published Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Nerves get the best of Chattanooga-area golfers in AJGA event

The hands were shaking and knees were knocking for several Chattanooga-area participants in the Ringgold Telephone Company Junior Classic on Tuesday.

Playing in an American Junior Golf Association tournament is different than playing with friends. Every shot counts. Pin positions were different than normal weekday rounds. And AJGA ranking points are on the line throughout the three rounds.

Thump-thump, thump-thump.

The beat of his own heart is all that Chickamauga resident Justin Hickman heard and felt on the first tee of his first AJGA event.

"I hit 3-wood off the tee, but I hit it too good and all the way to the bottom," he said. "My adrenaline was pumping on my second shot and I hit a 9-iron 20 yards farther than normal -- right over the flag."

The pressure of playing under the gun instead of playing with friends led to abnormal scores for the contestants familiar with WindStone, which plays as a par-71 course for the tournament.

Tyson Venable shot 73 (tied for 34th), Hickman shot 74, Davis Kirk of Dalton shot 78, Evan Spence of Ooltewah shot 79, Rheagan Hall of Charleston shot 87 and McKenzie Frizzell of Ringgold shot 89.

Noah Goodwin of Corinth, Texas, shot an 8-under 63 for a two-shot lead over Michael Sanders of North Carolina.

Goodwin, the top-ranked player in the field based on AJGA rankings, birdied six of seven holes to close out his front nine. He added two birdies on the back nine in a bogey-free round.

Morgan Baxendale of Windermere, Fla., led the girls Tuesday. She shot a 4-under 67. Kendall Griffin of Sebring, Fla., is second at 71 heading into the second round today.

"I know that the bigger tournaments that I get into, the more pressure I'll feel," Baxendale said. "I was proud of myself today."

Venable, who plays high school golf for East Hamilton, settled down after a shaky opening tee shot.

"It was kind of nerve-racking to start," said Venable, who had one of the longest marshmallow-mashes in a "Big Break" style of competition.

"I was shaky. I knew I was going to feel like that, but I didn't know exactly how that would feel."

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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