Can Jeff Roth, 63, shoot his age at the RMC? Meet the locals playing at DGC

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
View Comments

Detroit — When Jeff Roth won the 2019 Michigan PGA Professional Championship, he got two golden tickets — one into the 2020 PGA Championship and another into the 2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic.

He played in the PGA at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, finishing 9 over and missing the cut.

But he never got to tee it up at the 2020 RMC in Detroit. Because of PGA Tour COVID-19 protocols, those exemptions were canceled in 2020. It was a huge gut-punch for Roth.

Michigan golf legend Jeff Roth will tee it up in next week's Rocket Mortgage Classic.

"First of all, I didn't get notified by anybody officially," Roth said earlier this week. "I found out through a third party, which was a little disappointing."

The Michigan PGA, led by executive director Kevin Helm, later voted to give the 2020 exemption to Roth in 2021. He will tee it up next week at Detroit Golf Club, a 63-year-old competing against a PGA Tour that seems to get younger and younger and better and better.

It'll be Roth's first non-major PGA Tour appearance since the 2006 Buick Open.

He's played sparingly on the 50-and-older Champions Tour since 2008.

"That was quite exciting," Roth said of the Michigan PGA making good on his Rocket Mortgage Classic exemption. "It's tremendously exciting for a 63-year-old man to be competing against kids that are half my age or less. It's gonna be a great challenge, it's gonna be a lot of fun, I'm looking forward to next week."

More: 'We feel great': RMC officials expecting big galleries, boatload of birdies, long run on PGA Tour

Roth, a longtime major figure in Michigan golf circles and a teaching pro at Boyne, is one of four players with Michigan ties in the Rocket Mortgage Classic field, along with Jackson's Brian Stuard, Traverse City's Ryan Brehm and Flint's Willie Mack III. Additional ones could qualify via the two-day John Shippen tournament, scheduled for Sunday and Monday at DGC, and Monday's qualifier at Oakland's Katke-Cousins course.

Roth is a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, having won more than 70 professional tournaments, including two Michigan Open titles, five Michigan PGA Professional championships and six Michigan Tournament of Champions crowns.

His first PGA Tour start was the 1983 Buick Open; he's played on the PGA Tour, in majors or regular-season events, each of of the last five decades. 

Roth, of Plymouth, won a pair of state championships back in high school, before playing collegiately at the University of Arizona. He said his game is not in the best shape right now (few club pros get the practice time necessary to continue competing at the highest levels), and hasn't played at DGC since he was a teenager.

But it's historically a birdie-binge at DGC. So, how about shooting your age?

"Now, that would be exciting," said Roth, whose son Justin will caddie for him, and who expects family and friends from Oklahoma, New Mexico and California, as well as Michigan, to be in his gallery.

"I'll be ready. I'm going to enjoy the experience, one way or another."

Here's a look at the other Michigan men set to compete in the third Rocket Mortgage Classic:

Jackson's Brian Stuard has just one top-10 finish this season on the PGA Tour.

Brian Stuard

It hasn't been the best year for the PGA Tour mainstay — he has just one top 10, three top-25s and made an 11 at the Honda Classic earlier this year. Stuard, 38, a Jackson native and Oakland alum, is outside the top 125 in the FedEx Cup rankings but is contending at this week's Travelers Championship. That could be a springboard into a big week in Detroit, where he was in position for his second career PGA Tour victory in 2019, before finishing tied for fifth.

Ryan Brehm

He's in his second stint on the PGA Tour, and was given an additional season with his card for 2020-21 because of the COVID-19 impact of 2019-20. Brehm, 35, a Traverse City resident who was a three-time Big Ten champ at Michigan State, has a long way to go to keep his card for next season, having made just six of 14 cuts this year as he competes with conditional status. Brehm missed a sixth consecutive cut at the Travelers, and he missed the cut at last year's RMC.

Willie Mack III

Mack, 32, a Flint native who's been grinding on the mini-tours for more than a decade, was set to participate in The John Shippen, hoping to earn an exemption into the field. Then RMC officials called him and gave him one of four sponsor's exemptions. This will mark his third PGA Tour start, all this year; he missed the cut at the previous two, out west in January and February. Mack has won more than 65 pro tournaments, but just now is getting opportunities on the bigger stage.

We're running a new-subscriber special. Support local journalism, and subscribe here.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

View Comments