East Tennessee Amateur field 'wide open'

By Matt Hill


   It's appropriate that Carter County Bank is sponsoring the East Tennessee Amateur July 5-7 at the Elizabethton Golf Course. The last two years, Adam Shanks has been on the money.
   Shanks is looking for a three-peat, but he will have to beat a strong field to do that.
   "We're expecting the best field we've ever had," tournament director Mike Matheson said. "We have thought that the field has gotten better and stronger every year. Adam doing what he has done the last two years has raised the bar. We're getting players out of Nashville and out of Knoxville. We're getting players all over the Southeast."
   Shanks believes the tough competition in this tournament has made him play at another level.
   "I think it's from the competition that's coming here every year," Shanks said about raising his game to another level. "It's just getting better and better. It makes you want to play better. To beat better players is always a good feat."
   Shanks' main competition may be Austin Peay teammate Joe Humston.
   Humston recently broke the Elizabethton Golf Course course record with a 61 and also won the EGC club championship last weekend.
   But Shanks said he's not worried about what other players are doing."I just try to worry about my game, and what I can do. He's definitely playing well, and I know he's going to be there. But from a mental standpoint, I need to worry about myself to better my game."
   Shanks has enjoyed winning the tournament, and he believes it's special to pull the victories off.
   "Definitely, with the level of the field here," Shanks said when asked if it was special to win the tournament. "The first year I won it, it was a great field. It got better the next year, and it's going to get even better this coming year. It's a great opportunity to play, and to play well, and to win."
   Humston still considers Shanks the favorite until somebody knocks him off.
   "Until you knock off a champion, I don't think you should be the favorite," Humston said.
   Humston thinks it's a quality field that will see a lot of golfers in contention.
   "Obviously Jeff Golliher is one of the best players in the state," Humston said. "Ryan Strickland is very good, he's finished second the last three years. Bill Argabright has won it three times, so you can't count him out. Also Brandon Skeen if he comes and Bryan Sangid. There are about 15 golfers who have a chance to win this tournament."
   Humston was happy about breaking the course record recently, but doesn't consider it that big of a deal.
   "I don't know if it's that great of an accomplishment," Humston said. "But I just went out there, and started clicking. I made a bunch of putts, and ended up with a 61."
   Humston continued playing great golf at the club championship, and hopes to make it two in a row at a tournament in Bristol this weekend.
   "I played fairly well the last two rounds," Humston said. "I came out on top. I'm headed to Bristol this weekend, so hopefully I can continue the good play up there."
   Humston has been working on some strategy that seems to be paying off.
   "I feel like my game is starting to click," Humston said. "I've really been working on trying to eliminate like half the golf course where all the misses are on the right side right now. It's really helped me. And obviously my putting has come around a little bit."
   If Humston can continue playing great golf, a first East Tennessee Amateur Title may in his grasp and he hopes to be in prime form for the tournament saying, "I'll try to have my game ready for it. That's for sure."
   Sangid is also one of the area's top players. Sangid played with Humston and Shanks in high school at Science Hill, and he also thinks he can win the title.
   "I believe so," Sangid said when asked if he had a chance to win. "It's great competition, and I'm excited about playing with guys I played with in high school. And with all the other competition, it's a great field. To win this tournament is a big accomplishment."
   The tournament is one of the best in the area, and Matheson believes it couldn't be possible without the sponsorship from Carter County Bank.
   "I especially want to thank Bill Greene and Jim Holmes for the help and support they've given us over the last eight years," Matheson said. "If it wasn't for them we wouldn't be where we are. Our staff here works hard at it, and pro Steve Howard works hard at it. But they've been with us for eight years, and we can't thank them enough."