FRANKLIN – The teams are set for the 51st installment of the Tennessee Challenge Cup, and play in the popular Ryder Cup-style event will take place Monday and Tuesday at Cherokee Country Club in Knoxville.
The Challenge Cup annually pits the top 16 amateur golfers in the state against the top 16 PGA Professionals. The Tennessee Golf Association selects the Amateur Team, while the Tennessee Section PGA chooses the Professional Team, as they do battle for the John Deal Cup Trophy.
“The Cup matches continually prove to be the most exciting event on our calendar,” said Clayton Hromadka, Executive Director of the Tennessee Section PGA. “The camaraderie that each of the participants experiences is tough to match in any other event.”
“While the camaraderie is certainly enjoyable, that doesn't eliminate the intense competition that goes on once they tee off,” Hromadka continued. “I always enjoy watching the matches unfold as the players on each side give everything they have for their respective teams.”
Chad Anderson, the Executive Director for the Tennessee Golf Association, added, “Cherokee Country Club will be a great setting for this special event. Not only does it give our players the chance to compete on an outstanding golf course, but it is also great for hosting social functions for the event in their clubhouse. It will be a lot of fun for those who qualify."
Each team is comprised of 10 regular division players and six senior players.
The Amateur Team features six players who won TGA championships during the 2018 season, including: Tennessee Amateur champion Aaron Ingalls; Tennessee Mid-Amateur champion Ryan Terry; Tennessee Four-Ball champions Cayman Ratliff and Brandon Worley; Tennessee Senior Amateur champion Steve Golliher; and Tennessee Parent-Child champion Bryan Rodgers.
Also making up the Amateurs’ senior roster are David Salyers, Buzz Fly, Jeff Golliher and Mike Poe.
The Amateur Team is rounded out by Philip Lee, Warren Cheney, Matt Cooper, Rob Garland, Jack Smith and Lucas Armstrong.
“This year’s team has a great Captain in Steve Golliher,” Anderson said. “He has been a staple in Tennessee Amateur golf for a few decades.”
“Our younger side of the team has many new faces as six of our ten qualified for their first time. We are excited about the guys we are going to battle with. The Tennessee PGA team has more experience than our team, but we are bringing a team who plans on retaining the Cup.”
The Professional Team is highlighted by Randy Helton, who will be making his 36th Challenge Cup appearance.
“With a number of first time players on the Professional Team this year, we’ll be looking to capitalize on Randy’s experience, as well as the experience of the other veterans, to help our team,” Hromadka said.
The other senior players on this year’s team are Kevin Walker, Allen Fennell, Buddy Harston, Tad Holley and Mark Houser.
The regular players making up the squad are Glenn Hudson, Scott Moran, Kelvin Burgin, Braxton Hunter, Adam Forgey, Casey Flenniken, Brian Wood, Greg Wyatt, Jake Reeves and Bobby Cochran.
John Wylie, PGA, a recipient of the Tennessee PGA Distinguished Career Award, will serve as the Professional Team captain.
“I’m looking forward to watching Tennessee PGA Distinguished Career Award winner, John Wylie, PGA, captain our team for third time in history against a very talented amateur team,” Hromadka said.
The Challenge Cup dates back to 1968, when the Amateurs edged out a 45.5-44.5 victory over the Professionals at Old Hickory Country Club.
The event came to fruition thanks to the efforts of Old Hickory amateur John Deal, Cookeville amateur Bobby Greenwood, and Cookeville professional Hubie Smith, who was president of the Tennessee Section PGA at the time.
Since then, the Professional Team has built a 29-21 advantage in the overall series, though the Amateurs have won six of the last eight meetings.
The event went to its current format in 1975, with one round each of four-ball, foursomes and singles matches played over the two-day tournament.
The Amateurs won last year’s showdown at The Honors Course by a 14-9 margin as the round of foursomes was cancelled due to inclement weather.
"Amateurs in Tennessee play in our championships and local invitationals throughout the year to make this team,” Anderson said. "There is a lot of pride amongst our amateurs and they love competing against the wonderful PGA professionals in our state."
The Professional Team is selected using the Tennessee Section PGA’s season-ending Professional and Senior Professional Player of the Year rankings.
The Amateur Team is chosen based on the Tennessee Golf Association’s season-ending Amateur and Senior Amateur Player of the Year rankings.
Cookeville professional Bobby Nichols holds the record for most Challenge Cup appearances as he played in 37 of the first 40 installments. Knoxville native Jeff Golliher has made the most appearances for the Amateur Team. This will be his 36th appearance, including the past 34 years consecutively.
Cherokee Country Club was opened in 1907 and features a classic 18-hole Donald Ross links style course. The course has hosted several of the state’s top championships, including the 2012 Tennessee State Amateur won by Tim Jackson.
“Cherokee Country Club has a history of testing the best players with every shot and will undoubtedly do it once again,” Hromadka noted. “Over two days, I think every player will be put in a position to make some difficult decisions and forced into hitting some shots that will test their talents. While the course itself isn’t as long as many courses today, the Donald Ross design ensures players use every club in their bag.”
This will be the third time that Cherokee has hosted the Challenge Cup, though it is the first time since 1975. The course also held the Challenge Cup in the event’s second year, back in 1969.
“We can't thank the membership of Cherokee Country Club enough for their willingness to let the top amateurs and professionals from across our state have the opportunity to test their skills at such a prestigious club,” Hromadka added. “Don Jones, PGA, and his staff have already started planning a tremendous experience for both teams. Our sincerest gratitude goes out to everyone involved and we look forward to an event that will be remembered for years to come.”