published Friday, July 19th, 2013

Cleveland Invitational finally in play

The original idea almost worked.

The Cleveland Invitational and the Brainerd Invitational swapped positions on the calendar for the 2013 Chattanooga golf season.

Then the rains came in April. And again on the first weekend in May when the Cleveland tournament was set to be played at Cleveland Country Club.

The first tee shot will now be struck Saturday morning at in the re-scheduled two-day tournament which will have a different field and be played in slightly different conditions than the course would have in May.

“We had lost about 40 percent of what had signed up for the original dates, and we had people who got out because of the conflict with timing,” Cleveland general manager Lamar Mills said. “But it’s getting back on their minds. We’ll leave entries open as long as we can, maybe until [this] morning.”

The original date worked much better for defending champion Chris Schmidt. He is the tournament director of the inaugural Choo-Choo Invitational which begins Monday at Council Fire.

But first, he’s playing this weekend.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to have a title,” Schmidt said. “You should pay the club respect and defend that title.”

Cleveland swapped spots with Brainerd (set for Aug. 17-18) because course conditions would be better for Cleveland’s bentgrass in May and Brainerd’s Bermuda greens later in the summer. A wetter — and cooler — summer than average has prevented Cleveland’s greens from getting stressed this year.

“We haven’t had a hot summer yet, so we haven’t had the conditions that put a strain on us in the past,” Mills said. “All of the rain hasn’t been ideal, but overall we’re in good shape.”

The rough will be about an inch and a half. Schmidt maneuvered around the course to win last year with much longer rough. But that’s not what he remembers about his two stroke victory over Matt Robertson.

“I had my daughter [Christiana] there,” Schmidt recalled. “She wanted so bad to be a part of it. I wanted it for her because she took a lot of pride in it. It meant a lot to me as a 12-year-old girl looked up to her dad.

“With her playing now, she’s rejuvenated my spirit to continue forward. I practice more now because she’s right there beside me.”

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or at 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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