By John Jarvi
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON — Two local players, Kyle Kurant and Andrew Ruthkoski, both found ways to advance Monday in one of 111 Local Qualifying golf tournaments for the 114th U.S. Open golf tournament.
Kurant, 49, a Mona Shores High School teacher, carded a two-under-par 70 at Muskegon Country Club and advanced the easy way with the second lowest round of the day.
Kurant finished one-stroke behind Drew Preston, of Ada, the 2012 Michigan Amateur champion who played college golf at Bowling Green State University. Preston carded a 69 on nines of 33 and 36 on the 35-37–72 par course.
Ruthkoski, 31, played high school golf at Mona Shores, but he had to survive a five-hole playoff with two other players to earn the last of the five qualifying spots available. He earned the last spot by sliding in a six-foot birdie putt on the final playoff hole.
It also marked the third time in five holes the three survivors had played the hole although the third time required a tee shot from the 10th tee instead of the first tee.
Ruthkoski just called the process “Long … over and over and over. It was nice to finally make one today. I finally made that putt.”
Ruthkoski advanced to the playoff by being one of six players to card 1-under-par 71s on the par 72, Muskegon Country Club course.
Joining the playoff grind were 16-year professional Doug LaBelle II, of Charlotte, N.C.; Web.com Tour professional Randall Hutchinson, of Traverse City; former Grand Valley State University golfer Michael Basinski; Canadian pro Garrett Rank; and Chris Mory, of Haslett.
LaBelle, who grew up in Mount Pleasant, has been playing on the Web.com Tour and occasionally on the regular Professional Golfers Association tour. He has played four PGA tournament events this season, but he needed a six-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole to advance.
“I’m in. I’ll take it,” LaBelle said. Walking off the course at the same time was Basinski who took a bogey 5 on the same hole and lost his chance at advancing.
The last qualifying spot went to Hutchinson. He advanced by rolling in a 20-foot birdie putt for a 3 on the par-4 ninth hole, the second playoff hole and leaving it to Ruthkoski to get the last spot.
Kurant will be making his second appearance at the Sectional qualifying level. He advanced to the level in 2002 when MCC also hosted a Local Qualifier for the Open before being eliminated.
The U.S. Open process started with a record 10,127 entries and had MCC as one of 111 Local Qualifying tournaments between May 2 and May 19.
The five who advanced from MCC will be assigned to one of 12 Sectional Qualifying tournaments set forJune 2.
Any survivors from that will advance to the U.S. Open scheduled for June 12-15 at Pinehurst No. 2 golf course in the village of Pinehurst, N.C. Of the 156 spots in the U.S. Open field, 51 have already been clinched through previous qualifying methods.
The 18-hole tournament, hampered by a weather delay in the afternoon, had 73 of a scheduled 84 players complete the round Monday.
Par at Muskegon Country Club: 35-37–72
Drew Preston, Ada 33-36–69
Kyle Kurant, Muskegon 34-36–70
Doug Labelle II, Charlotte, N.C. 34-37–71
Randall Hutchison, Traverse City xx-xx–71
Andrew Ruthkoski, Muskegon 36-35–71
Garrett Rank, Canada 33-38–71
Chris Mory, Haslett 36-35–71
Failed to advance:
Travis Clarke, Muskegon 74
Troy Thom, Norton Shores 76
Reed Hrynewich, Muskegon 77
Joe Balaskovitz, Montague 78
Evan Aamodt, North Muskegon 79
Justin Hood, Grand Haven 84