ELIZABETHTON — This year’s edition of the Carter County Bank East Tennessee Amateur is in the books, and it will go down as the hottest local golf tournament in history.
With record-setting temperatures — the first two days were played in the 100s — people will remember this year’s ET Amateur with three words: hot, hot, hot.
“I have never played three days in heat like this,” Kingsport’s Nick Cohen said. “It just saps it out of you. It’s so mentally exhausting. You can’t focus out there when it’s 100 degrees and you’re sweating bullets.”
Cohen was the hottest player on the course during Sunday’s final round. He blistered Elizabethton for an eight-under-par 64 that moved him from almost missing the cut into a tie for seventh. It equaled the second-lowest round in the 18-year history of the tournament.
When you’re going eight under par, even stifling temperatures don’t feel so bad.
“Today felt 20 degrees cooler than Friday and Saturday,” Cohen said after the final round. “It could be partly because of how I was playing, but yesterday was miserable. It was like being in an oven.”
Ben Treadway, a 23-year-old former Milligan College golfer, won the championship despite shooting 75 in the final round. His three-under-par 213 total was the tournament’s highest winning score, yet he was able to manage his game in tough conditions better than anybody in the field.
Treadway won even though his chances seemed to be gone with a front-nine 40. He pulled off a one-stroke victory with three consecutive birdies on the back nine.
“I think the heat had a lot to do with the scoring being higher,” said Steve Howard, Elizabethton Golf Course’s head professional. “Normally the kids eat up the back nine, but they really didn’t this year, especially on Friday.”
Mike Poe came from 10 shots back to win the overall senior championship for his 64th amateur championship. And this will certainly be one he’ll remember for a long time, partly for the unexpected comeback and partly for the conditions.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever played three consecutive days like that,” Poe said. “It takes its toll on you. The hardest part about it is keeping your concentration. You get a little light-headed. You bend down, line up your putt and you get up and you have to get your bearings a little. You have to stay hydrated.”
Staying hydrated was the theme of the week, and tournament officials went the extra mile to make sure the participants and anybody out on the course had plenty of opportunities to get drinking water. The tournament went through 2,600 pounds of ice and 65 cases of bottled water.
“They took care of us,” Poe said. “That’s the thing about coming to this golf tournament. They take care of you. There’s nothing they don’t do for you. It just makes it kind of a special event. That’s why people like to come here.”
Adam Shanks, who has been working at Elizabethton as an assistant pro, recalled playing in similar conditions during junior tournaments in Memphis and Nashville.
“When it’s 100 degrees, you can drink six, seven bottles of water out there,” Shanks said. “You have to drink it. If you don’t, your mind’s going to deteriorate. And about three-fourths through your round, if you’re not staying hydrated, you’re gonna start making poor decisions.”
Despite the heat, nobody in a field that began with 138 players succumbed to the conditions.
“I was real surprised we only had one person not show up today,” Howard said on Sunday. “I figured some people would say ‘It’s so hot, I’m not coming back.’
“We had a couple we were worried about coming in, but nobody went down. We’re tickled about that. It was amazing how much water and ice we went through, but we’re glad they used it. That’s the main thing.”