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'This is my home': Richards rides par save, birdies to grab 117th Vermont Amateur at Barre

PLAINFIELD ― Over the last decade, Bryson Richards has played countless rounds as a member of Country Club of Barre. And as a worker on the grounds crew for half of those years, Richards has a personal connection to the course he proudly calls his own.

But the former U-32 High School and Rhode Island star found himself with an unfamiliar shot, nursing a one-stroke lead on the back-nine of the 117th Vermont Amateur.

Richards sat about 75 yards away from an elevated green on the course's second hole — the final group started their fourth round at No. 10 — and faced a tricky, blind approach shot with bogey looking like the ultimate outcome.

"I hadn’t really been down there before," admitted Richards.

Richards, though, smacked a brilliant wedge and one-putted for the up-and-down par save. He then rattled off three straight birdies to pull away from Burlington's Michael Walsh for his second Vermont Amateur championship in three years on Thursday, cruising into the Barre clubhouse with a sweet homecoming triumph.

"This is my home, this is where I’ve been forever," Richards said. "This is one I really, really wanted."

Bryson Richards gives a fist pump after tapping in the final putt of his victory in the 2023 Vermont Amateur Golf Championship on Thursday afternoon at the Country Club of Barre.
Bryson Richards gives a fist pump after tapping in the final putt of his victory in the 2023 Vermont Amateur Golf Championship on Thursday afternoon at the Country Club of Barre.

In 2021 at Williston, Richards was the first Barre club member to capture the Vermont Amateur in 70 years. Last year, Richards settled for runner-up honors at Brattleboro before returning this summer at Barre with a red-filled week, posting a a 9-under 275 over four rounds for a five-stroke victory over Walsh, the former Rice Memorial standout.

Austin Giroux of Newport and Rutland's Max Major, who matched the Barre course record on Wednesday, tied for third at 1-under in the three-day tournament which wrapped with 36 holes on Thursday. Taylor Bellemare (Ekwanok) and Cody Semmelrock (Lakeside) finished even to share fifth place and two-time Amateur winner Evan Russell of Vermont National took seventh at 3-over.

Barre's Lajeunesse, the clubhouse leader following a weather-delayed opening round, placed eighth at 4-over.

[See below for the full leaderboard]

"Any tournament like this one that’s tight, pars are good but birdies tend to be the separator. That’s the mentality that I kept," Richards said.

In his final round, Richards pocketed five birdies, including a chip-in. For the tournament, Richards posted 21 birdies and one eagle. Over his final 54 holes, Richards was 9-under.

"I don’t want to speak for him, but I’m sure this one means a lot to him," said Dan Gauthier, Richards' caddie this week. "The growth that I’ve been able to see from him from a golf perspective, it’s just night and day. He’s always been super-competitive and fiery, but now he’s matured to where he can control that fire, stay pretty even-kneeled and be locked in."

Bryson Richards and caddy Dan Gauthier look over Richards birdie putt on the last hole of the 2023 Vermont Amateur Golf Championship on Thursday afternoon at the Country Club of Barre. Richards claimed the title with a 9-under par score.
Bryson Richards and caddy Dan Gauthier look over Richards birdie putt on the last hole of the 2023 Vermont Amateur Golf Championship on Thursday afternoon at the Country Club of Barre. Richards claimed the title with a 9-under par score.

Richards notched birdies on three of his final four holes during Thursday's morning round for a three-shot advantage. But Walsh drew level by the time the duo — along with Major — teed off to close out their front-nine of the fourth round.

Richards then rolled in a pretty chip-in for a one-shot lead at the turn.

"I wasn’t really making any putts. That chip-in on nine really sparked something there," Richards said. "I felt stuck in the mud. That got the adrenaline going and there was a pretty good roar."

After Richards, Walsh and Major each registered pars on the next hole, Richards sailed his drive into a high bunker, with trees blocking his line to the green. Richards flubbed his sand shot to set up his momentum-swinging approach on the par-4, 401-yard No. 2 hole.

"It was by no means a routine wedge shot. It’s pretty blind. I kind of just zoned in on a landing zone," Richards said. "The course is firming up so I had a good idea where I needed to land it and just hit a good one at a good time.

"That wedge shot really kept everything going because if I make bogey there, who knows what happens after that."

Bryson Richards watches his tee shot head for the green during the 2023 Vermont Amateur Golf Championship on Thursday afternoon at the Country Club of Barre.
Bryson Richards watches his tee shot head for the green during the 2023 Vermont Amateur Golf Championship on Thursday afternoon at the Country Club of Barre.

Instead, Richards saved par and Walsh and Major bogeyed with three-putts. Richards then uncorked three consecutive birdies to build a six-shot margin with three holes to go. On the middle birdie, Richards fist-pumped after curling in a dicey 10-footer.

"At the start of the day, there were seven or eight guys who were in it," Richards said. "Good golf was going to be rewarded and you knew you weren’t going to be able to slack off at all."

Gauthier, who was also Richards' basketball coach at U-32, said Richards performs well under pressure. Earlier in the week, Richards, a lefty, was forced to hit as a righty to avoid a tree. And he had an approach to one green from another hole's bunker.

"His ability to get out of jams, it’s just impressive,' Gauthier said. "He figures it out."

Asked if he'd report to Barre on Friday for work, Richards had a quick reply.

"Most likely," he said.

Vermont Amateur scores

Michael Walsh hits an approach shot during the 2023 Vermont Amateur Golf Championship on Thursday afternoon at the Country Club of Barre.
Michael Walsh hits an approach shot during the 2023 Vermont Amateur Golf Championship on Thursday afternoon at the Country Club of Barre.

Final leaderboard

At Country Club of Barre

Par 71

Bryson Richards (Barre) ... 71-69-67-68--275

Michael Walsh (Burlington) ... 71-70-69-70--280

Austin Giroux (Newport) ... 72-72-67-72--283

Max Major (Rutland) ... 76-63-72-72--283

Taylor Bellemare (Ekwanok) ... 72-71-71-69--284

Cody Semmelrock (Lakeside) ... 69-74-70-71--284

Evan Russell (VT National) ... 70-72-70-75--287

Eric Lajeunesse (Barre) ... 67-72-74-75--288

Troy Evans (Barre) ... 73-73-74-72--292

Troy Goliber (VT National) ... 72-75-74-72--293

Lucas Politano (Ralph Myhre) ... 72-73-74-73--293

Garren Poirier (Rutland) ... 74-71-76-72--293

Cory Jozefiak (802 Golf Academy) ... 70-74-70-80--294

Brody Yates (Kwiniaska) ... 76-73-72-78--299

Mathew Smith (Manchester) ... 76-75-72-76--299

Alex Leonard (Williston) ... 73-76-73-78--300

Ryan Bloomer (Mount Anthony) ... 73-79-74-74--300

Nick Ojala (Rutland) ... 74-72-79-75--300

Nelson Eaton (Barre) ... 73-76-75-77--301

Jackson King (Barton) ... 77-76-72-76--301

Mitchell Evans (Barre) ... 77-74-72-78--301

Sebastian Pell (Rutland) ... 77-72-76-77--302

Ryan Porter (802 Golf Academy) ... 78-76-73-75--302

Mike Coakley (CC of Vermont) ... 79-75-73-77--304

Frankie Sanborn (Rutland) ... 74-80-75-75--304

Colby Sanville (Quechee) ... 75-72-80-77--304

Jackson Applebaum (Rocky Ridge) ... 75-79-71-80--305

Phil Fairbanks (Mountain View) ... 75-77-78-75-305

Evan Forrest (Williston) ... 73-78-75-79--305

Robert Wells-Rogers (VT National) ... 75-75-76-81-307

Nick Trottier (Crown Point) ... 74-75-82-76--307

Nathan Godbout (Rocky Ridge) ... 78-74-77-79--308

Kim Perry ... 77-75-76-80--308

Charles McNeeley (CC of Vermont) ... 79-74-76-82--311

Bryan Smith (Champlain) ... 76-78-76-82--311

Riley Richards (Barre) ... 78-74-76-84--312

Edward Linto (VT National) ... 76-78-78-81--313

Chad Bullock (Mount Snow) ... 77-77-79-81--314

Owen Benoit (Champlain) ... 75-78-82-79--314

Jeffrey Maier (Williston) ... 72-80-78-84--314

Cameron Fitzgerald (Williston) ... 76-74-83-82--315

Alex Tilgner (Stowe) ... 75-79-79-86--319

Kyle Rexford (Burlington) ... 74-80-83-82--319

Jason Balch (Equinox) ... 70-80-83-88--321

Keith Komline (Dorset) ... 73-74-DQ

Contact Alex Abrami at aabrami@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @aabrami5.

This article originally appeared on Burlington Free Press: VT Amateur at Barre: Richards wins on home course for his second title