weekly online golf column
Chris Dortch

May 28, 2002

The news a couple of weeks ago that Black Creek will become the co-host, along with The Honors, for the 2005 U.S. Mid-Amateur was good for Chattanooga golf.  It's only right that a city with such a proud golf history become a regular part of the USGA's tournament rotation. The Honors, of course, started the relationship with the USGA by playing host to the 1991 U.S. Amateur and the 1994 Curtis Cup. Both those tournaments were exciting, competitive and well attended by local golf fans.

Amateur golf is a big draw in Chattanooga.  The USGA knows that, and though it made decisions in recent years to conduct, among other events, the Walker Cup in other cities, it has long held Chattanooga in high esteem. Perhaps with the Amateur returning in '05, the USGA will continue making Chattanooga a regular part of its rotation for all events. 

Obviously, The Honors exists for such tournaments. But Black Creek ownership, too, has expressed a strong desire to host significant amateur championships. There is no question that the USGA will find Black Creek a worthy tournament venue and will consider the course for other tournaments.  At more than 7,000 yards from the back tees, Black Creek stretches out long enough to test the best amateur players, though the course can play shorter depending on tee shot placement. With a little tweaking of the rough, which is the USGA's trademark, Black Creek could become an extreme test for anyone. 

In particular, I'd love to see how good junior players test the course. What a great place for a U.S. Junior Amateur, boys or girls.  Black Creek, like The Honors, is a great match-play venue. There are plenty of holes that test golfers with a risk-reward decision. Juniors, who have little to fear anyway (don't you hate them?) will willingly go for the gusto on every hole, tempting the various trouble spots on the golf course. That could result in birdies and even eagles, but it could also result in a triple bogey.  If the latter occurs, though, it's just one hole lost in match play.  That's what makes Black Creek, like The Honors, such a great match play course.

In covering the U.S. Amateur and the Curtis Cup at The Honors, I can remember several pivotal holes where matches were decided when a player took a chance. That makes for exciting golf.  The USGA is already fond of Black Creek, having recently conducted Mid-Amateur qualifying at the course. It'll be interesting to see in the years to come whether Black Creek will take its place alongside The Honors to help make Chattanooga a regular stop on the USGA's circuit.

STATE OPEN WRAPUP: Tim Jackson of Germantown moved into some fast company last week when he won the Coca-Cola/AmSouth TGA State Open. Only six other players in state history have won the state open and the state amateur. Two of those are from Chattanooga, Mike Nelms and Kip Henley.  The others are Albert Stone, Mason Rudolph, Bobby Greenwood and Bob Wolcott.  It's interesting to note that three of the six players who won both titles went on to play on the PGA Tour.

It's also interesting to note that two of Chattanooga's all-time greatest players, Ira Templeton and Lew Oehmig, didn't pull the rare double.  Templeton won the 1951 state open at Signal Mountain, but never could bring home an amateur title, though he was close a time or two. Oehmig-the most decorated amateur in state history-won eight state amateurs but not the state open, a tournament he didn't play all that much. 

Several Chattanooga-area players had strong finishes at the state open. Council Fire pro Richard Rebne shot a 69 in the final round and finished sixth at 212. Zeb Patten of the Golf Center finished in a four-way tie for 12th at 213 after a final 73.  Also in that group was former UTC kicker Matt Vick, a Franklin amateur who tied for the best final round at 67.  Amateurs Richard Keene of Chattanooga and Nick Bailes of Cleveland tied for 16th at even par 216.


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