East Tennessee Amateur remains highly coveted championship

10:06 am | May 30, 2012

There are several great tournaments on the Food City Tri-Cities Amateur Golf Tour, but the Carter County Bank East Tennessee Amateur at Elizabethton Golf Course seems to be the one everyone wants to win.

Photo by Brandon Hicks - Tournament director Mike Matheson, left, and Carter County Bank’s Chris Guy flank the championship trophy during Tuesday’s media day.

The latest chapter of arguably the area’s greatest amateur golf tournament takes place June 29-July 1, and will feature some of the regions best golfers vying for a huge trophy and a prestigious title.

“The good players keep coming back,” E.T.A. Tournament director Mike Matheson said. “I’ve been doing this for 15 or 16 years, and I feel this is the top amateur tournament in the area hands down. The participation we have tells me that.”

Though this tournament actually does not give out the most points on the amateur tour, Matheson says this is still the one the area’s amateur golfers really want to take home.

“If you ask the people which is the one they want to win, it’s this one,” Matheson said. “I’m just going on what we’ve had the last five or six years.”

Matheson and the staff at the Elizabethton Golf Course have done a first-rate job in making this event attractive not just to amateur tour golfers, but to local citizens with three senior divisions and match play competition where a lot of the locals play.

Matheson says there are reasons people keep coming back to EGC every year.

“We pay out $15,000 of merchandise and it’s three days and that means you usually get your best players,” Matheson said. “It’s $150 to play ($100 for non-members) and you pay nothing else when you get here and everything is included, that’s hard to beat.”

Another thing that puts this tournament on another level is how well the players are treated by the top-notch staff at EGC and by the tournament directors.

Everything from a good lunch to nice hospitality makes this event one the players love.

“You have to treat people the way they want to be treated,” Matheson said. “I don’t think we’ve had a complaint in many years, and we take a little pride in that. Each year you’re going to gain players, you’re going to lose players, some quit playing golf and new kids start playing golf, but for three days you’re going to get your best players.”

The defending champion is Church Hill’s Carlson Cox, a player for the University of Memphis. Matheson thinks he is a good candidate to repeat.

“Carlson is a really good player and has competed for a couple of years, and won it last year, and this is the one he wanted to win,” Matheson said.

There are some other very big tournaments that will be going on this summer, including the Amateur Tour Championship at the Country Club of Bristol on July 7 and 8 that has double the points to the winner.

However, Matheson says he feels this one is very special to the golfers and to the community.

“I don’t want to say anything bad about anybody’s tournament,” Matheson said. “I never have and I won’t, we just do the best we can here and go with what we’ve got and take it from there.”

The first day of signups were Saturday. It was a busy day for EGC.

“We had about 15 signup on Saturday,” Matheson said. “That was the first day. The invitations were mailed out Friday, May 25 and we had 10 to 15 sign up today. We had about 159 golfers last year. My English teacher would strangle me if she heard this, but if it aint broke, we aint going to fix it.”

The seniors tournament is very popular and this year there will be three age groups, 50-54. 55-59 and 60 and over. There will be one overall seniors champion and one overall second place.

“For three days you’re going to get your best golfers, and you’re going to get very best players here,” Matheson said. “There are a lot of great tournaments in the area, we just feel like this is the best there is.”

The tournament usually features several newspapers and television stations that give the event a big build up.

“For a public golf course, you can’t beat what you get for what you pay,” Matheson said. “It’s a challenging golf course, and you have to think your way around this golf course, and the people who have won it would tell you that. The year Nick York shot 62, he still had to play well on Sunday to win it. We’ll go with what we’ve got, be tickled with what we have and go from there.

The tournament has a very loyal sponsor in Carter County Bank, one that has made this event possible and who has been there since the start.

For information on flight, senior or championship play, contact EGC at 542-8051.

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