Troy Merritt was the deserving winner of the Barbasol Championship on Monday, following up on his red-hot opening-round 62 on Thursday to finish 23-under for his second career PGA Tour victory.
If there was a real Most Valuable Player of this inaugural PGA event, however, surely it was superintendent Carl Gray and the grounds crew at the Champions at Keene Trace course.
“For as much rain as we had, the grounds crew did just a fantastic job keeping this course playable,” said Merritt.
Yes, it rained this past weekend. It rained a lot. After all the work that Executive Director Brooks Downing and course owners Evan Mossbarger and B. Frye put into securing and holding the Barbasol, Mother Nature refused to cooperate, dumping over 5 inches of rain on the Jessamine County facility.
“I have to tip the hat to the maintenance crew,” said Billy Horschel, the five-time PGA Tour winner who finished in a three-way tie for second with Richy Werenski and Tom Lovelady, one shot behind Merritt. “We’ve had a lot of water here the last seven days and for them to have this course in somewhat playability is pretty special.”
“I understand how much rain we got,” said Lovelady, the former Alabama star who turned 25 on Monday, “but it was pretty impressive, not only the fairways, but especially the greens. The greens were really good.”
That had to be a Herculean task for a Champions crew that saw storms suspend play Friday afternoon, then more rain cut play short on Saturday. Even more rain messed with Sunday’s play, causing a long delay because of too much water on the greens. Then when play did finally resume, it was called again after just 10 minutes because of lightning, even before the leaders teed off.
“I didn’t play at all (Sunday),” said Lovelady. “I ended up getting just a good practice session in. I’m sure others got the short end of the stick.”
“We’ve seen it before,” said Josh Teater, the former Henry Clay and Morehead State star who ended up tied for 40th at -12. “It happens multiple times a year. There was always this feeling in my mind that we weren’t going to play at all yesterday. And then we actually got out there and got out to a pretty good start.”
So how did the soaked course end up playing?
“Super soft, super wet, a lot of casual water,” said Teater, who has played the Champions many times. “The greens rolled great, though. The greens were in great shape. The crew did a marvelous job of taking care of the course.”
Horschel agreed, saying that under different weather conditions it might have been a different tournament.
“It’s unfortunate that we’ve had so much rain,” he said. “I think if this course was playing fast and firm, and the greens were firm, I think the scores would be 10 shots higher. I think it’s a great, great tournament.”
Indeed, the weather was pretty much the only complaint all weekend. It surely kept the crowds down, not just the rain itself but the threat of rain in the forecast. You also have to factor in that plenty of households in the area remained without power on Monday after the weekend storms.
Still, to a man, and woman with LPGA star Brittany Lincicome, the players where complimentary of the venue, the course, the volunteers, and the reception they received.
“Everybody loved it,” said Teater, who joined the PGA Tour in 2010. “I didn’t hear one bad thing. Everybody loved Lexington. Everybody liked the course a lot. It was just all about how soft the course was, how wet it got. I think everybody loved the hospitality.”
“Everything around the event was really nice,” said Lovelady.
“People came out on a Monday in the rain and the cool weather to watch a little more golf,” said Merritt. “I think that’s pretty special.”
Said Horschel, “I think it’s going to have a long-lasting life here.”
“Hopefully next year,” said Teater, “more people will come to watch and it’ll be a little drier.”