Brittain sizzles to five-shot lead in Ridgefields Invitational

Pat Kenney • Jul 24, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Tazewell’s Buck Brittain rode a sizzling putter to an 8-under-par 64 on Friday in the opening round of the 59th Ridgefields Men’s Invitational.

Nine birdies and a lone bogey gave Brittain a five-shot lead over Kingsport’s Bill Hardin, who posted a solid 69.

Todd Ricker and Tyler Lane were tied for third after 70s while defending champion Alex Ratliff, Mike Poe and Carlson Cox were next at 71.

Brittain finished second in the tournament in both 2003 and ’05. Valuable lessons were learned on both occasions, he said.

“On this golf course you’ve got to get low and keep on making birdies,’’ Brittain noted.

Struggling with his putting before coming to Ridgefields, Brittain got off to a fast start with a 20-foot birdie on the first hole, followed by a 25-footer on the second.

“Some days the ball does what it’s supposed to do,’’ Brittain added. “When those first two putts went in, I was off to the races. I could just see the line out there.’’

He added two more birdies on the front and five on the back.

So, what’s Brittain’s plan for the weekend?

“I’ve got to keep making birdies,” he said. “If I can get it low enough, nobody can catch me.’’

Hardin, a former Ridgefields member, now plays out of Glenrochie Country Club in Abingdon. His experience on the Donald Ross layout at RCC was invaluable during the first round.

“I love this course,’’ Hardin said. “It’s still like my home course.’’

Like Brittain, Hardin had a good day with his putter. He was also helped by solid iron play.

“You have to keep everything in play out there,’’ Hardin noted. “You just don’t want to be in the rough. It is really nasty.’’

Ricker, of Greeneville, played solid but didn’t make many putts in his 2-under round.

“I just couldn’t seem to get the ball in the hole,’’ he said. “There are good scores out there to be had, but you have to be rolling your ball well.’’

Cox, the Greater Kingsport Amateur champion, entered the tournament with a plan to be aggressive on the par 5s and conservative on the par 4s. Finding himself 2 over after four holes changed his strategy in a hurry.

“I had to start being aggressive on every hole,’’ said Cox, who will be a sophomore at Memphis this fall. “That’s the plan for the rest of the tournament, just be aggressive.’’

Knoxville’s Rock Saraceni led the senior flight after an opening round of even-par 72.

Tied for second at 73 were defending senior champ Tony Green, Brady Richards and Pat Kenney.

Les Ward was alone in fifth at 74.

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