Sports

July 8, 2014

The main attraction

Noll wants to be remembered this time at Idle Hour

In 2008, David Noll Jr. beat the tournament record at the Georgia Amateur Championship at Idle Hour Club in Macon.

No one remembers.

Noll’s place in the record books got relegated to the back page because he finished third to a pair of players who would eventually both make the PGA Tour.

“It was the greatest state amateur that I have ever been in,” Noll said.

But Noll was relegated to being a supporting actor as two University of Georgia golfers — Harris English and Russell Henley — battled down the stretch in middle Georgia before Henley secured the win with a four-round total of 270 to beat his teammate. Noll finished two shots back. Now, both Henley and English are cashing big checks in the professional ranks, and Noll is headed back down I-75 looking to have a starring role this time around.

“Last time it was there, it was an unbelievable battle between two of the best players I ever played with,” Noll said. “I am excited to go back to that course, and have really been working hard and I am ready to go.”

He and Chatsworth’s Tyler Mitchell will be among the field of 144 players set to begin the tournament on Thursday as the state amateur returns to Idle Hour for the eighth time — the most of any venue in the tournament’s history. Donald Ross — the same golf architect who designed this year’s U.S. Open venue at Pinehurst No. 2 — designed the course in 1912, and it hosted its first state amateur in 1923.

The course is a par-70 and plays at 6,727 yards from the tips. Last year’s event was played at Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw and the course played to 7,108 yards. But Noll said Idle Hour will use every single yard to befuddle and test the entrants.

“It is such a difficult course,” Noll said. “It is a Donald Ross course and the yardage is nothing, but it is the hardest 6,700-yard, par-70 course you will ever play. It is a smart man’s golf course. You have to have your wits about you.”

While the course doesn’t have the famed turtleback greens of Pinehurst No. 2, it is a typical Ross design with small, quick greens and a number of angles that players will have to play from. The fairways have natural shapes and undulations, while the holes are tight to put a premium on accurate driving. With the small greens, players will have to have their best short game in the bag as well since many shots just will not hold on the greens.

“It has the nuances with the greens and the bunkering and some of the angles of shots you have to take into the greens,” Noll said. “It is a typical Donald Ross course and I am ready to go.”

Noll won the Georgia Mid-Amateur Championship at Cuscowilla on Lake Oconee earlier this year, defeating James Kiely in a one-hole playoff. Coming into the tournament, Noll — a two-time winner of the event — is a prohibitive favorite. Defending champion Jimmy Beck is not in the field, and Noll won’t have to face either of Augusta’s Knoxes — Jeff Knox is not playing, and his son and two-time champion Lee Knox turned pro after graduating from Alabama. Noll was second to Lee Knox in 2012 at Settindown Creek in Roswell.

Noll won the event in 2011 and 2003, finishing second in 2005 and 2009. He will play in the first two rounds with Bill Brown, a winner in 2005 and a runner-up in 2002.

“Bill is a longtime friend of mine, and when he won the state amateur at Coosa Country Club (2005), we played all four rounds together,” Noll said. “It is good for your game to be able to play with someone of his caliber. I haven’t seen Bill since 2006. When the tee times came out, I was almost thinking that it might have been his son.”

Mitchell first played in the tournament after qualifying at the age of 15. Since graduating from Dalton State College — he played for the Roadrunners this past season — Mitchell said he has continued to work on his game. He has played in developmental tours throughout the summer with an eye toward turning pro at the end of the summer. He said he has been practicing constantly with Noll. The two will play in a practice round on Wednesday, and it will be the first time Mitchell has ever played Idle Hour.

“I have been practicing every day, and I feel like it is getting better each time,” Mitchell said. “I am finally starting to make a few putts and seeing some things coming together. The main thing is focus and being prepared. I play a lot with David, and learning from him has helped my game a lot. I haven’t played the course, but he has and maybe I can learn something from him.”

After two rounds, the field will be cut to the low 70 and ties and anyone within 10 strokes of the lead for the weekend’s final two rounds. The tournament will be televised on Georgia Public Television, and scores will be posted on www.gsga.org.

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