Steve Melnyk received his Father's Day gift a couple weekends early this year.
Melnyk again is competing in the senior division of the Lupton Memorial Invitational golf tournament at The Honors Course. For the first time in tournament history, though, Melnyk is accompanied by sons Butler and Dalton. They are playing in the mid-amateur division.
"I bribed them so that all they had to do was get here and I'd take care of the rest," Melnyk joked. "They're both married, and there aren't many opportunities that you get to spend time with just your boys."
Melnyk, a former golf broadcaster, lives in Jacksonville, Fla. Dalton, 33, lives in Atlanta, Butler, 30, lives at St. Simon's Island. They're moderately close in driving proximity, but trying to coordinate a guys weekend is almost impossible.
But the Lupton Memorial provided the perfect opportunity.
"It's the first time in a long time that all of our schedules aligned," Dalton said. "I didn't get my amateur status back until the end of 2011, so last year was the first year I was able to play, but Butler couldn't make it. We definitely wanted to make it work where we could all come."
Dalton shot a 2-under-par 70 in the first round and owned the lead. He made a triple-bogey on the 18th hole Saturday for a 5-over 77 and trails Thad Hudgens -- who shot rounds of 73 and 71 -- by three strokes in the mid-am division. Two-time defending champion Kris Mikkelsen is five off the lead, and Chattanooga's Brendon Wilson is six back.
Three-time senior-division champion Paul Simson has accrued 71 Stableford points and leads 2008 mid-amateur champion Doug Hanzel by one in the senior division. Chip Lutz is six back and Chattanooga's Richard Keene is seven points from the lead.
Don Kuehn has 68 points in the super-senior division and leads Dick Van Leuvan by five heading into the final round.
The Melnyks have been sharing a cottage on the Honors grounds and have rarely left the oasis created by the late Jack Lupton -- with a lot of help from Hall of Fame course designer Pete Dye -- since Thursday night. But Butler missed the cut and left Saturday afternoon.
"We saw the dates, my brother and I shifted some things, and we decided to make it work," said Butler, who played at the University of Georgia and works for the Wasserman Media Group, which represents Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Hunter Mahan and others. "We thought this would be a neat trip for us."
And it has been.
"It's hard to beat with no wives -- just hanging out, playing golf, drinking a couple cold beers and telling some stories," Butler said. "And maybe telling some lies, too."
One truth is that Dalton is in contention, albeit three strokes off the lead and two shots ahead of the Mikkelson who has proven he can win at the Honors.
Win or not, Dalton and Butler made their father proud by joining him at one of the two competitive tournaments he plays each year. The other is at Winged Foot.
"I love being in contention," said Dalton, who played at Florida with Camillo Villegas. "You're like a kid hanging out with buddies and goofing off and playing a game all at the same time."
"This place is Shangri-La."
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP
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 ...