Buck Brittain, the 2017 Senior Open of Virginia champion
WILLIAMSBURG, VA (September 8, 2017) — You’d be hard pressed to figure out how well Buck Brittain is playing by reading his emotions on the course. The Tazewell resident tends to keep a straight face for the most part. Bogeys are met with the occasional grumble. Birdies might generate a shrug and a slight smile.
That steady demeanor served Brittain well down the stretch Friday at the 12th Senior Open of Virginia, played at Two Rivers Country Club. Brittain, who entered the second and final round tied for the lead, made all of his birdies by the 10th hole, then hung on for dear life on the back nine to record a one-stroke victory over professional Rick Schuller and claim the Harry W. Easterly Trophy.
Brittain, who has long been near the top of leaderboards in VSGA events and reached the championship match of the 2012 VSGA Amateur, won his first title in a VSGA sanctioned championship in his first year of eligibility as a senior.
“I’ve played in a lot of VSGA events and won some invitationals, but never a VSGA event,” Brittain said. “This feels great. I thought I could get there, but I just never had.”
Brittain (The Virginian GC) posted a two-day aggregate 138, returning 69 in each of the championship’s two rounds to finish a stroke clear of the hard-charging Schuller, a past champion whose Friday 68 was the best round of the tournament.
Heading to the 18th tee, Brittain knew where he stood with his playing partners. He had gotten two strokes clear of first-round co-leader David Schmidt (Wytheville GC) and three shots clear of Rich Buckner (Robert Trent Jones GC). Once Brittain was safely in the fairway on 18, he pulled out his phone to check what had happened ahead of him.
Knowing he had a one-stroke lead helped shape his strategy.
“I’m in play, I had a wedge in my hand, which is a club I like,” Brittain said. “I’m thinking, ‘You don’t have to do anything fancy. Just get it on the green and in position where you can two putt.’”
Brittain’s approach finished below the hole, about 15 feet away. He lagged it to tap-in range and finished his par to clinch the victory.
“I’m sitting there over the first putt thinking I really want to make this, but in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, just get it close,” Brittain said. “You can’t get it close enough.”
Though Schuller, who works at Stonehenge G&CC in Richmond, didn’t win, he finished with five birdies and one bogey. Most importantly, he made a birdie on 18. Closing out rounds in pressure situations has been an issue of late for Schuller, so he took that as a major positive.
“I’ve had some stumbles recently, so I needed that for my psyche,” Schuller said. “What comes to mind is the Senior PGA Championship, where I made triple (bogey on 18). I was tied for low club pro, and you were going to get a $25,000 kitchen makeover from KitchenAid, and you stand on the green and receive the bowl, which I had done in the regular PGA before. But that happened. I’ve had a couple of bad tastes here recently, so it was nice finishing with a birdie.”
Schmidt, Buckner and Forest professional Dick Mast tied for third at 140. Buckner, the reigning VSGA Senior Amateur champion, was within a shot of Brittain down the stretch, but bogeys on 16 and 17 cost him a chance at the title.
Professionals Chip Sullivan and Ricky Touma tied for sixth at 141. Touma, who won the 2016 Senior Open of Virginia, shot a bogey-free 70 but didn’t make enough birdies to catch Brittain. Sullivan led the field with 11 birdies over the two days, but five bogeys and a triple held him back.
Brittain, a general district court judge, will return to the Williamsburg area next week for the VSGA Mid-Amateur at Williamsburg Club, armed with renewed confidence. Though he’s been selected for a number of Captain’s Putter and Virginia-West Virginia matches teams, a championship had eluded him. Until this week.
“I haven’t played real well this year, and I’ve putted poorly all year,” Brittain said. “I finally played well and made some putts. I didn’t putt great, but I didn’t putt bad. I made the shots I wanted to make. I feel like if I can do it this week, I can do it next week.”View results for Senior Open of Virginia