In Ormond Beach, Kelby Burton drove six hours but had not packed a tee time. However, two days later he was heading back home with a Riviera Open win and the $6,000 first-place check tucked into his driver-side sun visor.
“I’m playing really well right now,” said Burton, who returns to work on Monday as a caddy at Sage Valley Golf Club in Graniteville, S.C., just across the Savannah River from his home in Augusta, Ga.
How well is he playing? He opened the 63rd annual Riv Open with an 11-under 60 and coasted to a three-shot win on Sunday with a businesslike 67.
New Smyrna Beach’s Kevin Aylwin was solo second at 12 under, while Oviedo’s Kamiau Johnson and another NSB golfer, Tiernan “Tito” Sand, tied for third at 11 under.
It was quite a turn of events for Burton, who’d missed the entry deadline and reported at dawn to Saturday’s first tee as an alternate for the longtime Florida Tour event.
“Got there at 6:45 and sat at the first tee from the time of the first tee time,” Burton said.
At 8:15, he got word there would be a no-show. Not much time for a warmup, though.
“I hit a few wedges,” he said.
Burton, a Georgia native and former Kennesaw State golfer, played Saturday’s final 12 holes in 10 under par, including a 7-under 29 on the back nine — “Just 1 under through 6 but finished really hot,” he understated.
He took a four-shot lead into Sunday’s second round, and with first-hand knowledge of Riviera’s ability to give up a low number, there was no running out the clock.
“I knew I had to go shoot something decent,” he said.
Aylwin got within two shots Sunday after a birdie on the par-3 15th. After both Aylwin and Burton birdied the par-5 17th, Burton regained his three-shot edge with a birdie on 18 after driving just left of the green on the 355-yard par-4.
It’s two straight wins for Burton, who won a one-day Carolina Mountain Tour event two weeks ago in South Carolina.
After a week of work at Sage Valley, he’ll drive back down Friday and play next weekend’s Indian River Open at New Smyrna Beach Golf Club. That Florida Tour tournament moves this season off its longtime slot in late January or early February.
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This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: From alternate to champ: Full-time caddy wins Florida Tour’s Riv Open
Daniel Miller takes readers to the greens with his passion for golf. He offers coverage of major golf tournaments, player achievements, and insights into the sport’s rich history, making him a trusted source for golf enthusiasts.