BY MIKE FIELDS
Three of the biggest storylines in last week’s Barbasol Championship were Brittany Lincicome becoming the first woman in 10 years to compete in a PGA TOUR event; Hall of Famer Davis Love III hovering near the top of the leaderboard after three rounds, and Troy Merritt going deep into red numbers (23-under par) to win his second tour title.
Mike “Bear” Rogers was lucky enough to walk the fairways with all three of those headliners.
Rogers, one of about 700 volunteers who helped make the Barbasol Championship’s debut in Central Kentucky a success, worked as a walking scorer during the pro-am and all four rounds of the tournament.
He logged more than 20 miles walking rain-soaked Champions at Keene Trace, and he relished every moment.
“It was definitely the best event I ever worked,” said Rogers, who is the official timer for University of Kentucky men’s basketball games in Rupp Arena, and has worked men’s and women’s SEC Tournaments, and NCAA regionals.
“I’ve been blessed to do a lot of things, but this topped them all. When I volunteered, I told them I wanted to work every day, and that I’d do anything they asked me to do. It turned out pretty good.”
Walking with Lincicome for the first nine holes of the pro-am, Rogers tried to stay out of the way as she interacted with the fans and her pro-am partners from UK HealthCare.
“I found her to be very pleasant,” he said. “The best thing I saw was the way she worked with her caddie (Missy Pederson). There was no friction at all. I found that very refreshing.”
On the second nine of the pro-am, Rogers was the scorer for Troy Merritt. (That was a good omen.)
“Troy and his caddie (Wayne Birch) were really loose on Wednesday,” Rogers said. “We talked about everything. That paid off later (Monday’s final round) because we all felt comfortable around each other.”
For Thursday’s first round, he was the walking scorer for Kentuckian Matt Atkins, Guy Boros and Will Cannon. Rogers thought it was “neat” that Cannon’s dad caddied for him.
For Friday’s second round, one of his players was Tom Lovelady, who would be in the hunt in the final round when paired with Merritt.
Saturday afternoon Rogers felt like he hit the jackpot when he was assigned to be the walking scorer for Love’s group.
“Here he is, a Hall of Famer, and he comes up and introduces himself to me on the first tee, like I didn’t know who he was,” Rogers said with a laugh.
Love, 54, played great, firing a 6-under 66, including a tap-in eagle at the 14th hole. But what impressed Rogers more was Love’s demeanor on the course.
“The way he operated and interacted with his caddie and the people,” Rogers said. “And the way he’d get over the ball, commit to the shot and hit it. There was no second-guessing.
“The neatest thing was he never had to tuck in his shirt, and not once did he take his hat off until the last hole. That’s just how smooth he was.”
Because of bad weather, Sunday turned out to be a wash-out for Rogers. “A lot of sitting around,” he said. Merritt and Lovelady, his final-round pairing, never teed off.
They came back the next morning for what turned out to be a magnificent Monday for Merritt.
The final round came down to a four-player battle, involving Merritt, Lovelady, Billy Horschel and Richy Werenski.
Merritt birdied the 15th hole to get to 23-under and take a 1-shot lead, and that turned out to be the difference.
Rogers admitted he was leg-weary halfway through his six days at the Barbasol Championship.
“It was tough, but adrenaline kicked in Saturday with Davis Love, and Monday with Troy when he got in the middle of the fight (to win).”
And then came the big reward: shaking hands with Merritt after he putted out for his second win on the PGA TOUR, and being on the 18th green for the trophy presentation.
“That was really, really neat,” Rogers said. “A great way to finish it all.”
So despite all the bad weather, despite all the starts and stops that plagued Kentucky’s first regular PGA TOUR stop in almost 60 years, the Barbasol Championship couldn’t have gone much better for one very happy volunteer, who said he hoped he’s “blessed to be able to do it again next year.”