CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Neil Scott grew up at Cleveland Country Club.
He started working there as a teenager, continued through his years playing golf for Lee University, became an assistant professional there and eventually moved into the role of head professional.
"You don't have to be here seven days a week, but you need to," Scott recalled. "It's a seven-day-a-week job and I didn't play much. I wasn't a competitive pro golfer, that's for sure."
Then he quit about three years ago.
He gave up the long hours working in the pro shop, on the driving range and all over the course. Scott, 33, had two beautiful reasons -- his wife, Meredith, and his daughter Evie.
Scott took a corporate job that required some travel but still allowed him to spend more time with the ladies in his life.
"It was a hard decision," said Scott, who now works for State Farm insurance and has his weekends free.
The professional transition has worked out for him. He has another daughter, Darcy, and he has been reinstated as an amateur.
"I'd like to compete again," Scott said after shooting a 2-over-par 74 Saturday in the first round of the Cleveland Invitational tournament.
"It's not easy for me to play golf and be with the girls," he said. "I loved golf but it was more of a job. But this, competitive golf, is fun for me."
Scott is in a tie for eighth place heading into the final round.
"This was my first competitive round in about six years," Scott said. "Let's see if I can break 80 again tomorrow."
Former Walker Valley High School teammates Hunter Vest and Cody Godfrey are tied for the lead after they shot 3-under 69 on a course that various players said had a very difficult first nine holes with devilish pin placements.
Godfrey made five birdies and two bogeys Saturday. He took a year off from the Tennessee Wesleyan golf team to take care of his daughter, Kourtlin, who is now 17 months old.
"She's great for my golf game," Godfrey said. "I don't analyze things as much. She's helped simplify golf."
Vest, more recently a Lee player, made six birdies -- including two to close his round -- and three bogeys.
The two former Mustangs will be in the last group off today along with Matt Hadden, who at 71 is tied for third with Joe Markham Jr.
"It should be interesting, because you never know what you're going to get when you play with Cody," Vest joked. "I can't guarantee a record-breaking 64 or 65, but I feel pretty good about it."
Scott feels good about his decisions as well.
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him 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 ...