July 10, 2013

Noll looks to win again at Georgia Amateur Championship

Chris Whitfield

— A decade ago, Dalton golfer David Noll Jr. earned his first Georgia Amateur Championship victory.

Noll, who spent several years on minor tours trying to make it as a professional golfer, was in his third year of amateur play after regaining that status in 2001. At the time, he called his victory at Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw a breakthrough win.

“This is forever,” he said after shooting a 5-under-par 283 to edge Ringgold’s Thomas Hagler by a stroke. “To be the Georgia Amateur champion, you go down in history.”

He will be trying to make a little history again this week, 10 years later and on the same course where he first won the Georgia State Golf Association event that dates to 1916 and was first won by Bobby Jones, who is regarded as one of the greatest golfers ever.

This year’s Georgia Amateur Championship tees off Thursday and concludes Sunday. Other local golfers competing are Robert Smith of Dalton, Ethan Hayes and Tucker Snipes of Rocky Face, plus Colby Hipp and Tyler Mitchell, both of Chatsworth.

As usual, Noll is expected to be a leading contender among the 144-player field, which will be cut to the low 70 golfers and ties after 36 holes. Noll also won the Georgia Amateur Championship at Atlanta’s Cherokee Town and Country Club in 2011, and he has been runner-up three times, including last year at Ansley Golf Club-Settindown Creek in Roswell. With the exception of 2004, when he tied for 18th, Noll has finished in the top six at the tournament each year since winning his first title at the Georgia Amateur Championship.

He’s certainly not opposed to returning to the site of that breakthrough win.

“Maybe there are some good vibes,” Noll said. “I have played down there several times in the last couple of weeks. It is nice and a good test with really fast greens. It will be the type of course where I don’t expect many scores under par. It has been wet, but not near as bad as what we have been witnessing up here in the last week and a half.”

Over the past decade, Noll has established himself as one of the top amateur golfers in the Peach State with accomplishment after accomplishment. In addition to his success in the Georgia Amateur Championship, he won titles at the GSGA’s Atlanta Amateur Match Play Championship in 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2012 and won the organization’s Georgia Mid-Amateur Championship in 2007 and 2012.

He has been named the GSGA’s Men’s Player of the Year eight times, including each of the past six years. In 2008, he was presented the GSGA’s Tommy Barnes Award, given each year to the state’s overall top golfer.

Noll hasn’t played as much golf this summer as he has in the past, though. He missed last month’s North Georgia Invitational on his home course at Dalton Golf & Country Club, but he had a good reason — Mickey Mouse. His son, Nicklaus, was celebrating his second birthday.

“We had to go to see a mouse,” Noll said. “I hated to miss my home tournament, but going on vacation with your family doesn’t happen all of the time. It was a pretty easy decision.”

He is about to hit a very busy stretch on the course, however, with several big tournaments and qualifying events on the horizon.

“I have just been practicing and trying to get ready for this stretch,” Noll said. “The U.S. Amateur qualifier is right after this, and then the Georgia Open is behind that and then the qualifier for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. July and August are pretty busy for me. I will squeeze in about four hours of sleep each night.”

Still, Noll will do his best to be fresh at Pinetree, where he believes being mentally sharp is as important as any physical technique he might bring to the competition.

“This is a thinking man’s golf course,” he said. “You have to pick your poison as to when to be aggressive. I think my mind will be my best asset.”

According to the GSGA, entries were open to male amateur golfers who belong to a GSGA Member Club and are Georgia residents. Almost 600 players entered this year’s championship, including 28 with exempt status. Noll has several exemptions, including a 10-year exemption for winning the GSGA Amateur Championship.

The remaining 116 spots were filled by non-exempt players who competed in one of 10, 18-hole qualifiers last month.