Local golf: Brincefield, Barr prevail

Published 11:24 pm Monday, September 5, 2022

By Mike London

SALISBURY — Roughly 100 carts full of golf fans were out there in the pouring rain on No. 15, as Josh Brincefield and Charlie Barr closed out Monday’s wet and wild victory in the Crowder-Dorsett Labor Day Four-Ball Golf Tournament.

There weren’t nearly enough umbrellas, but there was an overload of applause — and hugs.

Finishing second was the familiar pair of Derek Lipe and William Little. They have been in three straight finals.

“This is a fantastic golf community where everyone knows who can play and everyone respects each other,” Brincefield said. “That was the best crowd in the world out there in the rain. The outpouring of support out there today said a lot about this tournament and Rowan County golf, and that’s what makes finally winning this tournament so special to me.”

Brincefield, who started playing with his dad as a teenager in the 1990s, had been chasing a championship in the main event at the Country Club of Salisbury for 31 years.

He’d made it to the finals twice before only to be denied by a couple of teams that featured teenagers. Charlie Graeber and his kid partner Michael Childress had beaten Brincefield in 2014. Then Troy Beaver and Barr, the youngest winner ever, had stopped Brincefield in 2016.

But this time Brincefield had Barr at his side and on his side.

“Charlie is a tremendous player and tremendous person and I’ve got no problem telling you that Charlie carried us a lot of the time in the tournament,” Brincefield said. “But I did have some big moments. Everyone has some bad moments, but a key thing was we never had our bad moments at the same time. That’s what it takes to win. Maybe it was just our turn. This one felt different from the start. I was never nervous, and sometimes I get nervous.”

The Labor Day Four-Ball always is a test of nerves.

“I play a lot of tournament golf in college (High Point University), so I’m used to some tough matches, but this was three really intense days of competition,” Barr said. “Mentally, more than physically, it was just a grind.”

Brincefield and Barr, despite their age difference, are close friends through family, and they have teamed up before.

“It’s a good partnership,” Barr said. “I look up to Josh. He’s always so poised on the golf course.”

It all started with sunshine and qualifying. It’s a challenge to get into the 16-man Championship Flight. Barr and Brincefield battled their way into the bracket as the No. 9 seed.

Their first match was reasonably routine, but they had to dig deep in the quarterfinals on Sunday when they took on the top-seeded team of Keith Dorsett and Jacob Smith.

They got punched in the mouth right away.

“Keith is the Tiger Woods of Rowan County golf and has won everything,” Brincefield said. “And Smith is really good and is new partner for him. When I saw who we were playing, I knew we’d have to be at our best.”

Dorsett and Smith came out firing with birdies on the first three holes. Brincefield and Barr managed to halve No. 3, but they still were down two holes.

“Smith chipped one in to get them started, and then Keith hit two really close for birdies,” Brincefield said. “They’re great players and they were hot.”

Brincefield’s birdie putt on No. 5 turned the tide. Barr knocked in a bomb — a 5o-footer — to win No. 6.

Now they were rolling. Brincefield birdied 7 and 8. When Barr birdied the 9th hole, they had gone from two holes down to two holes up in a hurry.

They’d shot 29 on the front side. Confidence was starting to flow that they could handle anyone.

“We shot 63 for the round, made eight birdies and we still only won 3 and 2,” Barr said. “That tells you how good Dorsett and Smith played and how good we had to play to get past that match.”

Monday morning’s semifinal struggle against Michael and Mitchell Swaringen was another tense affair for Brincefield and Barr. They weren’t hot, they had to scrap.

“I missed a 5-foot par putt on No. 10, and we’re down two holes,” Barr said. “We needed a spark. We won 12 with a par. Then Josh made big putts on 14 and 15, and we were back square with them.”

Both teams parred 16, 17 and 18, as the pressure mounted.

On the first extra hole, Barr missed an 8-footer for birdie, but Brincefield drained his 7-footer. When a Swaringen putt broke right across the hole, Brincefield and Barr had advanced to the final.

“A blast of a match, and rain had really started coming down when we were on 16,” Barr said. “Then we had about 30 minutes to hang out with friends and family in the clubhouse. We got some food, changed into dry shirts.

Between the semifinal and championship matches, Barr received a text, a picture of his grandfather hugging young Charlie after his Labor Day win in 2016. Barr, grandfather, Don “Big Daddy” Barr, who learned the game of golf while caddying outside Chicago, was one of the main reasons Charlie has become the golfer that he has.

“That picture definitely gave me some extra energy,” Barr said.

He would need it. Lipe and Little, who had survived a fierce match with former Salisbury High stars Eric Edwards and Clark Alcorn, champs in 2020 and runners-up in 2021, are formidable opponents.

“You don’t make three Labor Day finals in a row on a whim,” Barr said. “Those dudes can flat out play.”But for us it was one shot at a time, and we did a good job the entire tournament of playing our opponents, rather than playing the golf course. Josh always hit first for us off the tee, and he always put it in play. I’m longer than he is now, and that gave me a green light. I could go for it, and I knew if I got into trouble, Josh would bail me out.”

This time it was Brincefield and Barr that jumped out early — Brincefield winning No. 2 with a 6-footer and Barr claiming No. 3 with a  perfect 7-iron followed by a 15-foot putt.

By the turn, Brincefield and Barr were up three holes and starting to feel it.

“In the driver’s seat and super pumped up,” Barr said. “Lipe and Little made some pretty amazing shots, but we kept the lead.”

Lipe and Little got back within two holes, but got no closer.

Barr nailed a 17-footer to restore the three-hole advantage on No. 11.

Barr hit a superb pitching wedge within inches of the cup on 12, and they were 4-up and headed for victory.

On the 13th hole, Brincefield heard a familiar “Hey, Josh!” from the gallery. It was his father, who had been hospitalized by a kidney stone on the first day of the tournament. He was back. He wasn’t going to miss this.

The rain was heavy by the 15th, as Brincefield and Barr put the final touches on a 5 and 3 victory.

“Brincefield hugged his wife (Meredith) and father. Barr nodded to his grandfather.

“Yeah, I think he was definitely looking out for us today,” he said.

Brincefield had received more than 100 congratulatory text messages on Monday night, from people like Dorsett and Childress. A lot of people had the feeling that if they couldn’t win it, they wanted Brincefield to finally get one.

“I did it, I got one,” Brincefield said with a laugh. “I can’t tell you how good this feels. When I first started playing with Charlie, I was the leader, but now our roles have changed. He was the leader this time, but I was proud to be his teammate, proud to play with him. I can tell you he wanted this first one for me a whole lot more than he wanted a second one for himself.”

• • •

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