WASHINGTON, Mich. – The rain was relentless, but so was Tom Werkmeister in the first round of the 2013 Michigan Open Championship presented by DTE Energy.
Werkmeister, a 45-year-old amateur and internet salesman from Kentwood, hit each of the 18 greens at The Orchards Golf Club in regulation while shooting a 6-under-par 66 to take a three-shot lead in the 96th version of the state championship.
“I like playing in this crappy weather,” said the 2009 Michigan Amateur champion who has won every significant amateur event in the state.
“I really enjoy it. I embrace it or something. I don’t know. It’s weird. You have to have the right attitude. It didn’t bother me at all when got here and saw this weather. In fact Scott Hebert said, ‘Hello,’ and said, ‘You love this kind of weather don’t you?’ This was on the practice tee. I said, ‘I sure do.’ ”
Hebert, a six-time Michigan Open champion from Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, was among the group of five golfers tied for second at 3-under-par 69.
It was a strong group with four professionals, including defending champion Barrett Kelpin of Kalamazoo, 2007 Michigan Open champion Andy Ruthkoski of Muskegon, two-time Michigan Assistant Professional winner Josh Fryer of Franklin Hills Country Club and highly-regarded 18-year-old amateur Henry Do of Ypsilanti, who recently picked North Carolina over Stanford and Northwestern to continue his golf career.
Kelpin, who had a record-setting performance in winning last year’s championship at The Orchards with a 23-under-par total, said he doesn’t mind the rain either.
“I think a lot of players don’t like it, so if you can kind of embrace it, then it can work to your advantage,” he said. “I played well. I wanted to wipe the slate clean from last year and start fresh. I feel pretty good about it.”
Of the starting field of 156 golfers, 19 carded opening rounds under par. Five golfers were four shots off the lead at 70, including 2012 Michigan Amateur champion Drew Preston of Grand Rapids and former University of Michigan golfer and mini-tour pro Matt Thompson of Battle Creek.
Werkmeister, who in May won his seventh West Michigan Amateur title, shot 4 under on the back nine and called it stress free. He is seeking to become the first amateur winner of the Michigan Open since 1975 (Bob Ackerman), and has been in the final group on the final day twice before in the Open.
“Three rounds to go, so I have a good start,” he said. “I made some putts in the 20-foot range and I had a lot of tap-in putts. “I got a putting tip (from Grand Rapids teaching professional Mike Boogaard) last week, and I started rolling the ball really well.”
The field of 156 plays a second round Tuesday with a cut to the low 70 scores and ties. For more information, visit www.michiganpgagolf.com; the 72-hole tournament continues through Thursday.