A PGA Tour event was on the television inside Ayala’s Mexican Restaurant on a recent Sunday when frequent customer Doug Goodfellow struck up a conversation with the owner.
Goodfellow pointed at the screen and asked if Ayala, a 32-year-old former soccer player, would have any interest in learning a new game — one he could play by himself or with just a couple of buddies.
Ayaha had plenty of interest, so Goodfellow invited him to Moccasin Bend to hit a few shots on the range, learn the basic rules — fewer strokes is better — and enhance their friendship.
After one session on the range and one nine-hole round, Ayala bought himself a set of clubs and is getting the infectious golf bug.
“I didn’t know the basics — how to hold a club, how to swing a club, how to keep score,” Ayala said Tuesday. “I’m just three weeks into this.”
Those three weeks have included two introductory sessions on the range and two nine-hole rounds. He shaved three strokes off his score from the first to second rounds.
“My wife and I go [to the restaurant] three or four times a week and I asked him, ‘Do you want to try this? Do you want to come to the range with me one day?’” Goodfellow said. “Now we’re down here every Tuesday.”
It’s a date that Ayala looks forward to.
“I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said. “If I have something to do, I put it away and come down here and play.”
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 ...