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A friend challenged Frank Alford.
That friend placed a ball in front of him on the range at WindStone Golf Club, handed Alford a 7-iron and dared him to hit the ball.
Odd, Alford thought. After all, he'd been a football player in high school and played tennis for about 30 years. He knew how to hit a ball.
He tried again -- whiff, right over the top like a split-fingered fastball came his way, even though the ball never moved.
"After several whiffs I dribbled that 7-iron about 40 yards," Alford said of that experience about 19 years ago. "I turned to him and said, 'It can't be this difficult, so game on!'
"I took lessons and set the goal to break 90 within the next 12 months."
Alford came close to reaching that goal, which was motivated by Dr. Hyman Kaplan. They've been playing golf together at WindStone and, for more than a decade, at Council Fire.
"I broke 90 in 14 months, but I didn't do that within the year I proposed," Alford said. "It came on a day at WindStone when I least expected it. Then I went back to playing in the 90s."
Alford traded in his racket for clubs and switched from playing areas with the same dimensions to a sport with markedly different venues -- even from one day to the next on the same property, in some cases.
"It is a game that, unlike other sports where you can count on teammates to err, this is all about you," Alford said. "It's a game between you and the course, and it drives you to take responsibility for your game and drive you to play better."
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 ...