Barbasol Championship filled with rain delays, ex-Cats and PGA Tour pros


Both competitors and spectators of the Barbasol Championship were left waiting because of multiple weather delays.

Jacob Eads

If the seemingly unexpected showers didn’t warn you we were in Kentucky, maybe the signs urging patrons to “HUSH Y’ALL” might’ve tipped you off.

The 2018 Barbasol Championship made its way to central Kentucky this week as the first installment of an annual PGA Tour tournament to be held in the Bluegrass. 

The event’s maiden voyage at Nicholasville’s Keene Trace Golf Club featured a medley of tour pros who amounted 182 collective PGA Tour victories before they came to Kentucky. But it was only Troy Merritt who got to add to his tally, and finally hoist the trophy Monday, after fending off attacks from his fellow golfers and a slew of rain delays. 

Merritt’s 23-under par was enough to put him in the winner’s circle despite some healthy competition from Billy Horschel, Richy Werenski and Tom Lovelady, who all finished just one stroke behind him.

Merritt had finished Thursday’s first round atop the leaderboard after firing a hot, 10-under par, 62 to tie the course record, and proceeded to firmly stay in the mix for the duration of the tournament. Merritt was just one of four leaders sitting at 18-under going into the tournament’s final round.

After Thursday’s sunshine passed, players, caddies and fans stamped across the saturated course for the remainder of the week, with heavy shoes, courtesy of the rain. Substantial rain delays on Friday and Sunday left most players short of completing a full 18 holes, ultimately pushing a majority of the final round into Monday. Merritt and other leaders never teed off on Sunday.

The weather also impacted spectators who came to enjoy their first glimpse of professional golf so close to Lexington.

“We were hit by, certainly, a very bad stroke of luck here these last couple of days, but they’re doing the best they can under the circumstances,” Lexington resident Bobby Downing said.

Although it caused some dismay for event staff, the weather never stopped the fans from flocking to their favorite players. Ex-Cats Cooper Musselman and Tyler “Chip” McDaniel both amassed substantial followings, as both former UK golfers made their professional debuts on the PGA TOUR. The pair must’ve felt at home at Keene’s Trace surrounded by family and friends, seeing as the duo survived the weekend cut to battle it out with some of the biggest names in golf.

“Tyler and Cooper have dedicated themselves to being the best they can be at their craft, and I love seeing them get this opportunity to start their professional careers. They both have very bright futures as PGA Tour players, and I cannot wait to watch their careers unfold,” said UK Men’s Golf Coach Brian Craig.

Musselman, a Louisville native, received a sponsor exemption into the tournament after helping to lead the Kentucky Men’s Golf team into its 10th appearance at the NCAA Championship. Musselman finished the tournament T57 at 7-under par and looked at home amongst the rest of the pros in the field.

After a rainy Sunday, Musselman narrowly finished his 18th hole of the day as the final horn sounded delaying play until Monday morning.

McDaniel ultimately finished T60, just one stroke behind Musselman at 6-under par. The former UK standout had to prove himself early after finishing Thursday 2-over par. He fired a Friday 66 to narrowly make the cut.

“This week has shown me that I can compete on the big stage, but obviously have things to work on. This is something I’ll never forget,” read an online statement from McDaniel.

While the two alumni were certainly a solid representation from the University of Kentucky, it was easy for spectators to spot other familiar ties to the university. UK students received discounted admission to the tournament grounds on Thursday and Friday, while tournament staff dedicated Saturday “See Blue Day,” encouraging patrons to don blue to the course.

A familiar voice was also within earshot for most of the tournament. UK public address announcer Carl Nathe, who is probably most recognized for his exclamation ‘First down, Kentucky’ heard booming from Kroger Field, was busy announcing players and tee times throughout the tournament at the first hole.

No other cheer erupting from the first hole was nearly as notable than that earned by eight-time LPGA Tour winner Brittany Lincicome. Playing on a sponsor exemption this week, Lincicome, 32, became just the sixth female in history to compete alongside men on the PGA Tour.

It was easy to see Lincicome was a quick hit with the fans. Her gallery often dwarfed those of her male counterparts. A good percentage of those spectators being young women clamoring for an autograph from the trailblazer.

Although her PGA Tour debut will be a historical one, Lincicome had hoped for a better outcome. The LPGA star failed to make the cut, shooting 5-over par in her first 36 holes, but Lincicome had highlights throughout the tournament. 

Nearing the end of her final round, Lincicome holed out on the 17th hole from 116 yards, securing herself an eagle, hefty applause from the crowd and later a 1-under par, 71. 

“I don’t even know where to begin. WOW. I’m just so honored to have had this wonderful opportunity,” Lincicome wrote in a tweet following her final round.

While some could argue the week’s tournament was overshadowed by the high-profile Open Championship happening over 3,000 miles away, others are looking forward to next year’s Barbasol Championship.

Recent UK graduate Eric Frances said while he is an avid golfer, he had never been to a professional event before.

“I love it. I just hope it stays here and brings more golf tournaments to around here,” Frances said. “I’d stay and go to all kinds.”