Mother Nature is giving Cleveland Country Club general manager and head golf professional Lamar Mills an early birthday present -- fantastic weather.
She hasn't been kind to him in the last year.
More than six inches of rain poured onto the course a year ago, forcing Mills to postpone the 2013 Cleveland Invitational until June. Then came a harsh winter, dumping enough snow and ice on pine trees that at least 15 no longer exist on the course. Storms that ripped through the area this week felled another tree.
And the slow start to spring has the course a few weeks behind schedule for the 10th annual Cleveland Invitational, which runs today and Sunday.
"The weight of snow snapped off limbs, we went through a weeklong process at the end of March of cleaning everything out, and we're about three weeks from where we need to be," Mills said Friday. "But I will sleep a lot easier tonight than I did last year, knowing that temps will be about 70 with zero percent chance of rain."
The tournament will be played with lift-clean-and-place rules in the fairway.
"There are some lies that could be pretty tough with dormant grass that doesn't show any signs of starting to pop up," Mills said. "We're doing that to make the tournament more enjoyable."
The Cleveland Invitational moved to a spring spot on the Chattanooga TPC schedule last year because of its bentgrass greens, which are better in spring, and flip-flopped with the Brainerd Invitational, where the Bermuda greens are better in the late summer. But the weekend washout pushed the Cleveland tournament to June 20-21 last year.
Everything is back on schedule -- except for some of the grass.
"We haven't lost any trees that our members would want to get rid of," Mills joked. "They've been cussed at enough that they took up good roots."
Caleb Roberson won last year during a hot streak that convinced him to turn professional. He shot a 12-under-par 132, which broke the tournament record by four strokes. Four other past champions are in the field this year -- Jerod Baldwin, John Maupin, Brandon Cissom and Chris Schmidt -- but as a pro, Roberson can't play.
"I miss playing with folks that I know," Roberson said. "Hunter [Vest] says he'll break my record. I told him that if he's in contention that I'd come watch."
If so, he'd see the same course under different conditions.
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
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 ...