parallel paths to state golf tourney
Friday’s championship match in the Tennessee Women’s Golf Championship at Cleveland Country Club began 13 years ago when 8-year-old Calle Nielson and 8-year-old Ashley Lance began playing junior golf together in Middle Tennessee.
They said Friday they never fantasized about playing against each other in the state tournament, despite the parallel paths their golf has taken. After looking at a photo Ashley’s mother brought to the state tournament of their junior golf years, the two fashion-minded collegiate golfers said, “How could our mothers let us wear those clothes!”
Calle won the state title Friday, taking advantage of some early erratic play by her close friend for a 2-1 win and her first state championship. See Sports, Page 17.
Despite the tough loss, Ashley and Calle chatted all the way around the Cleveland Country Club course, talking about friends, boyfriends, old boyfriends, colleges, golf plans for this summer and plans for the future.
Reflecting on how busy their lives are, and the lives of the friends, Ashley said, “We’re right at the age when nobody comes home.”
The two had a lot to talk about during the day, since there are obviously some gap over recent years.
Calle signed to play golf at Virginia after high school. She will conclude four successful seasons with the Lady Cavaliers in 2011, after pacing her team to a record-breaking season in 2009-2010.
Ashley committed to play at the University of Michigan after high school. After her freshman year, when she played very little and disliked the cold of the “Far North,” she transferred to the University of Mississippi. Ole Miss has recruited heavily among Tennessee’s junior golfers for many years.
Due to the transfer, Ashley is a year behind Calle academically.
Friday’s comments from the two 21-year-old college standouts, about what is ahead in their golfing future, seems to connect to some concerns voiced this week by members of the Women’s Committee of the Tennessee Golf Association (the ranking organization in state women’s golf).
Once these concerns are expressed, you realize they’ve been around forever.
Committee members, including Chattanooga USGA rules official Jean St. Charles, Mary Watkins of Athens and Linda Mullins, Maggie Scott and Pam Morrow of Cleveland Country Club emphasize that Tennessee has wonderful junior and women’s golf associations. But, they feel something is missing.
“We have some great young golfers,” they said of the TGA and AJGA golf programs that lead many young girls (and boys) to go on to play college. They agreed there is also a solid group of older (mature) golfers.
The concern is that there are so few golfers in their middle ages.
“The girls play junior and high school golf, and some go on to play in college,” said Mullins. “Then, they go into business, get married and begin to raise their families.” She was explaining why women in their 30s and 40s have little time for golf ... especially tournament golf.
This is why you’ll find a very distinctive gap in the middle of the field at most major amateur tournaments. There will be the exceptional teenagers, like Defending State Champion Kendall Martindale of Jefferson City, and junior golfers Jordan Britt of Chattanooga and Mary Funk of Nashville ... all 17 years old.
Then comes the outstanding college-age golfers, from 18 to 25. Then comes the gap, before you get to the older ladies who have raised their families, are well settled into the business or professional world, or even retired.
It is easy to see why tournament golf is for the young (through college age) and the mature. And, in all probability, it will always be this way.
This brings up another issue of concern. Why is the University of Tennessee not getting a majority of the state’s young talent for its women’s team? Most of the Lady Vols are not only from out of state, they’re from out of the country.
In this week’s state tournament, a majority of the talent belonged to the collegiate golfers. Four players were from Ole Miss, Nielson plays at Virginia, and Sarah Matthews at Memphis University. Chelsea Rakestraw attends Lee University and several other participants were from smaller colleges and universities.
UT’s presence was disturbingly light, although Tennessee heavily recruited 17-year-old Defending Champion Kendall Martindale. Martindale recently signed with Vanderbilt, despite living less than 30 minutes from the UT campus in Knoxville.
Other notes from this week’s state tournament:
- TGA officials and Director of Women’s Golf Dori Paschall were exceptionally vocal in their praise for Cleveland Country Club General Manager Lamar Mills, Golf Pro Niel Scott, maintenance supervisor Less Marlow ... and their staffs ... for the condition of the golf course and assistance in conducting this year’s tournament.
Paschall, a native of McMinn County who played golf at McMinn County High School and Tusculum College in Greeneville, said TGA hopes to return for future events.
n Bradley County did well in the tournament, including co-senior medalist awards by longtime standout Maggie Scott and her very close friend Linda Mullins.
Cleveland Country Club’s Lisa Daubner, Pam Morrow, Wanda Evans and Carrie Davis all won awards in their respective flights.
Young Chelsea Rakestraw, who will play golf at Lee University, won her flight on Friday, despite the fact a little Jack Russell Terrier stole her golf ball from the bunker on the par-five 14th hole. Her ball was replaced and she closed out her opponent out at this hole.
- Much of the credit for the success of this year’s state tournament goes to the local tournament committee established by Chairman and CCC member Pam Morrow.
Assisting Morrow with this enormous responsibility were Mary Watkins, Debbie Lambert, Donna Anderson, Linda Mullins, Sharon Tucker.
Watkins is also a member of the Tennessee Women’s Golf Committee, being selected to the board in 1983 and serving ever since. She is also active in the state’s junior golf organizations.
- An interest trivia item at this year’s state tournament concerns Senior Player of the Year Maqgie Scott of Cleveland. Scott is a retired teacher.
Young Chelsea Rakestraw, a participant in the tournament and a Lee golfer, was one of Scott’s students. Chelsea’s caddy, her father Mike, was also one of Scott’s students.