Some 78 golfers will be converging on Cleveland Country Club’s fairways and greens July 14, to tee off in the U.S. Amateur qualifier for the state of Tennessee.
They will be looking to earn a spot in the U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club’s Highlands Course in Johns Creek, Ga., Aug.11-14.
The 36-hole format will send hopefuls from around the Southeast region and even other countries onto the links in the morning and afternoon. Golfers must carry a 2.4 or better handicap through the Unites States Golf Association to be eligible and will play 18 holes, take a break then head back out for 18 more. There is no limit to the number of entries that can pass the test to move on to Johns Creek.
“We have golfers coming from across Tennessee as well as Georgia, North Carolina, Iowa, Canada and Alabama,” said CCC general manager Lamar Mills.
Six golfers, three from New Zealand and three from Argentina, will also be making the long trek to Cleveland for a shot at joining the U.S. Amateur field.
“I think a lot of these kids have made it into the Southern Amateur which starts at The Honors Course in [Ooltewah] on July 15. The have qualified for the Southern Amateur, so they are doing the qualifier here then heading down to play there,” said Mills.
With the large number of golfers getting ready to load up the clubs and travel to Cleveland, it would be understandable if Mills were a bit anxious about the course after winter weather wreaked a fair amount of havoc on the links. Mills said, however, the course is on track to be ready for tee off and there are no issues looming that could cause a delay in the qualifier.
“The winter was rough. We had some winter kill in some areas out there,” he said. “We just placed sod down a week ago on holes 1 and 15. Those were probably the worst areas of the golf course. Most of the other areas where we had winter kill, we pretty much feel will fill in without any problem. Those areas just weren’t going to fill in, so we brought in a truckload of sod and sodded it. We anticipate by the qualifier on the 14th, they will be able to play off of it.”
Nor is he concerned about the sudden onset of blistering heat brought on by the early arrival of late summer-like weather, which has seen temperatures soar into the upper 90s.
“Not yet,” said Mills about the course being hurt by hot weather. “We haven’t had any real impact from it yet. It’s really helped more than anything with the Bermuda (grass), getting it going. Obviously, it’s not great for the bentgrass. It starts to stress when the heat and humidity get up. But right now it has helped the Bermuda come on and be where it needs to be. (We’ve had) a lot of rain. We’ve been very wet in the month of June. It seems like every day we’ve had to call the golfers off the golf course. It’s been a little bit wetter than normal, but we’ve been fine with that. For this tournament the biggest thing we’ve had to do to get ready is getting the sodded areas in. We’re not going to grow the rough up or anything. We’re not trying to slick it up, it will pretty much be what you see out there right now.”
Mills said he is hoping the weather will cooperate a little better for the qualifier than it has with other tournaments so far at CCC.
“We had to cancel the Junior Tour and our member-guest had a three-hour delay. It seems like we are battling delays every day,” he said.
Tournament cancellations and delays aside, Mills advised everything should be in great shape and ready to go when the tournament begins
“The greens are good. Course-wise, the course is in great shape, it really is. It’s come on and we are where we want to be right now,” he added.
“We don’t have to hurry and get anything done. We don’t really have anything we’ve got to hurry and get taken care of,” he said. “We are kind of where we want to be at this point in the year. We’re getting to the point where, this being the first week in July, 62 days from now we will be aerifying the greens.
“Once you start your aerification process, you are already now looking into the fall. The next 62 days will be pivotal [in terms of] how the greens respond.
“We’ve taken some precautionary measures as far as our spraying practices and our mowing practices to help keep them as strong as we can. We should be good,” Mills said.