BOYNE FALLS – J.R. Roth moved to New Mexico a few years ago and plays when he gets the chance on the Champions Tour.
That has narrowed his chances for making more Michigan major championship golf history to one shot each year, but the 52-year-old former Flint and Detroit area club professional made good on it by shooting a closing 4-under-par 68 to win the Tournament of Championships for the fifth time at Boyne Mountain Resort Wednesday.
Including two wins in the now-defunct Yamaha Classic , a six-year event (1986-91) then considered a Michigan major, Roth counts 15 Michigan majors (five Tournament of Champions titles, four Michigan PGA titles, two Michigan Open titles, two Match Play titles and two Yamaha titles) on his resume. That ties him for the all-time lead in majors with Al Watrous, who built his legend with nine Michigan PGA titles and six Michigan Open titles.
“One of the reasons I keep coming back to the tournament is to try and get that record, and now I guess I’ll come back and try to beat that number,” said Roth, who is already a Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member like Watrous . “I think about that number all year long.”
Roth’s closing number of 68 on the Alpine course put him at 10-under-par 206, three shots better than Marty Jeppesen, a mini-tour player from Ypsilanti who closed with a 71 for 209. Tim Matthews, who like Jeppesen was tied with Roth for the lead starting the final round, shot a closing 72 for 210 and tied for third place with low amateur honoree Wes Gates, a Bowling Green State University golfer from Novi who shot 71 to close at 210. David Nolan, a teaching pro at Van Dyke Sports Center in Warren, shot 72 for 211 and fifth place.
Roth finally pulled away in the final round with birdies on Nos. 14 and 16, just after Matthews had trouble with his driver and Jeppesen missed some key putts.
“I got a little frustrated on 6, 7, 8 and 9, kind of lost my swing a little bit, and couldn’t get the ball to go in the hole,” Roth said. “When I made the turn, I knew I needed to make three or four birdies. I was able to do that in the end, Tim and Marty had some bogeys and I was able to walk it down 17 and 18 and enjoy it a little bit.”
Matthews said three driver swings cost him, which are the kind of mistakes that can’t be made when playing against Roth.
“He hits it down the middle, knocks it on the green and makes putts, and well, wins,” Matthews said. “He’s a great, great player and that’s why he is making history.”
Roth won $10,000 of the $55,000 purse, received a crystal trophy and will have his name put on the Walter Burkemo Trophy for the fifth time. He also was honored with a green-jacket ceremony by defending champion Lee Houtteman.
This story and photo were taken from a press release by Greg Johnson.