A day of Shanks

Soon to turn pro shoots 65 to capture 3rd ETA Title

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   Playing in his last golf tournament as an amateur, Adam Shanks shot a 65 on Sunday's final day to join Bill Argabrite as the only three-time champions of the East Tennessee Amateur at Elizabethton Golf Course.
   "This is unbelievable," said Shanks, who won previous ETA titles in 2000 and 2001. "I could not have asked for any better day. I thought with a 65, I would still have a playoff and it would have to be a 64 that I would have to shoot. Obviously, that wasn't the case."
   Shanks, who had recently announced this year's East Tennessee Amateur would be his final tournament before turning pro, admitted to looking ahead when the outcome was starting to take shape.
   "Around (hole) 13 or 14, I caught myself a few times getting a little sentimental, thinking this is it" said Shanks. "I tried to stop myself and hit the shot at hand and that's what I did. I knew if I made birdies no one could catch me. I couldn't have wrote this any better. This is what I dreamed of."
   He had started the day in fifth place, four strokes back, but rallied to the front making his first two putts on Sunday and kept the momentum going all day. He hit birdies on 11, 12, 14 and 15 to pull away from the field.
   "I putted great the first two rounds, but I just wasn't making it," said Shanks, who planned on celebrating his win at EGC with a trip to the beach tomorrow. "I was told to keep doing what I was doing. I knew I was going to putt good. I kept putting like I was and they went in. That first hole I had a real hard putt from about eight feet out. If you hit it the wrong speed, it could break real hard. I hit it perfect and it went in."
   Second place was a tie between Joe Humston and Chris Guy, both of whom had started the final round two strokes down to leader Ryan Strickland. Each had momentum for a while as Humston had passed Strickland and was tied atop the leaderboard with Shanks after the front nine, while Guy had pulled within one stroke after sinking a putt on 11.
   Both were disappointed with final rounds of shooting par after each had come close to winning this tournament before. For Humston, it was his third runner-up finish and Guy had previously went all the way to a playoff before falling short.
   "I was three under (for the day) after eight and three putted on nine," said Humston, who ended up scoring a seven on the 11th hole after going out of bounds on his second shot. "On 11, I had hit the top of the hit and for some reason, it kicked left and went out of bounds. Even after that I was confident I could get it back, but I didn't know what Adam was doing at that point. He deserves it after he played so well."
   Humston caught a lucky break on a second attempt at hole number 11, when his ball struck a golf cart and fell right outside the green.
   "I wasn't aware I had hit it," said Humston about the ball's sudden stop by the cart. "I think my caddy told me that. I thought I might have to cut that shot with a three wood or it would cut too much. It didn't cut for me either time."
   Guy had steadily remained in contention throughout the entire tournament. He stayed there until the final surge by Shanks.
   "I bogeyed 12, but I still felt good about it," said Guy from Hampton, who played collegiately at Middle Tennessee State. "I thought if I could just birdie a few holes down the stretch. Fourteen, I thought was critical. I dropped it in the rough and it just got a jumper and it flew out of bounds. It might have been out by a foot. I made it in six, but all day long it was just one of those days where I couldn't get everything going.
   "Adam played a great round and Joe had it going on the front side before he hit that shot on 11. I thought I had a chance, but I knew fourteen was going to be a turning point."
   Going into the day, most eyes were focused on defending event champion Strickland, who shot back-to-back days of 68 to hold a two-stroke lead over the field. The final day turned nightmarish for the Nashville golfer, as a triple bogey on the par-three, hole number three highlighted his fall from the lead.
   "Today was just a bad day, said Strickland, who like Humston and Shanks is a recent graduate from Austin Peay's golf team. "I had bogey after bogey. Three was the unraveling. I hit the first shot only about two or three feet out of bounds. It was a poor shot and you can't do that playing with these guys. They're not going to make mistakes on their home golf course. They come back and play my home golf course, I can do it as good as they can."
   His third round score was a four over par 76, which dropped him to fourth in the overall standings with a score of 212.
   "To tell you the truth, I probably would have been hard for me to shoot a four under again, the way I was striking the ball," said Strickland. "I didn't hit it very well and I didn't putt that well. Even if I didn't have that triple bogey, I probably wouldn't have scored well."
   The final round heroics of Shanks and struggles of Strickland shared the spotlight with a great battle in the Senior Championship, where Tom Foster held on taking a one-stroke win over Rick Harrell. First round leader Glen Cowan finished two strokes back of Harrell and Don Kyte ended up one shot behind Cowan.
   "I choked everything today," said Foster about his second Senior division title. "Glen Cowan should have won today, but he just caught a few bad breaks. I was fortunate especially at a place I've cherished for a long time."
   Also crowned were the champions of match play with the first through seventh flight winners as follows: Kyle Kochelek, Eifion Hughes, Michael Alread, Eric Tipton, Don Lester, Brian Mock and Jeff Lazor.
   The tournament in its ninth year continues to grow in stature with second place finisher Guy saying it has to rank at the top of local golf events.
   "You look at the guys that won in the flight play, the young guys and the tournament is going to continue to grow," said Guy. "A lot of them that didn't finish in the championship top ten were getting experience this year. A lot of guys from Austin Peay and different colleges come in and it helps the tournament to grow. I think this was the strongest field we ever had this year. I think this is the strongest tournament around. You hate to dare say it's better that Ridgefields, but I still believe we had a stronger field here."
   For Shanks, he celebrated a win he called the best of the three after coming behind in that final decisive round. His total of 11 under par for the tournament fell just two strokes shy of the record 13 under he scored in 2001 and his final round of 65 was one stroke off the final round record, Shanks also set that year.
   "I wasn't thinking about getting to 14 under," said Shanks. "I just wanted to win."