published Friday, August 29th, 2014

Watford leads Mid-Am by three over Jackson, Greer

Tim Jackson called it before the order had been placed.

Knowing that The Honors Course was serving its fabled warm banana pudding for dessert at lunch, he guessed that Kevin Watford would order two servings.

Watford ordered three -- one for dessert and two for later.

Jackson and Watford have developed a friendship in recent years that has resulted in success in various four-ball tournaments across the Southeast. They travel together, stay together and have come to know each other well.

"We go to Florida in January to get the season started," Jackson said. "We enjoy each other's company."

They will be two-thirds of the final grouping today in the last round of the Tennessee Mid-Amateur Championship.

Watford, who lives in Franklin, shot a 3-under-par 69 for the second straight day and is at 6-under 138 through 36 holes of the 54-hole tournament. Jackson, the Tennessee golfing legend from Germantown, shot a 71 on Thursday and is 3 under for the tournament. Ryan Greer of Knoxville shot a tournament-best 67 on Thursday and is tied with Jackson.

The three leaders tee off this morning at 10.

The quartet of Dan Crockett, Matt Cooper, Craig Smith and Scott Kammen are tied for fourth at 1 over. Brandon Cissom and Richard Keene lead the contingent of Chattanooga-area residents at 6 over. They're tied for 21st.

"If you're paired with Tim in the final round, you know you're doing well," said Watford, who teamed with Jackson to win the Mid-Am division of the Southern States Four-Ball Championship in 2012.

"I was a 4 or 5 handicap when I moved to Tennessee in 2003, and then I started hanging around Tim and Danny [Green] and playing with them," Watford said. "You learn a lot from playing golf with them."

Watson's introduction to golf came after he played two seasons of baseball at Wallace Community College in Dothan, Ala. Watford, who turns 42 on Monday, transferred to Auburn and worked on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail to earn some spending cash.

In that job, he crossed paths with Jason Dufner, who was an Auburn walk-on at the time and arrived on campus with a persimmon-wood driver and an old crusty bag, Watford recalled.

"At Auburn is when I started playing golf," said Watford, who played baseball left-handed. "The eye-hand coordination helped. But I was a dead pull hitter in baseball and hooked everything in golf."

So he tried something revolutionary -- he grabbed right-handed clubs. Something clicked and strokes were shaved in bunches by swinging right-handed while remaining a left-handed putter.

"I've got a homemade swing," he said. "Don't put it on video."

Thursday, Watford played the back nine first with three birdies, three pars and three bogeys. Then he made six pars and three birdies over his last nine holes.

"I've been lucky," he said. "I haven't played good all year. I had back surgery in 2007 and I've been fighting it all year.

"This last week, it seems to have gotten better."

His sweet tooth is in good shape too. Jackson knows that.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him 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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