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Cox chasing a third Ridgefields Invitational title

Joe Avento • Jul 12, 2018 at 7:12 PM

KINGSPORT — Carlson Cox is hoping a return to the scene of some of his best golf will jumpstart his game.

Cox, a two-time Ridgefields Invitational champion, is back for another try at the tournament at The Club at Ridgefields this week.

“I’ve always liked Ridgefields,” said Cox, who won the tournament in 2011 and ’13. “The course suits my game and I like to play there.”

Cox is part of a small field of 11 golfers competing in the Championship Flight. The action begins Friday at the Donald Ross layout and the 54-hole tournament wraps up Sunday.

Back when Cox was winning local tournaments, he was going to school at the University of Memphis, where he was on the golf team. Summers were time for fun, playing in golf tournaments without a care in the world and having plenty of time to work on his game.

Now, he’s 28 years old and a member of the working world. Finding time to practice isn’t as easy as it once was.

“You really notice it in the short game more than in the long game,” said Cox, a Church Hill native. “The feel around the greens, the putting. All that stuff gets really frustrating when you used to step on the course and feel like you can make every putt you look at.

“It’s harder to get the groove back when you’re not playing every day.”

When Cox graduated from Memphis, he turned professional. He played on the Egolf Tour in Charlotte and tried his hand at a few Monday qualifiers for the PGA Tour. He came close at the Greenbriar and lost in a five-man playoff at the Fed Ex-St. Jude Classic in Memphis.

In 2016, Cox regained his amateur status after a year in golf purgatory and returned to the local tournament circuit

“I would say the swing’s there,” he said. “It’s just depending on how many putts I can get to fall.”

Cox won several local tournaments, including the 2011 East Tennessee Amateur. He burst onto the golf scene in 2004 when he won the national championship in the Drive, Chip and Putt contest as a 14-year-old.

This week, he’s thinking about a third Ridgefields title.

“Ridgefields is always a big tournament,” he said. “After I won the ETA, I wanted to win it too. That was the one I had a hankering to win.”

Cox is a workout buff and says he’s gained a lot of distance off the tee in recent years. He’s hoping that helps when the tournament begins.

“I think Ridgefields suits me because it is a little longer and my distance can set me apart from the rest of the field if I can actually hit the fairway,” Cox said. “If I’m scraping it off the tee and having to keep it in play, that’s different. Somebody told me the rough is pretty high. It’s going to be a harder test than it has been in the past. You could play in the rough when I won it in ’11 and ’13.”

Cox is one of three former champions in the small field, joining Eddie Karst and Ben Campbell. Two-time defending champion William Nottingham is not entered.

Defending Senior Division champion Mark Halvorsen is back and will be tested by a deep field. Mike Poe, Bill Argabrite and Tony Green are among those vying for the senior title.

In addition, Mike Wood of Franklin, North Carolina, is going for a Northeast Tennessee Grand Slam of sorts after having won the senior titles at the Tillinghast Invitational at Johnson City Country Club, the Link Hills Invitational in Greeneville and the East Tennessee Amateur at Elizabethton Golf Course.

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