DECATUR, Alabama (July 4, 2010) -- A medium-sized gallery gathered around the 18th green at Burningtree Country Club and watched anxiously as Missouri’s Jace Long studied a 35-foot putt to win the Spirit of America golf tournament Sunday.
But no one watched more attentively than Brett Patterson. He and Long were tied at 4-under par for the tournament heading into the 72nd hole.
“It’s hard to root against somebody, and I certainly wasn’t rooting against him to miss,” Patterson said.
“I knew it was out of my hands at that point, and, if he made a birdie, so be it. But if he made par, I was ready to play in a playoff.”
Long made his par, and Patterson proved ready for the playoff. The 18-year-old from McMinnville, Tenn., won the playoff on the second hole and finished with a 1-under par 70. Long, who was in a three-way tie for the lead heading into the final round, carded a 72.
Both parred the first playoff hole, and after Patterson piped his tee shot down the center of the fairway on the par-4 No. 2 hole, Long pushed his tee shot to the right and out of bounds.
He hit a provisional and landed the next shot, his fourth, on the green. He two-putted for double bogey.
Patterson hit his approach to the left of the green but got up and down for par, the win and an exemption on a HootersTour event.
“Coming into this tournament, I knew I was the hardest worker, hands down out of anybody in this field. My dad always told me that if I work harder than anybody that I will beat 95 percent of the people I compete against,” said Patterson, who will continue his career collegiately at Middle Tennessee State.
“Fortunately this week, everything was able to come together, and I pulled out the victory.”
Long had several chances to seal the win on the back nine, but he missed a pair of birdie putts from within five feet on Nos. 16 and 17.
“I had so many opportunities on the greens that I let go,” he said. “I just didn’t feel as good as I did the first two days over the putts.”
Patterson began the day tied for fourth at two shots back, but birdies at Nos. 1 and 5 put him into contention.
“Before the start of the day, I had a number in mind, and that was a 67. I had all the opportunities to shoot that number, but I just didn’t make the putts,” he said. “Fortunately, the guys in the final group didn’t make many putts, either.”
Long, who finished 10th in last year’s event, promised he will return next year for another shot at a championship.
“I have something to build on for next year. This deflates me a little bit, but I’m still playing well,” he said. “I go to North Carolina next week for the U.S. Publinks. I’ll shake this one off in a few hours, and I’ll be fine. I just have to keep the confidence for next week.”
Kentucky’s Chase Parker and Robbie Van Riper of West Florida were tied with Long at 5 under heading into the final round. Van Riper shot a 1-over 73, and Parker followed with a 74 to finish third and fourth, respectively.
Andrew Noto of Louisiana-Lafayette finished fifth after a final-round 71.
Michael Johnson was the low junior division scorer following Saturday’s third round, but, since he and Blaine Woodruff both made the cut, tournament officials decided to extend the championship until Sunday. Johnson and Woodruff finished tied at 7 over, and Johnson parred the first hole of a playoff to seal the junior championship.
Winner: Brett Patterson, of McMinnville, Tenn., defeated Missouri’s Jace Long on the second hole of a playoff. Both were at 4 under after 72 holes, but Patterson made par on the second hole while Long double-bogeyed. Patterson shot a 1-under 70.
Local faces: Stewart Whitt of Athens finished tied for 14th after a final-round 71. Burningtree Country Club president Bryan Askew was 32nd after a 76, and Decatur’s Bill Nabors (78) followed in 33rd place. Burningtree member Ned Martin finished tied for 40th after an 81.
Going low: Only two golfers shot below par Sunday. Patterson and Akron’s Steve Bednar, who tied for 14th, carded matching 1-under 70s.