published Saturday, May 31st, 2014

Roadrunners facing stout field in North Georgia Invitational

Dalton State golf coach Ben Rickett wants his players to play in tournaments with quality competition this summer.

The Roadrunners will get it this weekend.

Not only will they be competing against their coach, who played for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, but they'll face a field in the North Georgia Invitational that includes 31 golfers with handicaps of zero or better.

"If you're a plus-0.2, you're not one of the top 20 players," said Dalton Golf and Country Club head professional Russ Alstum. "It's going to be rocking and rolling. The course is set up to go low.

"But they have to go through Noll first."

That is David Noll Jr., who has won eight of the last 11 NGI tournaments and this month won the Georgia Mid-Amateur Championship for the third time.

"I don't know what it is or why it is, but the field is loaded," Alstum said. "Maybe it's college kids. We've got them coming from Dalton State, Lee, UTC, Oglethorpe, Emory, William & Mary, Reinhardt. There's a bunch of them."

The Dalton State golfers all seek what Rickett wants them to grasp, and that is tournament experience. Heading into the Roadrunners' second year of competition on the NAIA level, Rickett asked his three players staying in town for the summer to play in this tournament for the experience and to support a course that has supported his fledgling program.

He wants them to get familiar with the nerves, frustration and celebration of playing against competitive amateur golfers.

"If the sport means something to you, you'll feel something on the first tee no matter the event, whether it's the Masters or the NGI," Rickett said. "Any time they can get competition, it's going to be beneficial for them."

And with Rickett in the field with his players, there's a sense of pride among the Roadrunners. He wants to beat his players, and his players want to beat him in the 36-hole tournament.

"It will be awesome to see who comes out on top," said junior Levi Nix, who grew up in LaFayette. "I want to beat him, and I want to take away positive vibes and be in a good mindset."

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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