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Niswonger Children's Hospital Classic to add long drive event

Joe Avento • Updated Jun 26, 2017 at 10:59 PM

BRISTOL, Va. — Chloe Garner never thought she’d have a home game, but the champion long driver will be able to perform in front of local golf fans next year.

The World Long Drive Association will put on an event locally next year in association with the Niswonger Children’s Hospital Classic. Lisa Carter, CEO of the hospital, took part in the announcement live on Golf Channel, which was on hand for this year’s fund-raising tournament at the Olde Farm.

The date and venue have yet to be announced.

“I’m excited,” said Garner, an assistant coach for the East Tennessee State University women’s golf team. “I’m a Johnson City local, not originally, but now I am so I have a lot of supporters. This area just in general, it’s a good golfing spot. We have a lot of golf fans.”

Garner, who has crushed a golf ball 370 yards, recently won a WLDA event in Nevada and qualified for the World Championship.

“Coming back from my long drive event, there’s been a lot of interest,” Garner said. “So I think there will be a lot of people excited to see it. It makes sense, though. It really is a good spot. There are a lot of venues they could have it.

“It’s a cherry on top for me to have it in my hometown.”

Last year, when the Niswonger tournament was held at the Olde Farm, Garner was a caddy. She laughed while discussing her newfound “celebrity” status.

“I’ve been upgraded,” said the native of South Africa. “This is a dream come true for me. I’ve caddied here for four years and I’ve never been on the other side of the tournament. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”

Keeping up with the Bucs

Mike Smith has kept up with the ETSU football team from a distance. Back in the Tri-Cities for the Niswonger Classic, he’ll get a closer look this week.

“I had an opportunity to see the stadium in March when I was up and I’m looking forward to touring it again this week,” said Smith, a former ETSU player and now the defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “Getting the stadium on campus is going to really be a fun atmosphere.”

Smith, the 2008 NFL coach of the year when he was the Atlanta Falcons’ head coach, said he’s happy ETSU brought football back after a 12-year absence.

“I’m real excited about Coach (Carl) Torbush and what his staff has done to win those games against ranked teams last year,” he said. “That was huge. I follow them and I follow the basketball team as well.”

Chipper’s aches and pains

Former Atlanta Braves great Chipper Jones might miss the game of baseball, but he doesn’t miss the grind of a 162-game season.

“I miss baseball twice a year,” Jones said. “I miss it Opening Day and I miss it the first day of the playoffs. My body thanks me every day that I don’t have to go to the ballpark.”

Jones has undergone seven knee surgeries and retired after the 2012 season.

“The game has taken its toll on my body,” he said. “From a skill set standpoint, I honestly think I could still go out there and play. But after the first game, I’d have to wake up the next morning and go right back at it. At that point I’d say, ‘This is a mistake.’ ”

Jones was appearing at the Niswonger event after an invitation from Smith. The two became close when they were both in Atlanta.

Jones was part of the Braves dynasty that won a record 14 consecutive divisional championship and captured the 1995 World Series.

“We play a team sport and winning a championship is your ultimate goal,” he said. “To say we’ve been the one team that’s given Atlanta a championship is an awfully proud feeling. Not a lot to complain about if you’re an Atlanta Braves fan. We had it good for a long time.”

Pavin’s 4-wood memories

When the U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock Hills on Long Island next June, it will bring back some very fond memories for Corey Pavin.

Twenty-two years ago, Pavin won the Open at the course with one of the most famous shots in golf history.

On the 72nd hole in a tight battle with Greg Norman, Pavin striped a 4-wood from 228 yards out. The ball wound up six feet from the hole, and even though he missed the birdie putt, he captured the major championship he had coveted for a long time.

“It was a great time to hit a really good shot,” Pavin said. “It’s nice to be remembered for something positive. At that time I was 35 and I’d won 13 times on Tour but I hadn’t won a major. Obviously, one of my goals was to win a major championship. so to accomplish that goal was a nice thing.

“It didn’t really change a lot of things for me. It gave me a few more opportunities, but hopefully I stayed the same person. That was my goal after that, not to change.”

Pavin said he plans on asking the U.S. Golf Association for an exemption into next year’s Open.

“It would a great way for me to probably play my last U.S. Open,” he said. “Either way, it’ll be fun to see.”

By the way, he doesn’t carry a 4-wood anymore, but he has a 5-wood. The 4-wood from Shinnecock Hills is “in a safe place.”

Mike Hulbert, proud father

Mike Hulbert has enjoyed watching his son, Trevor, follow in his footsteps.

Mike Hulbert was an All-American at ETSU and the Southern Conference champion in 1980 before going onto a long career on the PGA Tour, where he won three times.

Trevor just finished his first year with the ETSU golf team after sitting out last year as a red-shirt, and the youngster had some success. He was in contention in a handful of college tournaments and came within one stroke of qualifying for the individual playoff at the SoCon tournament.

“It’s really cool,” Mike Hulbert said. “I think I’m more pleased with him that he made the dean’s list the first couple of years. He’s improved. That makes me happy. I think he’s working on the correct stuff. He’s still 19 and he’s still learning.

“He got his feet wet, had some good rounds. He really enjoyed it. He was into the practice and the school and he was excited to go on trips.”

Trevor Hulbert also won the Tillinghast Invitational at Johnson City Country Club earlier this month in his first appearance in a local tournament.

“I don’t really teach him too much about the golf swing,” Hulbert said. “The only thing I’d like to take a little bit of credit for is how to practice and how to get better. He’s taking that up pretty good and confidence goes a long ways.”

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