Mike Hammontree had the skills to play college golf or baseball.
Coaches at UNC Greensboro asked him to walk on for both sports, but a knee injury limited his baseball mobility, so he tried out for the golf team.
He made it, but he didn't last long.
"I had a bit of an attitude problem," Hammontree said. "In the first team meeting, the coach said, 'We're going to be up at 6 a.m. for workouts,' and I raised my hand and said, 'What? I don't work out for golf.'"
The meeting continued.
"Coach said, 'You can't belong to any fraternity or club,'" Hammontree recalled. "I had just pledged my [tail] off for Sigma Nu. 'So this ain't going to work out.'
"So I played the golf team guys for beer money, and I drank a lot of beer in college."
By whipping the college players Hammontree developed his skills and enough confidence to try playing on mini tours in North Carolina while attending graduate school.
"I had a dream of being a professional athlete of some kind," he said. "I was. I made so little money, in four years I may have made $2,000."
Yet it's all worked out. Playing on the mini-tours put him in touch with Scratch Golf -- a club manufacturing company that used to be based in Chattanooga. He had the responsibility for Scratch Golf attending tour events from the PGA Tour, Web.com Tour and the LPGA Tour. He did a lot of traveling. But that fizzled out.
So Hammontree helped found the Chase 54 golf apparel company and recently sold his interest after three years worth of work.
"A buddy and I were approached by a company out of Singapore. They thought they could make a lot of money and they were selling stuff in Asia, but it was awful-looking stuff," he said of his start with the company represented by Chattanooga's Brooke Pancake on the LPGA Tour. "We had to tear down the brand and reboot.
"It was interesting keeping Singapore hours and U.S. hours."
Hammontree has plenty of time to play these days because he's in between jobs.
"It seems like I can't really get out of the industry," he said. "Once you're in, it's hard to get out. So I'm helping a couple other companies. We'll see what happens."
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 ...