The terrace above the 18th green is always the place to be when the Tillinghast Invitational is held. The ninth annual tournament, sponsored by Johnson City Honda, will be played May 31-June 1.
From the terrace, spectators can see much of the action at the final four holes in addition to the green at No. 13. It becomes an exciting spot by Sunday afternoon during the tournament.
“I do not know of any other event in the Tri-Cities where you can sit in one place and watch five holes of golf being played, get a cold drink, and never move,” Jim Richardson, the tournament’s director, said Monday during a news conference announcing the event. “We just think that our venue is the best spectator venue for golf in the Tri-Cities.
“The electricity that we have on the terrace as the golfers finish 15 through 18 is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. It’s exciting not just for the championship flight players, but I think everyone who comes up 18 gets a little tickle in their stomach.”
The tournament won’t have a repeat champion this year. Craig Reasor turned professional shortly after his record-tying final round. The Knoxville resident closed with an eight-under 64 last year to win by two strokes. That tied the tournament single-round record, originally set by Zach Botts in 2010.
A couple of former champions will be in the field. Chip Spratlin won three times in a row before Mark Baggarly took the title in 2012. Past senior champions Mike Poe and Tim Dinwiddie have committed as well.
“We feel like we have a really competitieve event here,” said Mike Crowe, JCCC’s head professional. “We get a lot of great players. We’re looking for a great tournament.”
Entries are being accepted and a full field will be 128 players. In addition to the championship and senior divisions, pre-flighted divisions will compete as well, giving golfers of almost all levels a chance to play.
“Our goal is not to necessarily be the biggest event in the Tri-Cities, but to be the best,” Richardson said. “And we think if we can do that, the numbers will take care of themselves.”
The entry fee for the 36-hole stroke-play event is $135, which includes a practice round, two tournament rounds and lunch each day. In addition, each player’s family is invited to use all of the club’s facilities for the entire weekend.
The tournament is a Level II points event for the Tennessee player of the year and is part of the Tri-Cities Amateur Tour.
A year after JCCC celebrated its centennial, the Tennessee Golf Association turns 100 this summer.
“Each one of these invitationals takes on a little different outlook with that happening this year with the TGA,” Crowe said. “We’re proud to be a part of that.”
The tournament has grown in each of its eight years, and now that it has settled on a permanent spot on the calendar — the weekend before Memorial Day — it’s become a permanent part of many local golfers’ schedules.
“We’re very proud of what we’ve built here so far and we want to keep that moving forward,” Richardson said.
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