KNOXVILLE – In the illustrious career of Tennessee amateur golf legend Tim Jackson, one title had eluded him … until Friday afternoon.
Jackson teamed up with Craig Smith of Nashville to win the Tennessee Four-Ball Championship at Fox Den Country Club. It was the record 24th TGA state title for Jackson, but the first in this particular tournament.
“I never thought I would see my name on this trophy,” Jackson said after he and Smith dispatched of University of Tennessee teammates Jake Hall and Tyler Johnson 2&1 in the finals.
“It’s a fun format, but up until recently I haven’t played in many four-balls,” he continued. “I have only played in this one three or four times. Back in the early days I just wasn’t a very good four-ball partner. I was too erratic and I couldn’t make a lot of birdies. In recent years, I’ve became a better putter.”
Smith had one Tennessee Four-Ball title under his belt coming into an event. The 2012 Tennessee State Open champion won the Four-Ball crown with Spencer Provow at The Links at Kahite back in 2011.
“It means the world when Tim asks me to play,” said Smith. “He asked me earlier this year to play and I immediately said yes. It’s always something I try to practice hard and work hard for, to get in good form to play with him.”
He and Jackson have experience playing as a team. They have paired up to win the National Senior-Junior Championship at The Dye Preserve twice, in 2016 and again this past January.
“Back in 2016 I asked Craig to play, and the first year we went down we won the tournament,” Jackson remembered. “We weren’t able to go back to defend the follow year, I had the flu, so that was a disappointment.”
“I think the fact that he’s won this before speaks to how good of a four-ball partner he is.”
The Tennessee Four-Ball format featured one round of stroke play for the 78 teams in the field, with the top 32 advancing to the championship bracket.
Jackson and Smith were part of a 6-for-4 playoff Tuesday night for the final spots in the bracket and ended up being the 30th seed.
They defeated No. 3 Brian Clark and Davis Shore 2&1 in the opening round and then No. 19 Patten Samuels and Keene 3&2 later Wednesday afternoon.
Jackson and Smith returned Thursday for two more matches, this time besting No. 27 Cole Parrish and Jimmie Ward 3&2 and then No. 23 Ethan Rimmer and Bryson Morrell by the same score.
“I’m not sure about Craig, but I didn’t have a whole lot of expectations coming in,” Jackson said. “I was just in decent form. But when I got to this course and played it, I just felt like it was a golf course that was made for us.”
“After the practice round, I thought if we just play our game, we are going to be right there in all the matches. Both of us came through with timely play. I think we partnered really well. That’s what you have to do in this format.”
Johnson and Hall advanced to the finals as a No. 5 seed. Their run started with 1-up wins over No. 28 Davis Irving and Drew Miller, and No. 12 Brayden Garrison and Stuart Smith.
Johnson and Hall’s first match on Thursday also made it to the 18th green . They beat Jake Headrick and Antonio Farinella 2-up and then followed that up with a 2&1 win over Lucas Tabor and Matt Smith.
In the championship showdown, Jackson birdied three straight holes (4-6) to give his side a 2-up lead. Johnson and Hall got one of them back with a birdie on No. 9, but a birdie by Smith on No. 12 and another by Jackson on 14 pushed the margin back to 3-up.
Hall chipped in from off the green on No. 15 to extend the match, but Jackson ended it with a par to halve the hole on 17. As his ball rolled into the cup, he punctuated it with a fist pump.
“We got off to a lot better start today than we did other days,” Smith said. “That really helped us.”
“(Competing against all these younger guys) takes me back to my younger days and it’s nice to get out and compete and know that I can still somewhat hold my own against these great players.”
Although this is his first Tennessee Four-Ball title, Jackson has won the Tennessee Senior Four-Ball crown two of the last four years with Buzz Fly.
Jackson said of the format: “I think it’s harder to win this tournament. I mean, four-ball…match play…wild things can happen along the way. Things tighten up quickly. You have a partner, there is more pressure not to let him down … it’s a tough format.”
Among Jackson’s other TGA state titles are: 6 Tennessee Amateur wins, 6 Tennessee Mid-Amateur wins, 4 Tennessee Senior Match Play wins, 2 Tennessee Senior Four-Ball wins, 2 Tennessee Senior Amateur wins, 1 Tennessee Open win, 1 Tennessee Match Play win, 1 Tennessee Two-Man win.
Jackson has also won three USGA national titles, including two United States Mid-Amateur crowns and the USGA State Team Championship with Danny Green and Brandt Snedeker in 2003.
The next closet amateur golfer in TGA state titles is Green with 18.