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Strange starred for Bucs in NCAA golf tournament

Joe Avento • Jan 21, 2016 at 6:28 PM

Ask Allan Strange how often he’s been mistaken for his famous brother and he laughs.

“A better question would be how often not,” he says.

Strange, who will enter the East Tennessee State University Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday, has had to explain for years that he’s not his identical twin, Curtis, who won a couple of U.S. Opens.

Allan, who played golf at ETSU in the 1970s, earned All-American status in 1976 while leading the Bucs to a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Championship. He finished fourth individually.

Forty years later, he’s being inducted into his alma mater’s Hall of Fame.

“My first reaction was it’s been a long time,” Strange said. “I didn’t know anybody remembered. It’s a little overwhelming even at 60 years of age. It’s kind of neat to be remembered.”

After leaving ETSU, Strange played a few years of professional golf before falling back on his education. He’s now a successful financial advisor in Norfolk, Virginia.

Strange said when he learned of his election, he thought back to his career at ETSU, remembering important shots on the course, the times spent practicing with his teammates and his special relationship with coach Hal Morrison.

“Coach (Hal) Morrison offering me a scholarship changed my life,” Strange said. “It allowed me a chance to play golf and work, and it gave me a chance to earn a degree. At 18, that doesn’t seem that powerful, but now at 60, I can tell how important it was.”

Strange says the 1976 NCAA Championship was what stands out the most.

“It was my greatest experience in college golf,” he said. “In the (Ohio Valley) conference, we just beat everybody bad. And we went to the NCAA pretty confident, but you’re never that confident. We were East Tennessee State playing against the Wake Forests and Floridas.”

What made that tournament even more memorable was getting to play in the same group as his twin brother Curtis, who had won the NCAA individual title for Wake Forest two years before. It was the only time they were paired together as amateurs in a big tournament.

“I remember certain things like they were yesterday,” Strange said. “I remember we both played pretty good. I’ve never been — before or after that — as nervous as I was on the first tee. Years later, Curtis told me the same thing.

“That made that tournament special to me.”

For the record, Allan (fourth) finished ahead of Curtis (seventh) that week.

“I was kind of pleased about how we both played,” Allan said.

Of course, Curtis would go on to win back-to-back U.S. Opens in 1988 and ’89.

That’s when the cases of mistaken identity were at their height.

“I always thought that was great,” Strange said. “It meant he was doing something good. When he was playing great golf in the ’80s and ’90s, that’s when it happened the most. Winning U.S. Opens will do that.

“It was not aggravating. That was just part of the family territory.”

Morrison was the golf coach at ETSU for 25 years following a three-sport career that led to his induction into the same Hall of Fame in its inaugural class in 1976.

“He was like a father for four or five years,” Strange said. “It wasn’t just me. It was a couple other guys. He tried to keep us all on the straight and narrow and he was unsuccessful some days, but he was a perfect fit for the team and me too.

“We respected that because he was a jock himself. Has there ever been a better athlete at East Tennessee State?”

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