published Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Chattanooga golfers lament Red Bud cancellation

The Red Bud will not bloom this year.

One of the Chattanooga area's four golf majors was canceled Monday by Valleybrook course owner David Drake, who had only 11 confirmed participants for the tournament that was to be held this weekend.

"It's an awful big tradition to watch die," said six-time champion Richard Keene, who won his first Red Bud in 1987 and his last in 1998.

Fabled Chattanooga golfers such as Keene, Ed Brantly, Charlie Taylor and Harold Lane won the tournament before players such as Michael Morrison, Adam Mitchell and Derek Rende won championships on the short course (by today's standards) in Hixson.

"There have been legendary players come through and win it," said Rende, who now is a mini-tour professional. "It's sad to see a tournament like that being canceled."

The 2012 Red Bud would have been special for Rende. His dad, Sal, was set to play in his first individual golf tournament, flipping roles of player and spectator they held as Derek grew up at Valleybrook.

"I was looking forward to going out and watching him," Rende said.

There will be no spectators because there is no tournament for the first time since at least 1967 -- four years after the course opened in 1963.

"Down in my price range, you're going against the city, every church group and there's just not enough of the pie any more," Drake said. "I'm not happy, but I have to compete with everybody else. We're not going to work 85 hours a week and just give golf away."

The Red Bud has changed position on the calendar several times. David McKenna, a Valleybrook member for about 45 years, said it used to open the competitive season, and then it moved to the second tournament. It moved to the fall date last year, which increased participation from 26 golfers in May 2010 to 47 golfers last September.

"It used to get the spring started off," said Mitch Hufstetler, a former Valleybrook member and the 2009 Red Bud champion. "Last year, when it moved to the fall, the course was exceptional.

"It's very disheartening to see it go away."

The cancellation will impact the season-ending local TPC match-play tournament because there is one less event in which golfers can earn points.

"It would be sad to see the Red Bud permanently removed from the calendar," TPC chairman Mike Jenkins said. "But with all the member-guests and other tournaments that have been added to the area calendar in the last 20 years, it's really not surprising that one or two tournaments would eventually fall off.

"Hopefully the tournament will return next year, but that of course will be up to the officials at Valleybrook."

Drake is noncommittal one way or another for 2013.

"You can't get it much cheaper," Drake said. "By the time you give them golf and food, you're not making any real money. I should have got my invitations out at the same time I did for my member-guest.

"It's primarily my fault."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

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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