State’s top golfers bid for Georgia Amateur crown at Pinetree
by Carlton D. White
July 11, 2013 12:35 AM | 3500 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
7-12-12 GSGA Georgia Am 08.Former champion Mark Strickland chips from just of the green on Thursday afternoon during the GSGA Georgia Amateur tournament at Ansley Golf Club in Roswell. Staff/Todd Hull
7-12-12 GSGA Georgia Am 08.Former champion Mark Strickland chips from just of the green on Thursday afternoon during the GSGA Georgia Amateur tournament at Ansley Golf Club in Roswell. Staff/Todd Hull
Pinetree Country Club will play host to the Georgia Amateur Championship for the first time since 2003 when golfers tee off at the Kennesaw course today.

The four-round stroke-play event will feature a 144-man field vying for one of the Georgia State Golf Association’s biggest prizes. The field will be cut to the low 70 and ties after 36 holes.

Pinetree will play to a par-71, 7,108-yard layout.

There have been 66 different champions in 91 Georgia Amateurs, and just two previous winners — defending champion Lee Knox of Augusta and Dalton’s David Noll Jr. — are in this year’s field.

Knox, who also won in 2010, shot 282 to capture the title last year at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek course in Roswell. Noll is a two-time champion — winning in 2011 and in 2003, the last time the tournament came to Pinetree — and three-time runner-up.

Other previous runners-up competing include Augusta’s Chase Parker and Jeff Knox, Atlanta’s Robert Sheats and Woodstock’s Mark Strickland.

Strickland, a 2007 runner-up at Settindown Creek, should be particularly comfortable at Pinetree as a longtime member of the course.

“I’ve been looking forward to this for three years,” said Strickland, in the field after finishing in the top 15 of last year’s tournament at Settindown Creek. “It’s my home course, so I’m pretty confident that I’ll finish well. Me and the staff at Pinetree are really excited about it. The course is in great shape, and I think my knowledge of it can only help me.”

If there’s one person who could be even more familiar with Pinetree than Strickland, it would be the designer behind the course’s 2007 renovation.

Bill Bergin, a past Georgia Amateur champion, will be competing this weekend. He won the 1981 tournament in Dalton, and has a lifetime exemption to play the Georgia Amateur as a previous champion from 2000 and before.

The Kennesaw State golf program also calls Pinetree home, which could also bode well for the five Owls in the field — Austin Vick, Jimmy Beck, Jonathan Klotz, Kelby Burton and Sam Curtis.

Kennesaw State hosted a tournament of its own at Pinetree in October, finishing first of 12 teams. Beck shot 7 under over three rounds, with Pinetree playing to 72.

“David (Noll) and Lee (Knox) are great golfers, and the five KSU kids playing practice at Pinetree, so they know the course, too, which could be an advantage for them as well,” Strickland said. “They’re all good competitors. I’m hoping I can be there at the end come Sunday.”

Several current and former Cobb County high school standouts are also expected to compete for the championship this weekend, including Anthony Amodeo (Walton), Tyler Young (Mount Paran Christian), John Yi (Walton), David Yowell (Walton), Blaine Woodruff (Harrison) and Jonathan Keppler (Kennesaw Mountain).

Yowell should be especially excited entering today’s event. The former Raiders standout finished tied for third last year with a 3-under 285 at Settindown Creek.

“I played pretty well last year, so that gives me some confidence heading into it this year,” said Yowell, who is attending Clemson. “I just have to make sure I’m not overly confident and expect too much from myself based on what I did last year.

“I played a practice round (Wednesday) and the greens were rolling fast. I think the course suits my game pretty well. It’s demanding off the tee. I don’t hit it far, but I do hit well off the tee, and I love the way the greens are playing.”

Marietta residents Tom Contrucci, Tom Price Jr., Matthew Hayes, John Guzman, Scott Davenport and Adam Wright will also be competing, as will Acworth’s Freddie Wolford, Rob VanGorder Jr., Paul Giles and Tevin Upton and Kennesaw’s Chris Hall and Tanner Farr.

Golfers who did not make the field with an exemption were instead forced to make the field through qualifiers that were held throughout the state in June, including one at Pinetree on June 10.

Pinetree will be hosting its fourth Georgia Amateur in all, also serving as the home course in 1976 and 1985.

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