Wiedmer: Lookout event a return to old glory

Wiedmer: Lookout event a return to old glory

July 14th, 2013 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Men's Metro Amateur Scores

139--Caleb Roberson; 142--Joe Markham, Chris Schmidt; 144--Winston Brown; 146--Steve Johnson, Walt Moffitt; 147--Tom Schreiner, Patten Smith, Andrew Weathers; 148--Brandon Cissom; 149--Mikey Feher, Scotty Smith; 150--Richard Spangler; 151--Jeremy Lawson; 152--Levi Nix, Matt Robertson, Hunter Vest, Shonn Weldon; 153--Nick Blakely, Chase Deck, Matt Hadden, Taylor Lewis; 154--Grant Caldwell, Tim Crawford, Thomas Gallant, Cody Godfrey, Blake Maum.

Maybe you can see seven states from Lookout Mountain Golf Club, and maybe you can't. It's no more than an errant 8-iron from Rock City.

But you certainly can experience seven or more types of trouble over the subtly sensational gem designed by the late, great golf course architect Seth Raynor.

Just ask Chris Schmidt, who'll start the final round of the Men's Metro Amateur Championship three strokes behind leader Caleb Roberson (139) when play resumes this morning.

"The wind, no flat lies -- the ball's always either above or below your feet -- the mental challenges of the greens," said Schmidt, who calls Council Fire his home course. "I love it."

Added Patten Smith, who was one off the lead after Friday's round but will start today eight behind Roberson: "It's a thinking man's golf course. You can't just bomb it. You've got to have precise ball striking and great putting. And mistakes are extremely costly."

No offense to the Honors, which just might be the planet's best course most of the world never will see, but LMGC's quaint 6,673 yards (from the tips) are to the Metro Am what Merion was to the U.S. Open this year: unsuspectingly diabolical.

Roberson -- who played for Baylor School and Lee University -- is the only player below par, and he's all of 1 under on the par-70 layout after two rounds.

"You have to think on every shot," the 23-year-old said after hitting the first eight greens in regulation. "But it's a fair course. It's funny -- I've been playing bad all summer, a lot of snap-hooking, which I'd never done before, but I've played well so far this weekend. I've just got to keep doing what I've been doing one more round."

Joe Markham is tied with Schmidt for second. The 46-year-old Cleveland native hadn't played Lookout for at least 10 years before this weekend. The club last hosted the Metro Am -- which rotates among the Chattanooga District Golf Association's 19 member clubs -- in 2001.

"Visually, it's beautiful," said Markham, whose father was the Cleveland Country Club pro for many years. "But it feels like you're playing defensively on every shot."

Designed in the early 1920s, the course actually was completed by Charles Banks after Raynor died of pneumonia in January 1926.

In the 87 years since, it admirably has lived up to its own hype, which proudly proclaims on the club's website: "When our understated quality meets tradition, elegance and Southern hospitality."

No one today would support that statement more than LMGC member Jimmy Chapin, whose 149 total Friday and Saturday just nipped Tom Baird's 150 to capture the seniors title. Doug Stein fired a 151 to finish third.

"It's my favorite course," said Chapin, one of the area's better players since his prep days at McCallie. "I love everything about it -- the view, the surroundings, the character of the course, especially the greens."

Yet he shrugged off the notion that his vast experience on the layout -- "I've probably played this course over 4,000 times in my life" -- was the determining factor in his victory.

"I was just lucky," Chapin said with a grin. "Everybody else faltered and gave it to me."

You see a lot of U.S. Opens won that way. It's more about the guy who messes up the least. But most courses today -- either through advancements in equipment, lack of land to stretch course length or concern that it could become too tough for the weekend hacker -- are built for lower scores and mental vacations.

So in some ways it's quite refreshing to see some of our town's finest amateurs enjoy a relative lack of success on a cozy course devoid of island tee boxes, fairways made of sand and par-5s that should come with separate zip codes for the tees and greens.

Said Markham: "Par is a great score here."

On the best layouts, the ones that require more brains than brawn, it usually is.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com