Five golfers who have won the coveted title will highlight the 60-player championship field when the tournament begins this morning at Elizabethton Golf Course. The 54-hole tournament runs through Sunday.
Lucas Armstrong is back to defend his championship. It will be the last East Tennessee Amateur for the former Middle Tennessee State golfer from Church Hill who plans to turn professional in December.
“It’s always fun to come back and try to defend a title,” Armstrong said Thursday. “It should be a fun weekend.”
Last year, Armstrong closed with a three-under-par 69 that left him 13 under par. He beat Bryan Sangid by three strokes. Tommy Miller finished third.
Armstrong, who recently concluded his career at MTSU and will serve as an undergraduate assistant in the fall as he completes his degree, was 16 under par with three holes to play last year. Two pars and a bogey would have given him the tournament record. Instead, he bogeyed the last three holes and still won by three.
“I didn’t even know I was close to the record, but I wasn’t too worried about it,” Armstrong said. “This year, maybe one of my goals might be to break the record because this will be my last time playing in it.”
The 54-hole tournament scoring record is 14 under par, first set in 2008 by Brad Robinson and tied in 2011 by Carlson Cox. Five players have finished 13 under par.
“I think that’s one of the fun things about that tournament,” Armstrong said. “Whoever wins needs to go pretty low because everybody will be playing well.”
Conditions for scoring will be prime at Elizabethton Golf Course. Smooth greens should lead to good putting conditions. And a few areas in the fairways have suffered winter kill, forcing tournament organizers to allow the “lift, clean and place” rule to be in effect, so players will always have a good lie in the fairway.
Like last year, Armstrong was a late entry into the ET Amateur. He was playing in the prestigious North & South Amateur at Pinehurst, but missed the cut. That freed up his weekend, so here he is.
“I didn’t play too good the first day,” he said. “I hit a few good shots in the second round. I’d like to get it back this week. It’s going to be good to make some birdies.”
Also playing are former champs Sangid, Robinson, Ben Treadway and Nick York, who holds the tournament’s single-round record of 62, shot in the second round in 2010.
In addition to the former East Tennessee Amateur champions in the field, a couple of winners of 2014 events are playing. Chip Spratlin won the Tillinghast Invitational and Ben Campbell won the Graysburg Hills Amateur.
Cayman Ratliff, an ETSU signee who qualified for the USGA Public Links Amateur, will return to the course where he shot 64 at a high school tournament.
In the senior championship division, Mike Poe is back to defend his title. Poe has won the last five East Tennessee Amateur senior titles and has six overall.
Last year, Poe closed with a 69 to finish eight under par and smoke the field by six strokes.
Two players who have won senior titles on the Tri-Cities Amateur Tour this year are in the field as well — James Fender (Link Hills Invitational) and Marc Runyan (Tillinghast Invitational).
The East Tennessee Amateur is the fourth event on the summer-long Tri-Cities Amateur Tour and is a points events for the Tennessee Golf Association’s player of the year award.
The popular tournament drew a field of 133 players this year — 60 in the championship division, 33 in the seniors division and 40 in the match play flights.
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