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Barnett, crew helped keep Tillinghast Invitational going

Joe Avento • Jun 6, 2018 at 9:30 PM

The 13th annual Tillinghast Invitational golf tournament was Chad Barnett’s first as Johnson City Country Club’s course superintendent.

It was certainly one he’ll never forget.

Barnett and his grounds crew faced seemingly insurmountable odds after the course was left saturated by a week of what seemed to be non-stop rain. Somehow they kept the course playable over the weekend despite Saturday’s first round being suspended midway through because of even more thunderstorms.

“It was a process,” Barnett said Wednesday.

“It was harder during the week. On the weekend, it was ‘Get in, get to it and go as hard as you can until they start.’ Then you pretty much try to get out of the way.”

Barnett said the course’s fairways are usually mowed three times a week. Several spots were not mowed all week. They were just too wet to get a mower out without doing more damage than good.

“The hardest thing was just getting from hole to hole and mowing,” he said.

Golfers weren’t allowed to take their carts off the paths for the entire tournament, a concession made just to be able to play. The “cart-path-only” condition is usually an unpopular one among the players, but this time everybody understood. It was the only way to play the tournament as carts would have damaged the wet turf wherever they drove.

“It was great,” Barnett said. “We have some very knowledgeable golfers in the area and I got a bunch of compliments.

“As a superintendent, you want the course to look the best it can. I know it wasn’t the best it can be, but it was the best we could get it.”

That was pretty good, considering the conditions.

Before the golfers headed out to the course on Sunday morning to finish the suspended first round, Johnson City Country Club head professional Mike Crowe asked the them to give Barnett a hand. It was a well-deserved gesture and Barnett was sharing the credit.

“I have a great crew,” he said. “They really worked hard and we got a lot done.”

They actually got a lot more done in the days leading up the tournament.

“We had bunker washouts pretty much every day of the week,” Barnett said. “Typically for us to fix the bunkers, it’s a four-man job and at least three hours.”

Making matters worse, a tree fell on one of the tee boxes in the middle of the week, adding to the workload.

Barnett and the crew were in the middle of the action on Sunday. As the final group finished each hole in the resumed first round, the hole locations were being changed right behind them as the second round was already underway.

Barnett’s predecessor, Bill Henderson, stopped by the course on Sunday. “He said in his 20 years of working here, he had never seen it that wet,” Barnett said.

As Barnett spoke, it was a sunny, mild June morning, the kind the golf course desperately needed.

“If you look at it today, it’s night and day,” he said. “We just needed that 24-hour dry day. You wouldn’t even know we had that rain now.”

Barnett credited the players for overcoming the conditions and getting all 36 holes in the books. With the field playing “lift, clean and place,” Ken Miller won the tournament with a record-breaking score of 132, 12 under par.

“I was a golfer back in my day,” Barnett said, “and I don’t know how they did it.”

They were saying the same thing about Barnett and his crew.


The Link Hills Invitational is coming up soon.

The tournament in Greeneville is set for June 23-24. Call Bob Ward in the Link Hills pro shop at (423) 639-2961 for entry information.


Elizabethton Golf Course has added a familiar face to its staff.

Steve Livesay has joined the course’s grounds crew as an assistant to superintendent Louis Hopkins. Livesay is a former superintendent at Elizabethton.


Fred Warren, East Tennessee State’s Hall of Fame coach, has some new help. The school announced recently that Jake Amos has been hired as Warren’s associate head coach.

Amos comes to Johnson City with some pretty impressive winning credentials. He played on Augusta State’s national championship team. While in college, he was a teammate of Masters champion Patrick Reed.

Amos was most recently at South Carolina, where he was associate head coach.