East Tennessee Amateur set for ninth year of play

By Wes Holtsclaw

STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   The biggest event held annually at the Elizabethton Golf Course is probably the East Tennessee Amateur Golf Tournament.
   The tournament in its ninth year will take place July 4-6 with a returning slew of talent, showcasing the top golfers in the area.
   The event, sponsored by the Carter County Bank, will pay out $12,000 in merchandise to participants in championship play, flight play and seniors.
   According to tournament director Mike Matheson, the tournament will not see many changes this year.
   "Basically, we're not changing anything," Matheson said on Wednesday at the tournament press conference. "We made a few changes to the course and we will have a prize for the top four in flight play on Sunday who are not in the championship."
   "Carter County Bank has been instrumental with our tournament," Matheson said. "They've been a nice golf sponsor since our first event."
   Perhaps the biggest addition the tournament is making this year is live scores and statistics on the Internet. The leaderboard will be updated every nine holes on the course's website.
   Austin Peay State University has been one of the top golf squads in the country as the Ohio Valley Conference Champions for three straight years, participating in the NCAA men's tournament.
   Two Governor golfers and the last two champions of the tournament will return this year. Nashville native Ryan Strickland, the 2002 winner, will defend his title against two-time champion and teammate Adam Shanks, among others.
   Shanks, the former Science Hill standout and one of the area's premier golfers, will be participating in his final amateur event, as he made the announcement to turn professional during the tournament press conference.
   "As of July 14th I will be turning pro," Shanks said. "This will be my last amateur event and hopefully, it will be a good turn in my career. I plan to plan some small tournaments to qualify for some events."
   Shanks won the tournament in 2000 and 2001, looking to add his name to the coveted trophy once again.
   "I know I can (win the tournament)," he said. "If you can win your first one, you can win again for sure. It's going to be tough, but I've worked hard at my tee shot and I'm hitting a lot better."
   The golfer admitted it was tough keeping lessons in East Tennessee when he was five hours away.
   "I've had a few bad tournaments here and there, and it's really hard to come here for lessons when you're five hours away," Shanks said. "I couldn't come back every weekend, so I was going through a couple of slumps and had some bad breaks."
   Also returning to the tournament are former champions Jim Volpenhein and Bill Argabrite.
   "We have a lot of people coming back from last year," Matheson said. "That was the biggest field we've had. I feel like our field is as good as any around."
   The tournament is still looking for senior participants at a cost of $150.
   For more information on the Elizabethton Golf Course and the East Tennessee Amateur Golf Tournament online, check out http://www.elizabethtongolf.com.