published Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Lupton is ‘Augusta for Amateurs’

No flat-bellies, limberbacks or college golfers are allowed entry into mid-amateur tournaments.

No Kids Allowed.

It limits the field of tournaments such as the Lupton Memorial, which is being played this weekend at The Honors Course, but that’s the point.

Collegians had their chance to play the course last year in the NCAA championship. The best of that bunch have begun testing the waters, or soon will, as professional golfers.

A mid-am tournament is for those who love to compete but either are lifelong amateurs over the age of 25 or former pros who have decided the professional life — club or touring — isn’t for them. And the late Jack Lupton created The Honors Course in honor of amateur golf.

“We have jobs, and nobody out here plays golf for a living or a scholarship,” said New York resident Brandon Davis, who played Division III college golf at Emory University. “College kids get paid [a scholarship] to play, and they practice and play all the time. Mid-ams like us don’t.”

LSU graduate Parker Smith spent 16 months on mini-tours as a professional before taking a job with Wells Fargo and then getting his amateur status back at the age of 25.

He leads after a first-round 4-under-par 68. Danny Yates and Steve J. Johnson lead the senior division with 37 points in the Stableford format.

“When I quit playing pro golf, the weight of the world was lifted off me,” said the 35-year-old Smith, who is the defending champion. “I started enjoying it. Playing for pride and playing for money are two different mentalities. I didn’t have the success as a pro that I had in junior and college golf.”

Former Lee University golfer Ryan Hulton had no such desire to try professional golf. He remained an amateur and played in the 2009 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Kiawah Island.

He said he loves playing in the Lupton Memorial — a by-invitation-only tournament for mid-ams and seniors across the country — and would welcome a Chattanooga-area mid-am tournament. Such a tournament may limit participation compared to the Signal Mountain Invitational in which four of the top six were college golfers.

Chattanooga TPC director Mike Jenkins said he has an idea “rolling around in my head.”

Hulton likely would be all for it.

“I think it would be a good tournament, perhaps a rotating tournament for two days on a weekend,” Hulton said. “After all, it’s tough for us working guys to get a Friday off. Something like ‘the Chattanooga Mid-Am’ — that would be fun.”

Playing with mid-ams, especially at the Honors, is why Davis is making his fifth straight trip.

“There’s something special about playing with 25-and-up,” said Davis, who played in the 2007 U.S. Mid-Am at Bandon Dunes. “It makes you feel like you belong.

“This is the Augusta for amateurs.”

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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