Strickland has final say

By Allen LaMountain


   Ryan Strickland was hungry, haven eaten 'only a pack of crackers' all day. But at the final hole of the East Tennessee Amateur Golf Tournament, played Sunday at Elizabethton Golf Course, it was Strickland's hunger for victory that pulled him through.
   Strickland drained a 15' putt on 18 that, if he had missed, would have forced a playoff with Jim Volpenhein, who was one-stroke down. Instead, Strickland overcame his hunger and his bridesmaid status in earning a thrilling victory.
   "I knew that he was going to knock down his putt," said Strickland. "And I told myself 'You have to make this one'. And when I hit it I knew it was going in."
   It wasn't easy however, as Strickland hit his uphill putt to the high side of the cup and watched as the ball took one trip around the rim of the cup before finally falling in.
   Volpenhein came into the final round with a three-stroke lead, but trailed by one-stroke going into the 18th. Volpenhein's second shot put him in the bunker just outside the green, but a nice pitch out of the sand set him up with about a 20' shot for par.
   Strickland had overshot the green on his approach, and his putt from the top side fringe missed the hole by a fraction and faced him with a do-or-die putt after Volpenhein nailed his long putt.
   "I lost it on 15, and made a double (bogey)," said Volpenhein, who finished one-stroke back of Strickland at 211 for the weekend. "It really never should have been that close, but that was a gutsy putt (Strickland) made on 18."
   Volpenhein's final round score of 75 was six strokes worse that the 69 he opened the tournament with and was eight strokes worse that the 67 he fired on Saturday for a two-day total of 136, but on Sunday he ran into trouble right away bogeying two and three and later missing an easy putt on 12 that set up another bogey.
   "It was about a foot and a half," joked Volpenhein. "That hurt."
   For Strickland however, he was able to overcome having finished second in two of the last three years to finally see his name atop the leaderboard at tournament's end.
   "I'm totally exhausted," said Strickland. "I did not want to have to go another hole. Sometimes the toughest thing to do is two-putt, but luckily I got the putt to fall when I needed it."
   Third-place finisher Bryan Sangid fired a final round 71 to vault over both Elizabethton's Chris Guy and Kingsport native Cary Daniels for the third spot in the ETA with a three-day total of 213.
   Daniels struggled on the final day, shooting a 76 to take himself out of the picture, but still felt that he had, "An overall good tournament. Both of them gave me chances over the last nine holes, but I just didn't take advantage of them."
   Daniels finished in a tie for fourth with two-time ETA champion Adam Shanks, who overcame a poor first round 77 with a solid 70 on Saturday.
   Shanks saved his best for last however as he posted a 67, which was the lowest score of the day, to finish the tournament on a high note.
   "I'm proud of myself for not quitting," said Shanks. "I did bogey 12 and 13, but I kept grinding and birdied both 16 and 18, so I was able to keep my head up. It was all in my putter the first day, I was hitting all the greens, but nothing was falling when I putted."
   Joe Humston also rebounded from a disastrous first round 75 to post scores of 71 and 69 on Saturday and Sunday. That effort sealed fifth for the elder Humston brother as he edged younger brother Jimmy by one stroke 215-216.
   Guy fell from fourth place after two rounds to a tie with Humston for sixth after Sunday, shooting a final round 74 to finish at 216.
   Ben Long (75-72-74, 221) won the Senior Championship with a final round of 74 that enabled Long to squeak past Don Kyte by a stroke.
   "This is a great tournament," said Long, a Maryville native. "The people have been so gracious, it has been a pleasure playing here. I feel like I had a strong tournament. I struggled with my putting at times, but I hit a lot of great shots (also)."
   Randy Matney (77-74-76, 227) took third place while John Partain (80-76-75, 231) finished fourth and Moot Thomas' 232 was good for fifth.