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Tillinghast champ Terry throws hat into ETA ring

Joe Avento • Jun 21, 2020 at 1:00 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The usually strong field for the William B. Greene Jr. East Tennessee Amateur golf tournament got a boost when Ryan Terry decided to join the fray.

Terry, a former Lipscomb golfer, won the Tillinghast Invitational at Johnson City Country Club a couple of weeks ago.

Now he’ll try his luck at Elizabethton Golf Course, where the 27th annual ETA runs Friday through Sunday.

Nobody has ever won the Tillinghast and ETA, not only in the same year, but ever. Each tournament’s list of champions is completely different than the other’s.

Terry could make history this weekend and, judging by his performance at the Tillinghast, he’ll be considered one of the favorites if he figures out the nuances of the sometimes tricky Elizabethton layout.

At JCCC, Terry needed a birdie on the final hole to force a playoff with local star Jack Rhea. He almost did one better when his approach shot at No. 18 spun toward the hole and stopped an inch away from a walk-off eagle.

Instead, he won on the first hole of the playoff.

The finish was nothing unusual for the 28-year-old Nashville golfer who was coming off a win at the Florida Azalea Amateur, where he needed to birdie the final hole to win — and did.

Terry adds to an ETA field that is expected to include six former champions.

Two-time defending champion Tyler Lane is back, as are ex-champs Blake Howard, Lucas Armstrong, Cayman Ratliff, Nick York and Ben Treadway.

“We have a strong field as always,” said Mike Matheson, the tournament director. “We’re excited about who is coming. We can’t wait.”

Tanner Davis, who won the Tillinghast last year, is in the field and also could become the first man to capture both titles.

Registration is open until Wednesday at noon.

The tournament record is 16 under par, which was shot by Ratliff, a former East Tennessee State golfer who has won the ETA twice.

Lane shot 15 under last year after winning at 13 under the year before. He is trying to become the first golfer to win the ETA three times in a row.

Expect that kind of scoring again as the strong field tries to bring Elizabethton to its knees, something tournament organizers shoot for every year.

“The pins are going to be as accessible as they’ve always been,” Matheson said. “We’re going to set it up to score. The way I look at it, the better they play, the more likely they are to come back next year.”

Numerous steps are being taken to safeguard the golfers and try to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Players and caddies will be given a microfiber towel to use if they want to touch a rake or the flagstick. Carts will be disinfected often and not available as early before a golfer’s round as usual.

In addition, golfers will be advised to practice social distancing as much as possible while playing and eating lunch.

“They’re going to have to be a little patient with us because we’re trying to do things the correct way,” Matheson said. “We are going to be as cautious as possible.”

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