published Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Youngsters are favored in Tennessee State Amateur championship

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    Defending champion Tim Jackson hits a ball while practicing Monday at the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club for the 2013 Tennessee Amateur Championship.
    Photo by Shawn Paik.
    enlarge photo

STATE AMATEUR

Tennessee State Amateur groupings of interest today at Chattanooga Golf and Country Club. The public is invited to walk and watch for free.

Off No. 1 tee

• 9 a.m. — Tom Baird, Wayne Woolfall, Jim Webb

• 12:40 p.m. — Lee Maxwell, Grant Milner, Keith Mitchell

Off No. 10 tee

• 8 a.m. — Steven Fox, Grant Daugherty, Payne Denman

• 8:10 — David Weeks, Clark Melton, Patrick McDonald

• 8:20 — Tim Jackson, Greg Nichols, Erin McDonald

• 1:20 p.m. — Chris Schmidt, Mike Poe, Neil Spitalny

Tim Jackson is the champion of a young man’s championship.

He is the reigning Tennessee State Amateur champion, and at 54 years old he’s not young compared to the rest of the field competing for the State Am this week at Chattanooga Golf and Country Club. It begins this morning.

“I’m expecting to play well, so we’ll see what happens,” said the Germantown resident who has won the tournament five times beginning in 1994. “I haven’t played much this year, but in the last couple of weeks I’ve put some work in and I want to defend.”

Veteran contenders such as Jackson, CGCC club championship runner-up Tom Baird and 1999 U.S. Mid-Am champion Danny Green from Jackson are in the minority.

Even mid-majors such as Chattanooga’s Richard Spangler and Jimmy White III are a little on the scarce side.

But youngsters are prevalent.

“I have no illusions that I’ll win this thing,” Baird said. “I want to win. But I’m really going to play against the field and what I know I can do. I’m proud to compete against the entire field.”

There are 27 participants in the State Amateur who are younger than 18. Expand the age to the mid-major cutoff at 25 years old, which includes college players, and more than half of the field qualifies as youngsters.

“It’s insane that there are 27 juniors,” said University of Tennessee at Chattanooga senior Davis Bunn, who prepped at Farragut in Knoxville. “I think there’s some good talent coming up in Tennessee.

“The State Am is tough to get into.”

The best golfer — regardless of age — will survive the 36-hole cut and the 72-hole grind and kiss the championship trophy Friday. The youngest participant is Bogle LaRue of Knoxville, who was born in 1999; the oldest participant is 63-year-old Jim Webb of Brentwood.

“I can remember playing in these tournaments in the mid-’90s when there were 10-15 who had a chance to win,” said Jackson, who was the stroke-play medalist at the 2009 U.S Amateur. “Now there are 40-50 players, on this course, in these conditions, who could win the tournament.”

Steven Fox topped all amateurs almost one year ago. The former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golfer from Hendersonville — who has plans to complete his degree in the next academic year — won the U.S. Amateur championship in a dramatic fashion.

But he hasn’t won his state championship.

“I like the amateur events and I’m excited for this week, and I’ve put a number in my head and I’ll try to shoot that every day,” said Fox, who spent plenty of his college days playing Chattanooga Golf and Country Club. “When you play in these events, your confidence goes up. I’ve played this for a few years now, so it’s nothing new and there will be no nerves. I’ve played well here, so I’ll think about that.”

White, who finished in the top five in this tournament on this course in 1997 as a 17-year-old, is young enough to be Webb’s son and old enough to be Bogle’s father.

“High school and college kids play every day,” White said. “Mid-ams and seniors are working. The difference is older and wiser against kids who have no fear.”

Come Friday afternoon, the champion will hoist a trophy. Depending on his age, he may not be able to take it into the proverbial 19th hole.

“Golf is a lot more competitive across the state,” Jackson said. “The fields are deeper. And they’re younger, too.”

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-575-6484. Follow him 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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