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Tournament of champions -- July 17-19 -- Boyne Mountain
Roth and his new puttter, ready to defend T of C victory

by Kelly Hill

Flint Golf Club pro Jeff Roth has a reputation for being one of the best putters in the Michigan Section, so when he claims to be making more putts than ever and is having more fun doing it, it could mean a long summer for the those trying to catch the 1999 Player of the Year.

Roth, 42, who won last year's Tournament of Champions at Boyne Mountain, by three strokes over '99 Michigan Open champion Scott Hebert and six strokes over amateur Randy Lewis, spent last winter experimenting with the SeeMore putter, the club with an optical alignment feature that Payne Stewart used in winning his U.S. Open championship.

"I have made more putts than before, but the thing that I have really noticed about this putter is that my misses are better," said Roth, who also noted that he played more golf this spring than in recent years. "I have struggled with my alignment the last few years and my tee-to-green game has carried me the last four or five years. I know people think I'm a good putter, but nobody hits the greens that I do. My putting stigma goes back so far, all the way back to my days as a junior. To win the tournaments that I've won though, you've got to hit greens."

The 1987, '96, '98 and '99 Player of the Year and the 1993 National Club Pro champion, Roth won last year's Tournament of Champions, Michigan PGA Championship and the state's Pro-Am and Pro-Pro championships. He also finished 33rd in the Buick Open.

"I changed a lot of things in my game in 1991 because I got to the point where I felt that given the mechanics of my game, I had maxed out what I was capable of. I also started to work on the mental aspects of the game and better conditioning," Roth said. "When I won the National Club Pro that put me over the top in terms of confidence. I knew I could get better."

Roth's new putter also has added enjoyment to his game. "This putter has made it fun for me to putt again," Roth added. "It is enjoyable putting again. I haven't had fun putting for a long time. I feel like a kid again when I'm putting. I have been making a lot of putts and it has been fun. I am confident doing it and that confidence comes from having fun."

Roth won last year's Tournament of Champions with a 69-67-67-203. Hebert shot 69-70-67-206 and Lewis shot 69-68-72-209 on the Alpine and Monument courses at Boyne Mountain. "I enjoy playing at Boyne," Roth said. "The Alpine is an outstanding golf course and the Monument is outstanding too, except for a couple of holes that you need to get around without hurting yourself. No. 1 and 8 and 10 and 11 can be tough holes, but starting with 12, 12 through 18 at the Monument is an outstanding stretch of golf holes. I have a lot of confidence playing those golf holes."

Roth also finished second to Hebert in last year's Michigan Open. Roth has now finished among the top six at the Open in each of the last seven years.

"Last summer was a great year for me," Roth said. "Now, hopefully, when I'm 48 or 49 I'll be able to decide if I want to play senior golf or not. If I am in the same frame of mind that I'm in now and my conditioning is as good, I think that is something I would like to try."

This year's Tournament of Champions is scheduled for July 17-19 at Boyne Mountain. The tournament features professional, amateurs, seniors and juniors who have won a variety of events within the section.

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