published Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Pickett, Hester take early Red Bud lead with 69s

Coach Mark Guhne now remembers what it's like to be a player.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's golf coach regained his amateur status from the USGA and played in his first amateur event in more than 10 years Saturday in the Red Bud Invitational.

"I woke up about 5:30 and I was nervous," Guhne said. "Heck, I was nervous on Wednesday when I was trying to practice. But I had a blast."

Guhne shot a 3-over-par 74 at Valleybrook Golf and Country Club and is five shots behind co-leaders Rusty Pickett and Zach Hester. They each shot 2-under 69.

Bob Rice is one shot off the lead. Jacob Clark, Mitch Hufstetler, Chris Schmidt and Wayne Woolfall all shot even and are two shots back.

They're also three strokes ahead of Guhne, who was a member at Valleybrook and turned pro in 2001. Guhne maintained his pro status when he began building the UTC golf team six years ago.

When the Mocs became consistent contenders on the national level, Guhne found he had little time to play in Tennessee PGA events. So he filed papers to regain his amateur status.

On Aug. 24, he received word that he'll be playing for the love of the game and small gift certificates instead of checks and cash.

"I played amateur golf and had a blast and made a lot of friends," Guhne said. "When I turned pro, I had fun, too, and had a couple good years. As UTC got better, I couldn't play in the pro events, but I missed competing.

"I'm back. But I don't think I'm much of a threat."

But playing, he said, will help his coaching.

"You need to remember what those feelings that you get in a tournament are all about," Guhne said. "You know what they're thinking, what they're feeling coming down the stretch, and I thought about that after [a double-bogey on] No. 12."

He will also get the sensation again of what it's like to chase down a competitor or two, such as Pickett, who practiced at Moccasin Bend on Friday, and Hester, who has given a verbal commitment to play at Tennessee Wesleyan.

"I committed two weeks ago and I've felt freed up because I know I have some place to play college golf," said Hester, who made four birdies and two bogeys Saturday. "Today was up and down with good shots and then one awful one."

That's the life of an amateur golfer -- one that Guhne is getting used to again.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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