FLINT FLASHBACK: Boyne’s Jeff Roth Leads 98th Michigan PGA Professional Championship

FLINT – Jeff Roth’s putter is behaving like it did when he was head golf professional at Flint Golf Club through the 1990s, and the Boyne Golf Academy instructor is leading the Michigan PGA Professional Championship like he often did in the 1990s, too.

 The 61-year-old Roth shot a 7-under 65 with six birdies on the front nine at Flint Golf Club Tuesday for a 13-under 131 total, and he will have a two-shot lead starting Wednesday’s final round in the 98th edition of the championship for club and teaching professionals in the Michigan Section of the PGA.

 It was a good day for seniors. Ron Beurmann, 59 and the head professional at Country Club of Jackson, blistered the back nine with a 7-under 29 in shooting his career-best competitive round of 63 to check in at 11-under 133 and put two Michigan Golf Hall of Fame members in the final group with Kyle Martin, a 35-year-old professional at the Lochmoor Club in Grosse Pointe Woods, who was third following a 66 for 134.

  Travis Dodson, a professional at Meadowbrook Country Club in Northville, shot 67 and was next at 8-under 136 along with Franklin Hills Country Club professional Josh Fryer, who shot 66.

  Eight-time Michigan PGA Professional champion and another Hall of Fame member, Scott Hebert of Traverse City Golf & Country Club, was at 137 with teaching professional Frank McAuliffe of Meadowbrook after each of them shot 69.

  Adam Schumacher of Point O’Woods Golf & Country Club in Benton Harbor shot 69 and was at 6-under 138, seven shots off the lead, and there was a big crowd at 139, including defending champion Lee Houtteman of Cedar, who shot 70, first-round leader Brent Goulding of Prestwick Village Golf Club in Highland, who shot 74, 2017 champion John Seltzer of Grand Rapids, who shot 69, Ben Cook of Yankee Springs Golf Course in Wayland, who shot 69, and Steve Vecillio of Birmingham Country Club, who shot 68.

 The 36-hole cut fell at 4-over 148 with 63 players moving on to the final round in the $55,000 championship. The final threesome of leaders – Roth, Beurmann and Martin – will tee off at 11:20 a.m. Wednesday.

  Roth is a four-time past champion of the section championship. He won in 1998, ’99, 2001 and 2003, and he has a history of being hard to catch, especially when he is putting well.

   “I’m seeing putts, and the putts are going where I’m looking,” he said. “Yeah, you can misread or hit a bad putt, but it is nice to have some confidence on the greens. It is kind of a quiet confidence. There’s just something about that putter. It’s just different.”

  Roth, who last month won a record sixth Tournament of Champions at Boyne Mountain Resort, is working with his back-up putter.

  “I was befuddled with how poorly I’ve putted the last five to eight years, and happy with how much better my ball-striking has become,” he said. “My ball-striking has been carrying my putting. When I putt like I have the last couple of days through, these are the scores I can make.”

  Roth, who grew up in Flushing in the Flint area and now lives in New Mexico and works for Boyne in the summer, had been using a different Odyssey brand putter since 2008 when he was playing with partial status on the PGA Tour Champions. He said putting has been the difference in helping him compete with the top players in the state once again.

  “I’m playing tee to green like I normally have been,” he said. “It was a matter of the putting catching up with the long game and it has been happening here lately, so it’s nice. It’s really nice.”

  Roth wasn’t the only one with a nice warm putter on a windless muggy day.

  Beurmann, who just two weeks ago won his second Michigan Senior PGA Professional Championship, which included Roth in the field, said he just made his putts.

  “I hit the ball close to the hole on the last bunch of holes, and I had 15 feet for eagle on 16,” he said. “When you have 15-feet for eagle and you know you are going to make birdie – it frees you up.”

  Beurmann finished up the final four holes with a birdie on 15, the eagle on 16 after driving the short par 4’s green, a birdie on the par 3 17th and a birdie on the par 5 18th.

  “That’s got to be my best score in competition by far,” he said. “It was just one of those rounds. I made a 50-footer on 10. I just had a day.”

  Beurmann, who won the 2010 Michigan PGA Professional Championship a month after his 50th birthday, has scored most of his Michigan wins since that hallmark birthday and win, including two Senior PGA Professional titles.

  “The 50s have been good for me,” he said. “I’m smarter and I’m in decent shape. My back is bad, but I’m in decent shape and I’m always in play. On this course you and keep it in play and when you putt good, you score.”

 Martin, a long-hitter in comparison to Roth and Beurmann, was happy with his putter as well.

  “I’ve been hitting it solid but my putter has just not made anything,” he said. “The putting has actually been solid but just haven’t gone in until today. They finally went in. I didn’t get in a lot of trouble and my putter did really well.”

  Martin, a Grand Rapids native, will be in the final pairing of the PGA for the third time.

  “It feels great,” he said. “It’s always nice to be in the last group because then you know where you stand.”

  Martin started his round with a bogey but made an eagle-2 on the short par 4 No. 16 hole. He drove to a chipping area just off the green and used his putter to roll the ball 25 feet into the hole.

Martin, who has one won Michigan major (2015 Michigan PGA Match Play) while Roth is tied for the most in Michigan history at 16 with Hebert, said there is a lot of things to play for in the final round  

  “Going to nationals is something to experience for sure,” he said. “And now the winner gets the spot in the (PGA Tour’s Detroit Golf Club stop) the Rocket Mortgage Classic. That’s big, too.”

  The championship is one of essentially two tournaments in one. The low nine golfers at the end of the tournament – along with Roth, Hebert and Cook who are exempt from qualification by the PGA of America based on past performances  – will earn spots in the 2020 PGA Professional National Championship, April 26-29 at Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa in Austin, Texas. The low 20 finishers from that national championship move on to play with the best players in the world at next year’s PGA Championship May 14-17 at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, Calif.

  Roth said he will look at the things that come with victory in the $55,000 championship later. He wants to show up first and continue putting well.

  “I still have to go do it,” he said. “The great thing is that this is a golf course I can compete on with anybody. The length off the tee that Kyle Martin or Ben Cook have, or any of these guys, is not that much of an advantage on this course. This makes it more an even playing field.”

  Martin said it’s going to take more birdies and great putting.

  “It is scorable in my opinion,” he said of the course. “If I keep doing what I’ve been doing, then I should be right there.”

  Beurmann said it will be fun to play in the last group, especially because he wasn’t counting on it as a senior golfer.

  “I’ll show up and do the best I can,” he said. “Roth is still doing it. We’ll see how it goes.”

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