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Local golf scene undergoes a world of change

Joe Avento • May 31, 2018 at 12:10 AM

A look around the local golf landscape reveals several changes at area courses.

Two courses are now being run by management companies. One longtime pro is retiring. Another returned to his former club and a touring pro is representing his home course.

As the competitive golf season is set to begin with this weekend’s Tillinghast Invitational at Johnson City Country Club, here’s a look at some of the changes.


Mark Houser, Warriors Path’s longtime pro, is retiring this summer.

Houser, who has been at the course for 45 years, is one of the more accomplished players among the local club pros. He qualified for the U.S. Senior Open three times and won several state events. His retirement is set for August.

A replacement isn’t expected to be named until this summer.


Carter County’s only golf course is being run by Hampton Golf out of Jacksonville, Florida. The company manages 23 courses in six states, mostly in the Sunshine State. It has an agreement with the city to manage the course, which has run into financial trouble in recent years.

Elizabethton will still be the site of the Carter County Bank East Tennessee Amateur, at least for this year. The 54-hole tournament is set for July 6-8.


When Hampton took over at Elizabethton, pro-manager Vicki McClurg was out. She has resurfaced at Graysburg Hills Golf Course in Chuckey as a teaching pro.

McClurg, one of the few women pros in Tennessee, is available for instruction for individuals or groups — men, women or juniors.

“I’m excited to be at Graysburg,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful place and the people are so nice.”

McClurg says the course is in the process of reinstating its Ladies League for nine- and 18-hole players. She’ll also be offering clinics. She can be reached at (828) 260-1741 or call the course at (423) 234-8061 for more information.


The club in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, underwent a management change of its own earlier this year when Chris Stacy was hired as general manager.

Stacy, who was previously at Country Club of Bristol, had spent 16 years at Lonesome Pine, including 11 as head professional.

He replaced Ken Crowder, who had spent 30 years at the club before leaving to become head professional at Fairview Plantation in Gallatin.


Touring pro Cliff Kresge is serving as Ridgefields’ “Pro Emeritus.”

Kresge, who has three Nationwide Tour wins to his credit, lives in Ridgefields. He finished 10th in the 2003 U.S. Open.

Kresge was the host of pro-ams at Ridgefields that raised money and awareness for Autism Speaks. He brought in several PGA Tour players, including Ernie Els. Kresge and Els each have a son diagnosed with Autism.


Joey Savoie won the Tennessee State Open by six shots last week.

The Middle Tennessee State golfer finished the 54-hole event with rounds of 65 and 68 to beat former Lipscomb golfer Eric Ansett at the Grove in College Grove. Savoie’s winning total of 13 under par tied the tournament record set in 2011 at Brentwood Country Club by Jonathan Fly.

Savoie played for former East Tennessee State golfer Brennan Webb, now head coach at MTSU, a program on the rise.


The First Tee of Tri-Cities has released its summer schedule and there are 19 classes available at nine locations, beginning this week.

The courses involved are Blackthorn Club in Jonesborough, Cattails at MeadowView and Warriors Path in Kingsport, Johnson City Country Club and Pine Oaks in Johnson City, Steele Creek and Clear Creek in Bristol, Link Hills in Greeneville, and Elizabethton Golf Course.


KOVA Golf Management, a company from Naples, Florida, is managing the Country Club of Bristol.

In a letter to the members, the company said it expects to renovate the clubhouse and much of the course in addition to building a new short-game practice area.