfield Hills and Mike Fedewa of Canton. Harris shot 74 and Fedewa 71 for 220.
Ruthkoski said the first-place check will help pay for Web.com Tour Qualifying this fall, and that he plans to return to Boyne Mountain if only for vacation.
"I love it here, my whole family and our friends love it here," he said. "It's a special place, so relaxing and the golf is great."