Tazewell golfer gives up most of lead before capturing Ridgefields Men's Invitational

George Thwaites • Jul 26, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Carrying a seven-stroke lead into Sunday’s final round of the 59th Ridgefields Men’s Invitational, the championship was Buck Brittain’s to lose.

He held on more loosely than he intended, but Brittain certainly did not let go.

The Tazewell attorney fired a 2- over-par 74 to go with the 64 and 69 he shot on Friday and Saturday, respectively. His three-day score of 9-under 207 over the Ridgefields Country Club course left him two shots ahead of defending Ridgefields champion Alex Ratliff and GKGA points champ Carlson Cox.

“It certainly got closer than I wanted it to,” said Brittain, collecting his first Ridgefields Invitational title after three runner-up finishes. “Sometimes it’s harder to go low when you’re trying not to mess up than when you’re just trying to hit it close.”

With the lead group starting Sunday’s round on the back nine, Brittain picked up birdies on Nos. 11 and 14 that offset his bogeys on the two par 3s on the back. After turning it even, he three-putted on No. 2 and bogeyed No. 3 to further embolden Ratliff.

The defending champ, who equaled his Saturday round of 69, was six back at the turn but caught fire on his last nine holes. He kept the pressure on Brittain coming in, but admitted he really needed to do so earlier.

“I hit some great shots coming in. I made it interesting, which was my goal,” said Ratliff, a sophomore golfer at Chattanooga. “I needed to start my round off better than I did. I made a couple of mistakes on the par 5s on the back side and ended up making pars when I needed birdies.”

Cox, who turned in a 67 for Sunday’s low round, was on pins and needles at the clubhouse as he waited for the last group to finish. The Memphis redshirt freshman’s 209 held up for a tie at second with Ratliff.

Cox was making his first appearance in the tournament.

“I wasn’t missing putts at all today. I think I had around 22 putts today. As soon as I got the ball on the green, it went in the hole,” noted Cox, who said the morning deluge that washed out the senior flights probably conditioned the greens to suit him.

“The first two days, you could tell they were getting faster. Today they were a little slick. But they were firm and slow enough to be aggressive at making putts. I think that made a difference in the way I putted,” he said.

Mike Poe shot 70 to finish fourth at 211.

“I played a great round. I played great all weekend. But I hit three bad shots ... one bad shot each day. And I made a double bogey on all three holes,” Poe said. “I’m 4 under par standing on my 15th hole today and hit it out of bounds. I made a double bogey there. But I played a really good round, other than that.”

Bill Hardin shot 70 to finish fifth at 213, with Todd Ricker (73) and Nick York (69) tying for sixth at 214. Cary Daniels shot 72 to take eighth at 218 and Bryan Sangid stroked a 71 to finish ninth at 219.

Seniors play was called off because of lightning earlier in the day, leaving Saturday’s scores as the final arbiter.

Brady Richards was declared the winner after posting rounds of 73 and 71 for a 144 total over the first two days of play.

Defending champion Tony Green was second at 146 while Mike Freels, Rick Hudson, Hal McHorris, Jack Ramsey, Bill Argabrite and Les Ward tied for third at 148.

For Richards, a member at Ridgefields, the victory was sweet no matter the circumstances.

“This event is like a major for me,’’ he said. “I knew on Friday with the speed of the greens that par meant something.

“I didn’t make many birdies over the first two rounds, but I did make a bunch of pars. This is a very gratifying win for me.’’

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