Golf

September 9, 2012

Doug Hawley: Running on the greens

Shelley Taylor Rickett, 24, has been associated with distance running for most of her life, but she recently acknowledged a family interest in golf.

This came this past week while she helped Northwest Whitfield High’s cross country program host a meet at Edwards Park, where the competition included Dalton High.

Taylor, an assistant to Northwest coach Tom Sell, is a former Lady Bruins cross country and track and field standout. She married University of Tennessee-Chattanooga golf assistant Ben Rickett in July, and he accompanied her at Tuesday’s meet.

Rickett, 25, a native of London, England, gained some recognition in mid-August while serving as the caddy for UTC’s Steven Fox on the final day of the U.S. Amateur Golf Tournament in Denver, Colo. Fox proceeded to shock the alleged links experts by capturing the prestigious tournament, which has produced such champions as Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

“Ben got almost as much TV air time on the last day as Steven,” Shelley pointed out. “I’m so proud of him.”

Rickett never expected to be toting the bag over the final 18 holes. Fox’s father, Allan, did most of the caddying duty during the tournament.

“He was just exhausted,” Ben said. “I then got my chance.”

Fox’s triumphant return to Chattanooga included honors from various dignitaries.

“Steven already has asked me to be his caddy at the Masters,” Rickett said. “I certainly will be there.”

Although Shelley teaches at Valley Point Elementary School, do not rule out her joining them in Augusta in April.

It so happens that Fox’s UTC team was in Rocky Face this weekend for the prestigious Carpet Capital Collegiate Classic at The Farm.

Fox is tied for 26th entering today’s final round at the 54-hole event, while the Mocs are seventh in the 15-team field.

Rickett made some observations about the athletic couple’s respective sports skills.

“Shelley is not really a very good golfer,” Rickett said.

With a chuckle, he added, “Then, I’m not a very good runner.”

Shelley, who won state titles in cross country and the 3,200-meter run in track at Northwest, followed her high school days with a quality college career at UTC, where she was consistently an all-conference academic star.

“Actually, he’s really a better runner than he lets on,” she said of her husband. “He’s run under 20 minutes in the 5K. He plans to run the Carpet Capital 10-Miler (Dec. 8 in Varnell). He wants to beat me.”

n Cross country produces its share of on-course surprises. You might run across a snake ... or you could run into some manure in a pasture.

Several schools from outside the area got lost trying to find Edwards Park for Tuesday’s meet, which delayed its start by 20 minutes.

“It’s my understanding that they were using GPS,” one observer said. “Sometimes it can be better to just tell people how to get to a place.”

Once the runners got started, Sell led as a guide for both the boys and girls’ 5K races by riding a bike. It obviously was not that easy negotiating some notorious hills at the park.

“I put in a lot of miles today with a one-speed bike,” joked Sell, who is himself an excellent Masters (40 and older) division runner. “Although the course was well-marked, I didn’t want to take a chance on the runners getting lost.”

His approach meant no need for the customary sentries.

n The calendar is getting busy again for area distance runners. Here’s a look at a few of the events coming up.

• Unity Race in Calhoun (Sept. 25): This 19th annual event has always been held on a week day, and this time it’s scheduled for a Tuesday night. That means no conflicts with the more customary weekend races.

The 5K feature race, which starts at Gordon Central High, generally attracts Dalton-area runners, and Dalton’s Carpet Capital Running Club coordinates logistics.

• Eton 4-Miler (Sept. 29): This is Georgia’s only certified 4-mile race, and runners have most of the state records as we approach its ninth annual running.

This event might be best known for its numerous door prizes. Most people are guaranteed of taking home something.

• Dalton Red Carpet Half Marathon/5K/2K (Oct. 6): The major focus of this third annual event is the 13.1-mile race, which starts in downtown Dalton.

On the night prior, young singing sensation Lauren Alaina, who’s from Rossville, will appear in concert at the trade center as part of pre-race festivities that include a health and fitness expo.

Doug Hawley has been a competitive distance runner for more than 50 years. You can write to him at dhawley@optilink.us.

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