AUGUSTA, Ga. — Forget the Scenic City — this week Chattanooga is Bag Land.
The word Chattanooga in UTC lettering will be on one bag here at the Masters, which starts today at the Augusta National Golf Club.
Four caddies with close Chattanooga ties -- including brothers Kip and Brent Henley who grew up in the Chattanooga area -- will be carrying golf bags this week.
"It was disappointing having to watch it on TV last year," said Kip, who caddies for Brian Gay. "I'm sure it was way more of a disappointment for BG."
Brent Henley will caddie for Robert Garrigus, while Englishman Gareth Lord -- who played golf at UTC -- is caddying for Henrik Stenson. And former UTC player and assistant coach Ben Rickett is looping for U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox, who has "Chattanooga" in gold letter on his white bag.
The Henley brothers are among the most notable caddies on tour. They earned a spot on SportsCenter for their caddie race down the 16th hole Phoenix Open when Brent tumbled and tried to tackle his brother.
There will be no such shenanigans this week.
"Nothing compares to Augusta," Kip said. "There are tons of slopes and tons of hills. You're sucking air going up 18 fairway. You don't get a feel for that on TV."
Six Ams in field
Fox leads a field of six amateurs playing in the Masters this year. He is joined by British Am champion Alan Dunbar, U.S. Mid-Am champion Nathan Smith, U.S. Public Links champion T.J. Vogel, U.S. Am runner-up Michael Weaver and 14-year-old Tianlang Guan.
Guan won the fourth annual Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, and is the youngest player ever to participate in the Masters surpassing Matteo Manassero who was 16 in 2010.
Masters chairman Billy Payne said Guan's participation is the result of an initiative started four years ago with the Royal & Ancient.
"I think the simple objective of creating heroes whose success would inspire others to become involved in the game, in the Asia-Pacific area, we believed was very fertile growth for the game," Payne said. "I had no idea of a 14-year-old."
The growing debate about anchored belly putters -- the extended putters that players steady by securing the end of the handle against their upper body -- was raised during Payne's annual news conference.
Payne said the club does not have an official position on the debate between whether belly putters should be allowed. Rather, Payne said the Masters wants "common ground."
"Given the fact that the ruling bodies have not yet declared a decision following that open comment period, I do think it would be inappropriate for us to express an opinion; other than to say, other than to say, that we hope and believe that they can reach common ground so that golf will continue under one set of rules," he said.
The tradition of a PGA Tour event winner getting a Masters invite will be extended into the growing PGA schedule. There are six fall PGA events that are now part of the Fed Ex schedule, and Payne said the winners of those events will get an invite.
To keep the field small, the Masters tightened other qualifying means. Among the changes, now the top 12 finishers and ties will be invited back next year. It used to be the top 16 and ties. The top four and ties from the U.S. Open will be invited to Augusta, half of the previous numbers. Also, the Masters will no longer invite the top 30 from the PGA money list.
Par 3 Champion
Ben Crenshaw never scored a hole-in-one during 132 competitive rounds at the Masters, but he aced No. 7 on Wednesday during the par-3 contest. Maybe the 1984 and '95 Masters champ will get his name in the paper after making his second career ace on that hole in the annual Wednesday contest.
Crenshaw now has 21 career aces.
Earlier in the afternoon, Nick Watney aced No. 9 on his way to sharing first place in the par-3 event. Watney and Ernie Els did not show up for the playoff after five golfers finished tied at 4 under.
Ted Potter Jr. won the playoff beating Matt Kuchar and three-time Masters champ Phil Mickelson.
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...
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 ...