“It’s hard to believe it’s been 12 years but they’ve gone by quick,” Mike Crowe, head professional at the country club, said Thursday during a media outing announcing this year’s tournament. “We’ve had some great champions. I think we have something good going. We really look forward to this tournament. I do and the membership does.”
The tournament will be played June 3-4 and is a 36-hole stroke-play event. It’s part of the Tri-Cities Amateur Tour and a points event for the Tennessee Golf Association player of the year awards.
The entry fee is $135 includes a practice round, two competitive days of golf, range balls and lunch both days. There will be a championship scratch division and handicap divisions for regular and senior age divisions.
Last year, 113 players competed in several divisions. Ben Campbell of Bristol won in a playoff over former Science Hill High School golfer Blake Howard. Campell and Howard both finished at 135, nine under par, tying the tournament record set in 2010 by three-time champion Chip Spratlin and tied in 2013 by Craig Reasor.
The Johnson City Country Club course is a shot-maker’s course. The A.W. Tillinghast design — the tournament is dedicated to his work — annually tests the best golfers around despite the fact that is measures less than 6,400 yards in a day and age where championship courses are 1,000 yards longer.
“It really puts a premium on keeping the ball in play, especially off the tee,” said Crowe, who has been at JCCC for 33 years. “If you’re going to score, you have to hit to the right portions of the green. And obviously, the greens are really what makes it here.
“If you keep it in play and you’re striking your ball wel, it’s out there to be had.”
One of the features of the Tillinghast is that competitors and their families are invited to use the club’s facilities for the entire weekend. That’s helped make it one of the most popular tournaments in the area.
“You can play a little tennis, swim, dine here at the country club, see what the country club’s all about,” Crowe said. “It seems to be getting bigger and better every year. We seem to have a lot of families out for the weekend.
“The membership here is welcome to anybody coming out. They love to see new people here, It’s grown from year to year.”
When asked why players continue to come back to the Tillinghast year after year, Crowe was quick to answer.
“Just the way they’ve been treated here,” he said. “We’ve had a really competitive field. A lot of our champions have been repeat champions. They sort of learn their way around the golf course here.”
Registration is underway and entry forms can be found at www.tricitiesgolf.org, www.golfhousetennessee.com or the club’s website at www.jcccsite.com. Call the pro shop at (423) 928-5161 for more information.
TILLINGHAST INVITATIONAL CHAMPIONS
At Johnson City Country Club
2016: x-Ben Campbell, 135
2015: Ben Campbell, 136
2014: Chip Spratlin, 138
2013: Craig Reasor, 135
2012: Mark Baggarly, 136
2011: Chip Spratlin, 137
2010: Chip Spratlin, 135
2009: Chip Spratlin, 141
2008: x-Joe Meade, 143
2007: Joe Meade, 139
2006: Michael Bradshaw, 139