Former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golfer Jonathan Hodge strikes his tee shot on No. 13 at Cleveland Country Club Monday. Hodge qualified for the Children's Hospital Classic. Photo by David Uchiyama
Jonathan Hodge works in a performance-based industry. He gets paid based on how well he performs in golf tournaments.
The former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga standout earned a chance Monday for a big payday this Sunday.
The former All-Southern Conference player shot a 3-under-par 68 at Cleveland Country Club to claim one of seven Monday-qualifier spots into the Children's Hospital Classic, a Nationwide Tour event that begins competition Thursday at Black Creek Club.
"I wasn't going to do anything this week, but it's nice to have something to do," said Hodge, who graduated in 2010. "Cashing a check this week would be nice."
Especially since he has to help pay for his upcoming wedding to former UTC softball pitcher Brooke Loudermilk.
"We're registered at Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond," Hodge joked. "As for today, I would summarize it as a success."
Hodge received a sponsor's exemption into the tournament in 2008 when it was the Chattanooga Classic. He missed the cut in his only Nationwide Tour event to date.
The plans are different this time around, and with a $90,000 prize to the winner, that could greatly change the wedding plans.
"I love playing Black Creek, and it's cool to be back hanging around Chattanooga," Hodge said. "I was pretty nervous in 2008 and I wasn't comfortable because I was still in college. This time, I'm very comfortable."
Brice Garrett of Gallatin, Mo., was the medalist at 8 under on the Cleveland course set up as a par-71. Former Georgia golfer Russell Henley, who won the Nationwide's Stadion Classic in April but chose to remain an amateur long enough to represent the United States in the Walker Cup, tied for second at 4 under.
"I turned at even and something clicked in my swing and I started making birdies," Henley said. "I'm going to kind of free-wheel it and have a lot of fun."
Andrew Black has the same plan.
The 32-year-old Golf Headquarters employee qualified at 68. Black had played mostly for fun the past five or six years, but this year he dedicated himself to practice and decided to test his ability against regular tour professionals.
"Long-term, maybe, it's what I want to start doing," Black said. "It's going to be fun to play against the Nationwide guys and see what happens."
Chattanooga-area participants did not have the same success at Bear Trace at Harrison Bay as he did at Cleveland.
Former McCallie star Adam Mitchell was 5 under through 17 holes after starting on No. 10. He pulled his tee shot on No. 9 into the woods, punched out, came up short on his approach, chipped up and two-putted for a 3-under 69.
The five guys who shot 68 went to a playoff for three spots. Those included former UTC star Bryce Ledford, who had buddy Luke List, a Classic participant, as his caddie. Ledford is the first alternate after falling just short in the playoff.
"It's a hold-nothing-back kind of day," he said before grabbing lunch. "I've played in 21 events this year and I'm doing it on my own ticket, so that's tough. There are weeks when the bank account gets low."
Such is the life in a performance-based business.
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter 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 ...