published Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Gilliland in tie atop State Senior Amateur

Green renovation

Council Fire Golf Club has decided that it will renovate its greens next summer and install a version of ultra-dwarf Bermuda grass that replaces its current bentgrass greens.

"It's exciting, no doubt," said director of golf Hunt Gilliland. "We'll go around the South and learn all we can and make a decision in about the next 60 days. We've done a lot of research and we want an ultra-dwarf version. We want the right one for us and our members."

Wes Gilliland has played Council Fire Golf Club a time or two. Actually make that hundreds of times.

The local knowledge he's picked up over the years, combined with advice from member Chris Schmidt -- who caddied for him -- plus solid ball-striking and smooth use of his See-More putter, has the Chattanooga resident in a tie for first after the opening round of the Tennessee Senior State Amateur.

"It was a very pleasing round," said Gilliland, who made five birdies and a double-bogey on No. 3. "Chris kept me grounded. We know a lot of ridges of the greens. Local knowledge helps. You know what you're looking at."

Gilliland and Doug Harris, of Franklin, each shot 3-under 69s to lead after the first round. Loudon's Jim Brown is one shot back and Garry Siddons, of Knoxville, is the only other participant to break par.

"I tried moving the ball to the center of my stance," said Harris, who had been struggling with his putting and changed his ball position. "It just felt like the putter was accelerating through the ball better."

Chattanooga golfers Tom Baird and Larry McGill are tied for fifth at even-par while Neil Spitaly is in 13th place at 1 over. Gary Pierce, of Franklin, and Bill Love, of Knoxville, lead the Super-Senior division at 2 over.

Gilliland credits much of his success on Tuesday to Schmidt as his caddie and a new putter on the greens. He played a few competitive rounds with a belly-putter similar to one used by Adam Scott and PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley before switching to a See More stick.

"I had no three-putts and 27 putts in all, which is a good day for me," said Gilliland, who has overcome colon cancer and being read his last rights by a priest. "Chris helped remind me that this is a marathon and not a sprint. I'm not a runner, but I get it. One hole isn't going to win it on Tuesday, but letting one bad hole turn into three could lose it."

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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