published Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Signal Mountain Invitational turns 75

In this file photo, golfer Michael Morrison tees off on the fourth hole of the Signal Mountain Invitational at Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club. Morrison has won the tournament five times. Staff File Photo.
In this file photo, golfer Michael Morrison tees off on the fourth hole of the Signal Mountain Invitational at Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club. Morrison has won the tournament five times. Staff File Photo.


Jack Jones — 1937

Lew Oehmig — 1940, ’41, ’49, ’50, ’62, ’79

Polly Boyd — 1943

Ira Templeton — 1954, ’55

Ed Brantly — 1964, ’65, ’81, ’85, ’86

Larry White — 1966, ’69

Harold Lane — 1977, ’78, ’82

Danny Green — 1990, ’05, ’06

Michael Morrison — 1995, ’97, ’98, ’07, ’08

Some celebrations call for champagne.

This is one.

The Signal Mountain Invitational will celebrate its 75th anniversary when the tournament begins Friday at Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club.

“It’s the granddaddy of them all, other than the city championship,” said King Oehmig, who won in 1994. “It’s been one of the great invitational tournaments that every amateur golfer looks forward to playing. But it’s a really maddening course because it’s absurdly short, yet it’s very resistant to scoring.”

The Signal Mountain is the oldest area club amateur invitational. It began in 1937 when Jack Jones won with a three-day score of 232.

The Chattanooga Men’s Metro championship is the oldest area tournament, having been played since Polly Boyd won in 1929. The Lookout Mountain Swing-Ding will turn just 52 later this year.

“It’s great that the club has kept it going, and it speaks well for amateur golf in Chattanooga,” said 1963 champion Hugh “Banjie” Goodman, who now lives in Nashville. “I remember playing one year with Joel Richardson and Ed Brantly in the fog and rain. We would hit and you couldn’t see but 75 yards. You might have to walk 100 yards up from your ball just to get your bearings. We used local knowledge.”

The list of past champions is a who’s who of Chattanooga, and even state, amateur golf. Five SMI champions are in the Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame. Those are Lew Oehmig, Boyd, Brantly, Ira Templeton and Danny Green.

“It was always a good early-season golf tournament, and there aren’t many three-day events around, and it’s a great way to get in some competitive golf early in the year,” said Green, who lives in Jackson, Tenn. “The year after I won [1990] it was a one-day tournament and I didn’t play very well. But I won the first flight and Bob Morrison got a kick out of giving me a set of irons for winning the flight a year after winning the tournament.”

Lew Oehmig, King’s father, won the tournament a record six times and did so in four decades. He went 39 years between his first win in 1940 and his last in 1979.

“I think the reason Dad could play well up there for so long is that there’s a premium on accuracy off the tee, which he had,” King said. “He also had a phenomenal wedge game and that’s the two biggest things you need up there.”

Boyd won in 1943. Brantly won five times and went 22 years between his first win and last. Templeton set the scoring record at 201 in the tournaments he won in 1954 and ’55.

“Chattanooga has always had great players,” said Green, who also won in 2004 and ’05. “As far as our state is concerned, it seems that the multitude of good players come from Chattanooga.”

The tournament took a one-year break in 1958. Then it had a seven-year hiatus beginning in 1970.

Bob Morrison, who helped rekindle the tournament, explained that no one stepped up to take over for a longtime SMI director.

“I took it straight to the membership. Me and some other folks guaranteed it would make a profit, and that’s when we started back and ran it for quite some time,” said Morrison, whose son Michael became a four-time champion.

“I had a lot of friends become sponsors, and that enabled us to give out prizes and make the thing work.”

The tournament has been played every year since Harold Lane won the first of his two titles in 1977.

“The history of the event is so incredible,” said 1980 champion Kip Henley. “When I won, I was a young punk. But I knew enough about the names on that trophy to show plenty of respect. Then I got to put my little name next those giants.”

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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