Hunter Vest knows his tee time for Saturday at the Brainerd Invitational golf tournament.
"It's 12:50," he said. "I won't be late."
Vest learned a valuable lesson during the recent State Amateur. He suffered a two-stroke penalty for being late for his first stroke of the third round because the second round finished about 90 minutes earlier.
The Lee University junior from Walker Valley High School will be at Brainerd Golf Course long in advance of his tee time and then will begin to defend the championship he won in a two-hole playoff over Caleb Roberson and Neil Spitalny in early May of 2012.
"It's kind of funny that I've had the trophy for so long instead of one year," Vest said. "The longer I can keep it in my possession, the better.
"Another year would be nice."
He is one of 10 former champions competing Saturday and Sunday in the tournament that was first held in 1945.
"That's a strong field," Vest said.
Moreover, the top six players in the Chattanooga TPC's Adman Cup points standings are competing this weekend on Brainerd's impressive new Bermuda greens.
"It's the strongest field I've ever seen," Chattanooga TPC director Mike Jenkins said. "There are at least 20 -- maybe more -- people who can win. I don't remember feeling that way before."
There are 97 competitors in all. That includes a nine-man senior division using one set of tees closer to the hole for the first time in tournament history.
"Participation is way up from two years ago, when we had about 75 golfers," Jenkins said. "I think part of that is the new greens. I played out there last Monday, and they're really nice."
The tournament -- which has been won twice or more by nine golfers -- moved to its mid-August spot on the area calendar after seven years of spring competition in large part because of the new greens.
It swapped places on the schedule with the Cleveland Invitational because Cleveland Country Club's bentgrass greens are usually better in the spring and Bermuda is better in the fall.
The skill required to putt the greens and avoid trouble off the tee will be key factors in determining the champion Sunday afternoon.
"I haven't been back to Brainerd since I won last year, but I've heard good things," Vest said. "I think you have to go out and shoot at least 4 under [par] each day to have a chance to win."
Vest won in a playoff after doing just that last year. He shot 8 under. He also made both of his tee times.
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him 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 ...
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