East Tennessee Amateur set to hit 10-year mark

By Wes Holtsclaw
star staff

  In 1994, perhaps the area's strongest tournament got its feet wet at the Elizabethton Golf Course.
  The tournament has been one of the most successful events in the area, and it will return for its 10th year with the 2004 event.
  From Friday, July 2nd through the Sunday, July 4th, the Carter County Bank-sponsored East Tennessee Amateur will again invade the Elizabethton fairways with much of the same setup -- a championship division, seniors division and flight-play format.
  "We would like to thank Carter County Bank. They have been with us for 10 years and they've helped us do what we've done," said tournament director Mike Matheson during a press conference for the event on Wednesday at Elizabethton Golf Course.
  "We've obviously done something right because good players keep coming back," he said. "I didn't realize until this morning that this was our 10th one."
  The prize payout for first place in the championship round has been raised to $750 this year.
  The ETA paid out over $12,000 in merchandise last year with 140 players.
  "If we have the same amount of players, it will go over $12,000 this year," Matheson said.
  Last year, 60 players participated in the championship tournament, while 24 seniors teed up in the older division.
  A big key to this year's success is a stronger participation from seniors.
  Matheson and the ETA staff are hoping to get the number of senior participants in the 30s range.
  The ETA will pay a minimum of $500 for first place in the seniors category, but if there is more participation - the stake will rise.
  "If we have a good turnout it will go up," said Matheson. "We had 24 last year and if we can get up in the 30s range, we'll go up to $750. We would love to get up around 30."
  The flight-play section of the tournament will be in the same match-play format, with its winner receiving $500.
  Last year, former Science Hill and Austin Peay standout Adam Shanks shot a tournament-low 65 in the final round to win his third championship, by five strokes.
  Shanks will not be back this season after turning professional.
  Shanks' collegiate teammate and 2002 winner, Ryan Strickland, shot a 68 on Friday and Saturday last year, but a third round of 76 spoiled his event.
  Chris Guy and Joe Humston both tied for second.
  Humston, also of local golf fame, is expected to participate in the event along with his brother Jimmy and some Austin Peay teammates.
  Defending senior champion Tom Foster was at the press conference and will also return to defend his crown.
  Foster held off a late charge from Rick Harrell to win the title by one stroke at 222 to 223.
  Kyle Kochelek (first flight), Eifion Hughes (second), Michael Alread (third), Eric Tipton (fourth), Don Lester (fifth), Jim Moody (sixth) and Jeff Lazor (seventh) were the flight-play winners last year.
  Other famous ETA faces could be back.
  The animated Jim Volpenhein, a two-time winner, may return, while the tournament's other lone three-time winner, Bill Argabrite ('96, '98, '99), is expected to return.
  There are also some solid competitors from the Knoxville area who have already signed up, Ron Waters and Ben Long are expected to have a good showing.
  The 6,339-yard Elizabethton course and its staff take pride in hosting the ETA event each year, and this tournament should be no exception.
  June 30th is the deadline for those who would like to enter the event. The entry fee will be the same -- $150 for non-members, while members may participate at a $100 cost.
  A cart, green fees, balls and lunch will be provided each day, along with a nice gift from Carter County Bank.
  The club sent invitations out last week and those who are interested in participating should call 542-8051 or stop by the Elizabethton Golf Course to sign up in the clubhouse.