Augusta’s Jimmy Rigsby played in the Bulgarian Amateur Open simply because he wanted to support the event.
He never expected to win the senior division.
But he did. Earlier this month, Rigsby rallied from eight shots back after 36 holes to tie overnight leader Terry Fent at the end of regulation. Rigsby, who closed with 1-under-par 71 after opening rounds of 76-81, then birdied the first hole of sudden death to win the title.
This was the third year Rigsby has played in the tournament, which is run by the Bulgarian Golf Association and played in Balchik. He’d finished in the top 20 in the open division the first two years, with a tie for 11th being his highest finish. This year, which was the seventh playing of the tournament, a senior division was added, which made Rigsby more competitive.
“You don’t win many international championships,” Rigsby said. “I never thought I’d win the thing. It was fun.”
When Rigsby tells friends that he won the Bulgarian tournament, they don’t ask what he shot. They want to know what he’s doing playing golf in that European country.
It all started four years ago, when Rigsby met some Bulgarians who come to Augusta each April.
“Basically, they televise the Masters in Eastern Europe,” Rigsby said. “I took them to play golf. In return, they invited me to play in their national championship. I wanted to support the guys who are friends of mine.”
It wasn’t unusual for an American to win a title in the tournament. Rigsby said a Bulgarian has yet to win any of the three divisions – men’s, ladies and now seniors. There were 167 players from 26 countries in the field this year, with 17 in the senior division.
“Golf is just getting started there; I think they have nine courses,” Rigsby said. “After it was over, I realized how special and important it is to these people – it is their national tournament. They were very cordial, very nice.”
Rigsby said it’s “not easy to get” to Bulgaria, which is bordered by Serbia to the northwest and Romania to the north. Macedonia and Turkey are to the south.
“It’s 12 hours; it will take you all day,” said Rigsby, who broke up the trip by stopping for a few days in London.
Rigsby wasn’t sure he was going to make the effort in 2012. That was before he won the senior division title.
“They’re right adamant that I come back and defend,” he said. “I expect I’ll try to go back.”
TALBERT SPLITS: Edgefield County’s McKenzie Talbert split her two team matches in the Junior Solheim Cup in Ireland on Tuesday.
Her afternoon victory helped fuel a U.S. comeback that cut into Europe’s lead. Europe, which led 5-1 after the morning foursomes matches, was beaten 4-2 in the afternoon fourballs.
That gave Europe a 7-5 lead going into today’s final day, 12 singles matches.
Talbert, 16, and Emma Talley lost 1-up to Irish twins Lisa and Leona MaGuire in the foursomes match. Talbert and Summar Roachell then beat Emilie Alonso and Antonia Scherer 2 and 1 in their fourball match.
Former Evans resident Ashlan Ramsey, now of Milledgeville, Ga., went 0-1-1. Another Georgian, Mariah Stackhouse, of Riverdale, went 1-1-0.
In the singles today, Talbert will take on Germany’s Scherer in the eighth match of the day. Ramsey will take on France’s Manon Gidali in the fifth match.
The U.S. needs to win seven points to retain the Cup.
JUNIOR INVITATIONAL: The Junior Invitational at Sage Valley tried – and most people believe succeeded – in putting on the best-run junior golf tournament in the country in its debut in late April at the Graniteville course.
It’s hard to figure, but in a recent column in The Washington Post, the tournament was used as an example of what could be wrong with U.S. junior golf. Sally Jenkins’ point was that the United States Tennis Association and golf tournaments like the one at Sage Valley are making it too easy for U.S. juniors in those sports – that the juniors should have to claw their way to greatness like athletes from less affluent countries.
That might be true in tennis, but in golf young U.S. players are starting to make a mark, headed by PGA champion Keegan Bradley. And tournaments like the one at Sage Valley – where players are striving all year to make the elite field – are only going to make U.S. juniors better.
PAINE TOURNAMENT: The third annual Paine College Golf Tournament at Jones Creek was another success. The tournament, played in late August, is projected to raise more than $25,000 to support the Paine golf team, including scholarship assistance.