WASHINGTON, Mich. – Defending champion Barrett Kelpin charged, and veteran amateur Tom Werkmeister stayed steady and on top through three rounds of the Michigan Open Championship presented by DTE Energy.
Werkmeister, a Kentwood resident, shot a 5-under-par 67 for a leading 13-under-par 203, while Kelpin, a Kalamazoo resident, shot 66 to close within one Wednesday at The Orchards Golf Club.
Werkmeister is seeking history. He could be the first amateur winner since 1975 (Bob Ackerman) in the Open.
“It would mean everything to me to win the Michigan Open,” the 45-year-old Werkmeister, an internet salesman, said.
Kelpin, 23, was making his professional debut when he won a year ago, and he said he is looking forward to playing with Werkmeister for the first time in an event.
“Everybody knows about Tom Werkmeister if you’re from Michigan,” he said. “I just finally met him out (in the clubhouse). He introduced himself. He’s a great player. I’ve heard great things about his game. It should be fun.”
Muskegon’s Andy Ruthkoski, the 2007 Michigan Open champion and a co-leader after two rounds with Werkmeister, shot 73 for a 209 total, six shots off the lead. He was tied through three rounds with Christopher Mory, a mini-tour player and former Michigan State golfer from Haslett who shot 68.
Battle Creek’s Matt Thompson, a mini-tour player and former University of Michigan golfer, shot 70 and was at 210 along with Matt Pesta, a club professional from Forest Lake Country Club, who shot 67.
Eric Wohlfield of Royal Oak, an unattached club professional, shot 74 for 211. Also at 211 was Henry Do, the 71-shooting 18-year-old from Ypsilanti.
Werkmeister, who has shared or held the lead all three rounds, said he lost his swing for a stretch in the middle of the back nine, but his putter came through with a 15-foot par-saving putt on No. 12, and birdie putts at Nos. 14 and 18 of about the same length.
“The putter feels pretty good,” he said. “I had several par-save putts that were as good as the birdies.”
The 2009 Michigan Amateur champion, Werkmeister has won each of the state’s major amateur titles. He has been in the final round’s final group twice before in the Open without winning.
“I was pretty nervous back then, but I don’t think I will be this time,” he said. “I’ve been there. I’m looking forward to it. It should be fun. I hope it is fun. I know a lot of people will be pulling for me and texting me.”
Kelpin shot 33 on each side with seven birdies against one bogey in his round. He holed out a shot from a greenside bunker on No. 18 to add an exclamation point to his rally.
“I didn’t want to loom three or four shots back,” he said. “I wanted to make a move and I played pretty solid all day, and managed to put a good round together and move up where I wanted to be.”
Kelpin, who ran away to an eight-shot win last year, said his swing has progressively felt better during the week and he is a much more complete player a year removed from his pro debut.
“Last year was so much different,” said the former University of Iowa golfer. “I think there is a little less pressure this year – chasing. Tomorrow I think I will feel a little loose and just go get it, rather than having the pressure of having the lead. Either way I know I’m going to have to play a great round.”