By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS —
Ted Potter Jr. had always dreamed of playing Augusta National.
He earned his invitation on Sunday, defeating Troy Kelly on the third playoff hole to capture The Greenbrier Classic at the Old White TPC.
Not only will Potter playing in the Masters, but the Florida native will travel in two weeks to play in the British Open. Life will change for Potter, who earned $1,098,000, along with an invaluable two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
“Just knowing that I’ve got a couple of more years out here to have full exemption, to be able to play what I want to play in and be able to schedule my own tournaments and where I want to play,” Potter said. “That is going to be nice, so looking forward to it.”
All Potter really wanted was a chance to experience winning again, something he did twice last season on the Web.com Tour. He hadn’t come close to it this season, missing the cut in nine of 15 tournaments, including six of his last seven events. In the one event that he survived to play the weekend, he finished in a tie for 69th.
“Just winning. I just like to win,” said Potter, of what he enjoyed the most about the week. “I was always playing junior tour golf to mini-tour golf and I just always enjoyed being (in contention) coming down the stretch and have a chance to win, or if not win. It was the thrill of that.”
Potter became the latest player on the PGA Tour to pass up the third round leader to claim a championship. In 28 tournaments this season, only nine 54-hole leaders finished on top. It was U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson who was bitten by the bogey bug on the back nine this time, while Potter and Kelly met in the three-hole playoff.
“There are so many good players out here,” Potter said. “Guys are shooting 65s on Sundays and coming back from the pack. If you’re in the lead, you’ve still got to go low out here. That’s all there is to it.”
Potter did just that, shooting his second 64 on the weekend to pull even with Kelly to force the three extra holes. He had an eagle and two birdies over the last four holes to make it happen, making putts from 49, 28 and 7 feet.
“I only got a glimpse of the (leader)board one time. I seen 15 or 16 was leading and I was back at 12 at that time,” said Potter, who was hoping the leaders wouldn’t get to 17-under par and possibly end his hopes.
“At that time I knew I had to make some birdies coming in, but at the same time I didn’t want to play too aggressive where I’m making bogeys and dropping down shots because a third or fourth place finish will mean a lot to my year right now.”
A native of Florida, the 28-year-old Potter had long struggled to compete as a professional, but never considered giving up the game his father started him on when he was 2 with a right-handed club, which simply wasn’t going to work for his son.
“When I was young, as soon as I could walk, basically my dad tried to put a right-handed club in my hand and I always tried to flip it over and tried to hit it left-handed,” said Potter, a natural right-hander, except when on the golf course. “So he said he’ll just make left-handed clubs for me and that is how I started out playing.”
Potter struggled mightily from the time he started on mini-tours in 2004, but never gave up on his dream.
“When you’re missing cuts every week, you get down on yourself, and it’s hard to pick yourself back up,” Potter said. “The plus side for me is I was still young. I was only 20 years old.
“I knew I had a long road ahead of me so it wasn’t like I was 35 missing 25 cuts in a row or something like that. I just knew I had plenty of time and just be patient and it will come back round again.”
Despite not coming close to success so far this season on the PGA Tour, Potter was surprisingly confident heading into the Greenbrier Classic.
“I had a good year last year on the Web.com Tour. I know I can play the game very well,” Potter said. “I struggled the last few weeks, but I just try to work on my swing and get it back where it was feeling where it was last year out on the Web.com Tour.
“So I got very close to where it was last year and it felt good and had a lot of confidence going into this week.”
Potter finished with four rounds in the 60s at The Greenbrier, including 64s on both days of the weekend. He made eagle and two birdies to get into a playoff and then made the birdie putt on the final hole to win the tournament.
He missed a birdie attempt on the second playoff hole that could have wrapped it up, and then had to make the comebacker to force a third hole. He did it.
“I was pretty calm for the most part,” said Potter, one of the few golfers on the PGA Tour without a coach. “I think the second putt coming back I was more nervous, just trying to get it back in the hole after running it by a foot and a half.”
No wonder Potter called it ‘an amazing feeling’ after the win was secured. Up next is the British Open, with plenty to do before then, such as making plans for one of the many perks from winning the Greenbrier Classic.
“I’ll have to talk to my agents about that one, see what they can work up,” he said, with a laugh. “But yes, I do have my passport with me so I won’t have to go home to get it.”
— Contact Brian Woodson at