published Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Vandy group solid in Choo-Choo golf tournament

Former Vanderbilt golfer Ryan Thornton has plenty of company staying at his childhood residence this week for the Chattanooga Choo-Choo Invitational.

Thornton, who ended a four-year playing career at the Nashville university this spring, has four former teammates staying at his family home, and assistant coach Dustin Smith is staying close as well.

"It's miserable," joked Thornton, who prepped at Baylor School. "No, it's cool to have everybody back together again after this summer. It makes it fun and relaxing for a tournament."

A couple of the Commodores are in contention. All except their host -- who is tied for 31st -- sit inside the top 10 heading into the final round today at Council Fire Golf Club.

"It would be great if I beat all the guys," said Smith, who is in the next-to-last group off today with one of his players. "This is the first tournament where I've competed against them. The guys play golf every day, and up until this tournament I hadn't played in about a month.

"If I beat them, I'd definitely have to let them know."

Ben Wolcott, who will be a freshman playing for Ole Miss in a few weeks, has the main bragging rights heading into the final round. He shot a 1-under-par 70 on Tuesday and leads the field at 5 under for the tournament.

Former Baylor and Lee University golfer Caleb Roberson leads the Chattanooga-area contingent at 2 over and sits in seventh place. First-round leader Tim Jackson is in third place, four shots behind Wolcott.

Vandy sophomore Carson Jacobs is in second place after he shot a 70 on Tuesday, which placed him at 3 under for the tournament and two shots off the lead. He was at 8 under for the tournament but shot 5 over on his last five holes of the day.

"I had it going," Jacobs said. "I was making everything and getting up and down if I did miss a green. The rain came in on 14, and that wasn't he way I planned on finishing.

"But I still have a chance tomorrow."

Smith, a former All-American at Lamar University, is in fourth place at even par. Vandy junior Jordan Janico is tied for fifth at 1 over, and sophomores Spencer Ciesla and Zack Jaworski are tied for eighth.

"This is my first competition event since May 2011, so to be up near the top is fun," Smith said. "We'll see how I handle the nerves tomorrow."

And we'll see who has the bragging rights when the Vanderbilt golf season starts in a few weeks.

"Coach Smith is a great player," Janico said. "But he's another competitor. That doesn't change just because we know him.

"It looks like we'll be playing together, so hopefully we'll be feeding off each other."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP

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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