Buck Brittain (VSGA photo)
By Chris Lang
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (September 7, 2018) — Buck Brittain’s temperament on the golf course is fairly steady. He doesn’t get too high after making birdie. He doesn’t grouse and grumble after making bogey.
But there are exceptions, like when he makes a 48-foot birdie putt that swings the momentum of the final round of a championship.
Friday at Two Rivers Country Club, Brittain came to the 17th hole trailing Rick Schuller by a stroke. He left up by one, a product of a Schuller bogey and the Brittain bomb that elicited a yell and a huge fist pump.
Brittain made par on 18 to hold on for a one-stroke victory at the 13th Senior Open of Virginia, finishing clear of Schuller and fellow amateur Roger Newsom. Brittain, who posted 67-69—138, became the first player to win back-to-back championships in the event’s history.
“You play VSGA golf, you know all of the guys … and to do one thing in the VSGA that Keith (Decker) hasn’t done, that’s cool,” Brittain said with a laugh. “I’m at least one up on him on something. I can’t get him on anything else.”
Brittain, a 51-year-old Tazewell resident and member at The Virginian, scrapped his way back from two shots down on the back nine, taking advantage of the longer hitting Schuller’s inability to score on Two Rivers’ par 5s. Brittain and Newsom (Elizabeth Manor G&CC) each made birdie on the par-5 16th to pull within a shot of Schuller.
Both Brittain and Newsom found the green with their tee shots on the par-3 17th, which runs hard along the James River. Schuller, a professional from Chester who works at Richmond’s Stonehenge Golf & Country Club, said he was in between clubs and chose the longer one, and he lost his ball left into a deep greenside bunker, opening the door for the amateurs.
Schuller’s bunker shot had a chance to go in the hole, but it slipped left and caught a downslope, settling 20 feet past the hole. Brittain was next to hit.
“I thought it broke both ways,” Brittain said. “It was uphill. I can’t say I was trying to make it. I just wanted to put a good roll on it and get it on line.”
But as it sped toward the hole, Brittain realized it had a chance to drop. When it did, knowing the importance of the birdie, he reacted accordingly.
“I got caught up in the moment,” Brittain said. “I’m normally very even keel. I don’t really get high or low. But, yeah, it was sort of exciting, and it surprised me.”
Brittain took a one-shot lead to the par-4 18th. All three players hit the green in regulation, with Newsom having the closest shot at tying Brittain for the lead. After Schuller missed his lengthy birdie putt, Brittain was next to hit. His 10 footer failed to drop, leaving Newsom a strong chance to tie.
But his putt broke right and fell away from the hole, sealing Brittain’s second straight Senior Open victory.
“Roger putted well all day,” Brittain said. “I expected Roger to make it.”
Schuller looked to be in great shape after hitting the flagstick and nearly acing the par-3 13th hole. He settled for a tap-in birdie to go to 4 under for the day. With two par 5s beckoning in the next three holes, Schuller had an opportunity to pull away. But he couldn’t capitalize. He played the final five holes at 1 over par.
“Going back to the par 5s, I played them even par,” Schuller said. “With my length, that’s not good. I had 6 iron in twice and made par on both of them. Unfortunate pars. Then to drive the green on No. 8, just over the green, and not to convert … I felt like those five holes especially, I left some out there.”
Schuller and Newsom both shot 68-69—137 to tie for second place, with Schuller taking home low professional honors for the second straight year. Two Rivers member Dave Pulk battled his putter all day, shot 70, and finished fourth, three shots back of Brittain.
Professional Tim Lewis posted the round of the day, returning 6-under 66 for a two-day 140 to move into a tie for fifth with professional Brendan McGrath and amateur David Jordan (Willow Oaks CC).
Past champion Ricky Touma shot 68 Friday and finished eighth at 142. Wytheville amateur David Schmidt (Wytheville GC) returned 72 in the second round and finished ninth at 143. Three tied for 10th at 144: Amateurs Andy Heye (Robert Trent Jones GC), David Partridge (Hermitage CC) and Robert Friend (The Brookwoods GC).
View results for Senior Open of Virginia