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University of Tennessee at Chattanooga golf coach Mark Guhne holds a driver while talking to Brooks Thomas Wednesday during practice at the UTC Golf center on Hickory Valley Road.

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Carpet Capital Collegiate includes Dalton State as well as UTC

Kory Webb has walked on the cart path during the Carpet Capital Collegiate golf tournament and played the roles of spectator, supporter, cheerleader, teammate and friend.

He has a different role this year. He'll be walking in the fairways and playing his own ball.

Webb, a junior from Knoxville, has earned a spot on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga squad that will compete in one of the most prestigious college tournaments of the year.

"Kory was on one of the top high school players in the state, and the first tournament he qualified for was the NCAA Preview against the best of the best," UTC coach Mark Guhne said. "That shook his confidence. It's been a struggle getting that back. That course was so hard and so long. I think he's now starting to see that he needs to be leading us instead of being a player on the team."

This year's Carpet Capital at The Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face includes teams from Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, Ole Miss and the host, Georgia Tech, among others.

Also in the field, for the first time, is NAIA member Dalton State, which replaced a Division I team that dropped out of the tournament. The Roadrunners are coached by former UTC standout Ben Rickett, and they have the reigning NAIA medalist and are used to playing at The Farm.

Rickett's players will be paired with players from UTC as well as Tennessee during the first two rounds.

"It's going to be fun," Guhne said. "Ben has caddied at Augusta during the Masters, but he's never been in a situation like this. He'll be nervous. I love it."

Guhne sent his team on a long qualifying tournament with rounds at The Farm, Council Fire and Black Creek to determine his starting lineup.

Wes Gosselin won. Junior Brooks Thomas, sophomore Stuart Thomas, freshman Lake Johnson and Webb also made the team for this prestigious tournament.

"It's nice to get to play a big tournament near your hometown," said Brooks Thomas, who's from Ringgold. "As a team, we need to get down to business and play good golf. If we can get off to a good start this week, it would be good.

"The end goal of playing for an NCAA championship is a long ways away."

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

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