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THE 69TH BOURBON OPEN: Riggs takes down former champs to win

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By Dennis George

Maybe there is still hope for Phil Mickelson.

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The popular left-handed golfer and winner of five major championships has played in the U.S. Open 23 times and finished second six times. But he has never won the tournament.

Going to his round on Sunday, Chad Riggs of Bardstown had competed in the Bourbon Open 26 times.

He had finished second five times, but had never been as fortunate as his friends who have won the tournament.

Riggs was able to win the coveted title by firing a 1-under par 70 to finish one stroke ahead of former champ Willie Edelen and Johnny Skaggs.

The win didn’t come easy as Riggs made four bogeys down the stretch but held on.

He turned the outward nine with a 2-under par 33, and after birdies on 11 and 12, he felt good about his chances.

“I stood on the next tee and was feeling pretty good about my chances,” Riggs said. “Then on 13, I hit a good drive over the cemetery and hit the green in two, but I ran my putt by several feet and missed my par putt.”

He proceeded to three-putt the par-3 14th hole when he left his long birdie putt well short and missed another par attempt.

Riggs is normally an excellent putter, but he said that his nerves began getting to him.

He was able to stop the bleeding with an 89-yard wedge shot to within inches of the cup for a birdie to get back to 3-under.

Former champions Ben Spalding and Patrick Conway were in the same group with Riggs, and he said that they were encouraging him.

“When I made the birdie on 15, they told me to make a couple of pars coming in and I could win this thing,” Riggs said. “Sometimes in those situations, your playing partners will get quiet, but their encouragement really kept me going.”

Back-to-back bogeys at 16 and 17 sent Riggs back to 1-under par.

By that time, spectators had informed Riggs that Edelen had finished at level par 71, and he knew that a par on the final par-5 18th hole would give him the win.

“I kept telling myself not to hit the ball right on that hole, and what did I do, but hit the second shot to the right?”

With a pitch over a bunker facing him, Riggs received more advice from Conway.

“Patrick came over and told me not to get fancy and just get the ball on the green and make my par,” he said.

He chipped up to 15 feet and was able to get down in two for the win.

“When I made the putt and realized that I had won, it was like a big weight was off my shoulders,” Riggs admitted. “This is a big tournament for anyone in Bardstown. I’ve shot 67 and gotten beat when someone else shot 63.

“I’m not getting any younger so to finally win this really feels good. I probably had 50 phone calls and text messages last night from people congratulating me.”

 

Gayle Crawford had the best round of the tournament on the women’s side with a 78. It was the second time that she’s won the Women’s Bourbon Open.

 

Eighty-eight-year-old Gloria LeCouvre is one of the hits of the Bourbon Open. The Californian comes to Kentucky this time of year to visit a daughter and always calls to play in the tournament.

“She always asks to play on Saturday morning, but we usually don’t have room for her that day,” Gerry Gaines, the tournament starter, noted. “She played with three guys from Brown-Forman in Louisville and they loved her. They paid her entry fee.”

LeCouvre was seen entertaining the partygoers Friday night at My Old Kentucky Home when she performed karaoke.