Jason Holwerda hits white ball instead of shooting orange one

Jason Holwerda hits white ball instead of shooting orange one

August 28th, 2014 by David Uchiyama in Sports - Golf

Jason Holwerda

Jason Holwerda

Photo by David Uchiyama /Times Free Press.

Golf used to be a secondary sport for Jason Holwerda.

It was his excuse to play for his father, Don, at Chattanooga Christian, a break from what could have been 12 months filled with basketball, and an excuse to miss those CCS basketball fall conditioning drills.

"I didn't have to do all that running that my teammates were doing," Holwerda said. "I was a very average golfer back then, just kind of slapping it around."

He's better than average these days.

Holwerda, now a 31-year-old with a wife, two children, a bustling commercial real estate business and a home in Franklin, Tenn., is fully committed to golf instead of basketball -- the sport which gave him a full scholarship to play for Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt.

Holwerda shot a 1-over-par 73 and is tied for 10th after the opening round of the Tennessee Mid-Amateur which continues today and concludes Friday at The Honors Course.

"I got up and down out of garbage cans today," joked Holwerda, who has his father as a caddy for the first time in their lives.

"For a Chattanooga guy, growing up in the shadow of The Honors, to have your dad on the bag in a tournament here, makes this bigger than a golf tournament to me," he said. "It's a once in a lifetime chance. I had my sister-in-law out here taking pictures."

Holwerda is five strokes behind first-round leader Scott Kammann of Knoxville. Nick Blakely of Ooltewah, Kevin Watford of Franklin and Craig Smith of Nashville are tied for second at 3 under. Tim Jackson, the six-time Mid-Am champion, is in fifth after shooting a 2-under 70.

"I've been looking forward to this tournament more than any other this year," Blakely said. "I played pretty solid from start to finish. I got a couple putts to go in, and the next thing you know I had a pretty good round going."

Holwerda had a good basketball career at Vanderbilt. When he finished in 2005, he ranked in the top 10 in career assists and steals for the Commodores. He started 31 games his senior season and averaged 7.4 points per game that season.

With a trim 6-foot-5 frame, Holwerda still looks like the first pick in any rec league. But he doesn't play hoops.

"When the ball stopped bouncing for me in 2005, I started to play a lot more golf and took it a little more serious," said Holwerda, who spent a summer as an intern at Golf House Tennessee. "That competitive edge never leaves you. It's displaced. So I had to find somewhere else for that to go."

The seeds for his love of golf were planted during his summers at Vanderbilt. He'd take a class in the morning, work out with his teammates, then play or practice golf at either the Golf Club of Tennessee or the Vanderbilt Legends Club, where he is now a member.

"He hung out with the golf team in the summer and spent a lot of time with his buddies there," said Don Holwerda. "He's grown. I suggested a 5-iron today and he said, "Hand me the wedge.' I'm not much of a cadie because he hits it where I never hit a ball."

The summers in college shaped Holwerda's golf game. He routinely played with or against members of the Vandy golf team or recent graduates who had yet to make it to the PGA Tour -- the likes of Luke List and Brandt Snedeker.

"I never played those guys for money -- I'm not that dumb," Holwerda joked. "They beat me in score by a lot. I'm longer than Brandt -- Luke is a different story because he destroys the ball -- but from 50 yards and in is where they get strokes on me."

Holwerda is playing more comparable competition these days. He said he'll be a career amateur, compete in state and regional events and take every opportunity he can to play a quick nine holes. In fact, he'd rather spend two hours on a golf course than two hours playing basketball.

"It's not even close, I'd rather be out here," Holwerda said. "There are two kinds of fun in golf. One is with buddies fiddling around like [Tuesday] in the practice round.

"There's a different kind of fun in tournaments, that edgy nervousness that I love. The butterflies. Like when you're in the lockerroom in Rupp Arena before a game and you're not sure if you're going to run out there or puke your guts out."

He kept it together on Wednesday.

<p style="text-align: left;">Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.</p>