Local Sports Journal
BOYNE FALLS – Andy Ruthkoski plans to keep playing the Alpine Course at Boyne Mountain Resort exactly the same way he has played it to this point in the 23rd Tournament of Champions.
That can’t be good news to the others playing in Wednesday’s final round because Ruthkoski, the defending champion, followed a first-round 64 with a 6-under-par 66 Tuesday to forge a 14-under-par 130 two-round total and five-shot lead.
“The bigger the lead the better, that’s how I look at it,” said the 31-year-old mini-tour professional from Muskegon. “I’m going to keep playing the golf course the way I’ve been playing it. It’s nice to build a lead and keep making it bigger if you can.”
Bob Ackerman, a 61-year-old teaching professional from Commerce Township, was the closest pursuer five shots behind after he shot a 66 for 135. Scott Hebert, the six-time Michigan Open champion and 2009 TOC winner from Grand Traverse Resort and Spa had the low round of the day with a 65 to check in at 136.
Ruthkoski will be one of three local players in Wednesday’s scheduled final round.
Aya Johnson, of North Muskegon, and Reed Hrynewich, of Norton Shores, also advanced to the finals.
Johnson, a member of the University of Wisconsin women’s golf team, had a second-round 76 to finish 36 holes with a 146 total. She is a six-way tie for 22nd place in the overall standings.
Johnson, who played on a co-op team at Muskegon Catholic Central High School, had nines of 38 and 38. She had one birdie and five bogeys in the second round.
Hrynewich, a member of the University of Michigan men’s golf team, carded an even-par 72 to end the second day with a 150 total. He is in a five-way tie for 42nd place with his 150 total. Hrynewich had even-par nines of 36 and 36 Tuesday with four birdies and four bogeys.
Starting times Wednesday have Johnson teeing off at 8 a.m. on the first tee. Ruthkoski will tee off at 9:20 a.m. on the first tee in the featured group.
Hrynewich will tee off at 8:50 a.m. on the Alpine Course’s 10th tee.
The 36-hole cut fell at 151 with 52 players moving on to the final round of the $55,000 championship that brings together men, women, professionals, amateurs, seniors and juniors playing for the same title from three different tee positions. All of the players were invited to compete based on their having won a major Michigan golf title.
Hebert, who will join Ruthkoski and Ackerman in the final group, said he will attempt to make birdies early in the final round and put some pressure on the leader.
“We just want a chance to make it interesting, get a shot at it even though we can’t be sure he will give us one,” Hebert said. “I would have liked to play better the first day and be closer, but I don’t want to shake a stick at what I did today either.”
Ackerman said Ruthkoski has set the standard for the tournament.
“I tell my students when you are playing tournament golf you see what the low score of the day is and then you go back over your round and see if you could have carved off enough strokes to equal or better it,” he said. “So that’s what I did today, and will have to try and do again.”
Ruthkoski, who had seven birdies against one bogey, finished strong with birdies at Nos. 16 and 18 and a five-foot par-saving putt at No. 17. He was 5-under-par on the front nine.
“That was nice,” he said. “I’m hitting the ball good. I just want to continue to do what I’ve been doing.”
Ruthkoski recently Monday qualified for the PGA Tour event in Silvis, Ill., (John Deere Classic at TPC Deer Run) and missed the cut. He said he has learned from all of his experiences and he came to Boyne Mountain to win a second consecutive Tournament of Champions.
“I came here to win the tournament, so if I play well tomorrow and make it happen, that’s a goal accomplished,” he said.