East Tennessee State golf coach Fred Warren has gotten a lot of recruits from across the ocean throughout the years. This time, he had to go less than 20 miles up I-26.
Kingsport’s Cayman Ratliff, who won the Tennessee Junior Amateur Championship last month, announced he’ll play for the Bucs next year.
“It’s close to home and the facilities are really good,” Ratliff said. “The team ... the schedule, it was just hard to beat.”
Ratliff said one trip to the Tom Fazio-designed Warren-Greene Golf Center, the Bucs’ state-of-the-art practice facility, convinced him to commit to ETSU.
“Awesome,” he said. “It’s just perfect. I thought I definitely wouldn’t mind spending the next four year practicing here every day.”
Of the six players expected to play for the Bucs this year, two are from the United Kingdom, two are from Poland and one is from Iceland. One, Chris Hickman, is from Maryland. None are seniors.
Ratliff closed the State Junior with a bogey-free 68 at Cleveland Country Club to win by two strokes. Tennessee signee Jack Smith was the runner-up.
“I got quite a few calls from plenty of schools after that,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff, a senior at Sullivan South, will be the fourth Tennessee Junior champion to play for Warren at ETSU, joining Chris Dibble (1984), Scott Honeycutt (1989) and Chris Stutts (1990).
Ratliff played some solid golf in local tournaments this summer as well. He shot 66 in the second round at the Ridgefields Invitational, but finished second to Carlson Cox. At the East Tennessee Amateur, he closed with rounds of 66 and 68 to finish fifth. Only an opening 78 kept him from competing for the title.
The early signing period for golf begins on Nov. 13 and Ratliff said he plans to sign as soon as he can. NCAA rules prohibit coaches from commenting on recruits until they sign their letters of intent.
Ratliff said he’s looking forward to seeing how much his game can improve when he gets to ETSU.
“When I get there I’ll get a lot better too,” he said. “That’s one of the main things. You want to be pushed by your teammates to get better.
“Coach Warren is a great coach. That’s one of the reasons I want to go there. The good team he already has there is gonna push me a lot. I feel like they were really good, and they still are really good. Out of all the schools, that was the school I thought had the chance to do something big.”
ETSU’s golf team has received academic honors from the Golf Coaches Association of America every year since the organization began handing out such awards five years ago
The Bucs posted a team GPA of 3.223. Ratliff’s presence will help out in the classroom as well on the course. He’s a 4.0 student who has never received a B.
Ratliff said he hopes to be able to compete for playing time as a freshman.
“They have a great team,” he said. “I’m gonna have to play well as as soon as I get there. I feel like if I put in the hard work, I can get up there and play and compete in tournaments.”