Great Scott: Traverse City’s Alex Scott Shoots 61, Wins Playoff at Tournament of Champions

  BOYNE FALLS – Traverse City’s Alex Scott shot the best round of his life Wednesday tying the course and tournament record with an 11-under 61, and then had to win a sudden-death playoff with Mackenzie Tour PGA-Canada professional Sam Weatherhead of Grand Rapids.

  The Grand Valley State University golfer did that too – with a birdie on the second playoff hole at the Alpine course – and became the first amateur to win in 27 years of the Tournament of Champions at Boyne Mountain Resort.

  “Oh yeah, I did shock myself,” he said after making the eight-foot birdie putt to win the playoff on hole No. 16.  “My phone is blowing up in my pocket right now. I shocked myself, so it’s not surprising I shocked a few others.”

  Scott’s 61 left him at 15-under 201 for the tournament, and Weatherhead dropped a 30-foot birdie putt at No. 18 to shoot 68 for 201 and force the playoff.

  Both played to par on the first playoff hole (par 5 No. 18) with Weatherhead just missing an eight-foot birdie attempt. At the par 4 No. 16, Weatherhead missed a 10-foot birdie putt, and then Scott made his 8-footer to win.

  “I’ve been in a lot of playoffs now, and the same thing happens every time,” said Weatherhead, a former Michigan State golfer. “Whoever fails to put the nail in the coffin first is usually the one who ends up coming in second. Once I had a good look at birdie on the first playoff hole and missed it, I knew it was going to be harder work, and Alex didn’t miss when he got the good look for birdie (on the second playoff hole).”

  Weatherhead, headed to Web.com qualifying in the fall, netted the first-place check of $8,000 as the low pro in the championship. Scott took home the trophy and a $750 gift certificate, the most allowed for amateurs under the rules of golf.

  Scott, who started the final round on the Alpine course eight shots off the lead of Eric Lilleboe of Okemos, birdied the first two holes, had a tap-in eagle that was almost a double-eagle on No. 5 and shot 6-under 30 on the front nine. He wasn’t finished. He followed it up with another eagle-3 on the par 5 No. 12 hole with a 60-foot putt to highlight a 31 on the back nine.

  “I knew a low score was coming,” said Scott, who will be a senior at Grand Valley this fall and is playing in the upcoming U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach. “I’ve been talking with my dad and we knew it was coming,” he said. “I needed to shot a low score in a tournament, one of those where you know early you are going low and everything keeps going in. I didn’t expect 61. I’ve never done that before, but once I got it going I didn’t back up, I didn’t back down. It took some luck. There was luck in both eagles, but I kept grabbing driver and saying let’s go make birdie.”

  Lilleboe, a 30-year-old mini-tour pro, shot 70 to close at 214, just missing a final eagle putt at No. 18 in regulation play that would have put him in the playoff, too.

  Michigan Open champion Jake Kneen of White Lake, the recent Oakland University graduate who with Scott is making this the year of the amateurs in Michigan golf, shot 67 for 206 and fourth place, and Meadowbrook Country Club assistant Travis Dodson shot 69 for 208 and fifth.

  Four pros – defending champion Mike Nagy of Manistique, Willie Mack III of Grand Blanc, Randy Hutchison of Traverse City and first-round leader Chris Mory of Haslett – tied at 209. Boyne Golf teaching professional Jeff Roth, a five-time Tournament of Champions winner and one of 16 Michigan Golf Hall of Fame members in the field, shot 68 for 210, and two-time Tournament of Champions winner Andy Ruthkoski of Muskegon shot 69 for 210 to round out the top 10.

  It was Ruthkoski, who won the TOC in 2013 and ’14, who set the record of 61 on the Alpine during the first round in 2015.

  Scott, a Golf Association of Michigan Champion last summer and the GLIAC Golfer of the Year during school, said it was hard to put into words how he felt winning the unique championship that brings together juniors, seniors, professionals and amateurs of both sexes all playing for one title from different tee positions. All the golfers invited have won selected significant Michigan golf championships, both amateur and professional.

  “It’s amazing,” he said. “There are so many great players in the field. It wasn’t realistic to think I would shoot 61 today. The odds say I couldn’t do because I never have done it before. My lowest before this was a 64 in qualifying at college. But I did it. It’s a good feeling.”

  He credited his golf instructor Scott Hebert, who as a Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member and former Tournament of Champions winner was also in the tournament, his family and Grand Valley teammates and coaches afterward. He also said Lilleboe inspired him with comments after he shot 73 and Lilleboe shot 66 to open the tournament.

  “Eric was a (NCAA) Division II golfer like me – he played at Ferris State,” he said. “He told me I was probably the best player in Division II and I should realize it, step up and play like it. It motivated me, and I had this great day. It’s amazing.”

  The 23-year-old Weatherhead, who started the day one shot off the lead and seven ahead of Scott, said the first-place money will help as he continues to pursue his dream of playing on the PGA Tour. The former Michigan Amateur champion said he was not hanging his head as he departed.

  “I still wanted that trophy, the feeling of winning outweighs the nice check, but the check eases the pain for sure,” he said and laughed. “I will take what I learned from this and know that I’m playing good enough to beat a lot of great golfers besides Alex’s 61. Hopefully that doesn’t happen to me every time I’m in the hunt.”

For final results click HERE

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