Amateur holds on for Michigan Open victory

Tom Werkmeister during the final round of his win in the 2013 Michigan Open.

Tom Werkmeister during the final round of his win in the 2013 Michigan Open.

WASHINGTON, Mich. – Tom Werkmeister, a 45-year-old internet salesman from Kentwood, is just the fifth amateur to win the Michigan Open Championship in the 96-year history of the tournament, and the first since 1975.

“It’s my biggest moment,” he said after a closing even-par round of 72 Thursday at The Orchards Golf Club left him at 13-under-par 275, two shots ahead of defending champion Barrett Kelpin, a 23-year-old mini-tour professional from Kalamazoo.

“At this point nothing has been better than this,” said Werkmeister, who was the 2009 Michigan Amateur champion and has won every significant amateur title in the state in his career.

“Yes, the Michigan Amateur (in 2009) is 1A probably, but to win this, in this type of field with a bunch of mini-tour players out there, that makes me feel pretty good. It is definitely the highlight.”

Kelpin, who won the 2012 Michigan Open by eight shots with a record-tying 23-under-par total, shot 73 to close for an 11-under-par 277. He suffered bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17 by missing short three-foot par putts, and admitted his disappointment.

“It was very disappointing that I couldn’t make those putts and keep the pressure on Tom and stay in it coming in,” Kelpin said. “Tom played great. He played better than me today. He was so steady. Hat’s off to him.”

With Werkmeister, a dedicated amateur headed to next week’s Michigan Amateur in Muskegon with the James D. Standish Jr. Trophy for his victory, Kelpin received the $8,000 first-place money from the $50,000 purse.

Andy Ruthkoski, a mini-tour player from Muskegon, and Chris Mory, a club pro from Haslett, each shot final-round 69's to tie for third at 278. They are both former Michigan State golfers, and each earned $4,000.

Werkmeister said he drew added inspiration for the week from Julie Breuker, the wife of his close friend John, who last week was diagnosed with stage-four brain cancer.

“For me to be out here stressing over a 4-footer for par really puts things in perspective,” he said. “It was horrifying news. To offer just a little distraction for him and his family, for me to offer that distraction, was kind of cool.”

Werkmeister said he kept his cool through the wind-whipped round by leaning on his years of experience in competitive golf.

“I stayed with my plan, and I never really thought I had it won until really the last hole,” he said. “I wasn’t really nervous on the last hole. I hit it in the fairway, and even though it was a tough shot with the wind to the green over water, I found my spot and hit it there. I didn’t play great, but I played steady, stayed in the lead and feel just great about it.”

Kevin Helm, the executive director of the Michigan PGA, announced the Open will move to Prestwick Village Golf Club in Hartland in 2014. He also announced a new primary sponsor – LaFontaine Automotive Group. The tournament was played three years at The Orchards with DTE Energy as the presenting sponsor.

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