Spotlight on Honors Course in Ooltewah for Southern Amateur

Spotlight on Honors Course in Ooltewah for Southern Amateur

July 16th, 2014 by David Uchiyama in Sportsgolf

Chris Treadway caddies during a qualifying round of the Southern Am on Monday. The Southern Am ranked as the No. 3 amateur tournament in the country begins today at The Honors Course.

Photo by Staff photo by Clark Bowen

THE 108TH SOUTHERN AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP

The Honors Course

Today through Saturday

• What: This is ranked as the No. 3 amateur tournament in the country and No. 7 in the world based on its participants.

• Admission: Free

• Parking: Free on-site parking is in a field just beyond the main gate with a shuttle arriving every five minutes.

• Concessions: Breakfast and lunch are available on the clubhouse patio, and snacks are available at the halfway house after holes 7 and 14.

• First-aid: Beside the practice range or by contacting an official

• Permitted items: Cameras (no clicking during a backswing), cellphones (on silent), water bottles, folding chairs

• Prohibited items: Pets, coolers, noise-makers, radios, large backpacks, weapons

• Autographs: Permitted after a player concludes his round

• Pairing sheets: Available near the clubhouse and scoring area

• Live scoring: Found at www.SGAgolf.com

• Mobile app: Free download -- search Alabama Golf Association

THE FIELD

The field of the Southern Amateur is loaded with ranked players. Here are those playing and ranked in the top 100 of the Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings:

3 Zander Lombard

7 Robby Shelton

11 Seth Reeves

22 Scott Vincent

23 Geoff Drakeford

24 Will Murphy

28 Stewart Jolly

35 Trevor Cone

40 Lee McCoy

51 Jimmy Beck

53 Jarryd Felton

54 Zach Olsen

58 Matt NeSmith

59 Todd Sinnott

61 John Garrick

63 M.J. Maguire

66 Wyndham Clark

75 Jorge Garcia

84 Bo Andrews

85 Michael Cromie

86 Adam Schenk

91 Nicholas Reach

100 Bryce Chalkey

The past is coming back.

Jack Lupton created The Honors Course in the early 1980s to host the best local, state, regional and national amateur golf tournaments possible.

In 1986 some of the best amateur golfers in the country drove through the gates and up to his clubhouse, walked to the first tee and participated in the Southern Amateur.

Rob McNamara of Frankfort, Ky., won that year at the Ooltewah course.

The Southern Golf Associaiton recap of that event rings true even today, when the 108th Southern Amateur will begin for a third time on the grounds where Lupton left his legacy as an amateur golfing pioneer.

"This great course was designed by Pete Dye, and the 1986 SGA Championship was the first major championship played on the course," states the official recap of the 1986 championship, "but it is only a forerunner of many major championships to come."

The words of that SGA writer have become prophetic.

Many of the most accomplished amateur golfers in the country -- from Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to Steven Fox and Patrick Reed -- have driven through the hidden gates of The Honors Course. A few golfing generations have passed since that first event in 1986, but the feeling is still the same.

"I turned left off the highway and thought, 'This can't be the place,'" said Lee McCoy, a University of Georgia player who is a top-100 ranked player. "It had an '80s mailbox out front. Then I saw the gate. I went in slow. Real slow. And took it all in for the first time."

McCoy is part of a new generation that Lupton couldn't imagine. It's a generation of golfers with titanium clubs, laser rangefinders, personal coaches and GPS devices tracking shots on the practice range.

But they still have to tackle what Dye designed to earn one of the most prestigious trophies in amateur golf, and an exemption into the PGA Tour's Bay Hill Invitational.

"This isn't just another week for the players," Honors head professional Henrik Simonsen said. "The Southern Am has such a tradition that it's special to them."

The Honors is so special that SGA executive Buford Mitchell suggested -- maybe only half in jest -- during the annual meting that the Honors be the annual site of the Southern Am.

"We're on a 10-year rotation," McCarty said. "I'd like it be on a one-year rotation here."

The rotation has drawn the best golfers available. This year is no different. Of the 168 golfers playing the Honors today, 23 are ranked within the top 100 of the Scratch Golfers World Amateur Rankings.

Defending champion Zack Olsen, who won this tournament last year at The Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas, is in that group at No. 54.

"It was cool to see my name on that big trophy when I registerd today," said Olsen, whose mother will be caddying for him this week. "That brought some smiles back from last year."

Beau Hossler, the surprise of the 2012 U.S. Open when he almost stared down Webb Simpson, is also in the field this week. Hossler, who plays for the University of Texas, is excited about the week and is spending his nights at what's known as the "Thunderdome" -- the house owned by Thunder Thornton on the edge of the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club.

"This is going to be a great test of golf," Hossler said. "This is the kind of field you expect in a tournament like this."

It's as Lupton would have liked.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.