Prep Golfer Ingram Surprise Winner Of Choo Choo Invitational

Thursday, July 30, 2020 - by Paul Payne

Ever since his parents named him after one of golf’s iconic figures, Hogan Ingram has been inspired to live up to the legend of his namesake, Ben Hogan. 

The rising senior at Rome High School took a major step in that direction Wednesday, sinking a clutch birdie putt on the final hole to capture the prestigious Chattanooga Choo Choo Invitational hosted at Council Fire Golf Course.

The lanky Ingram overcame a four-stroke deficit to start the final round of the three-day event, carding a 6-under 65 to win by one stroke over University of Tennessee golfer Chip Thomas.  Ingram finished at 10-under after recording a pair of 69s the first two days.

The eighth edition of the Choo Choo tournament assembled its strongest field to date, featuring many of college golf’s top performers among the 94-player roster.
That’s what made Ingram’s feat even more impressive to tournament director Chris Schmidt.

“He has no idea what a big deal it is to win this tournament with a walk-off birdie,” Schmidt said. “What he did you just don’t see happen.  That young man just shocked the world.  This win will change his career and take it to another level.”

Ingram, who won the Georgia Junior Amateur event in Savannah last month, seemed unfazed by his accomplishment.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Ingram said. “I knew a 65 was out there somewhere, but I just told myself to go out there and play my game. I played here the last two years and it wasn’t good at all.  I just kept my head down and stayed locked in and didn’t look at the scoreboard all day.”

Ingram’s unflappable poise despite his youth personified another connection to the golf luminary. 

“We named him after Ben Hogan because his father is such an avid golfer,” said Lyn Ingram, Hogan’s mother. “It’s almost strange how his demeanor on the golf course is identical his namesake.”

Ingram hit every green in regulation in the final round, and played bogey-free golf over his final 33 holes while never three-putting once during the tournament on Council Fire’s challenging fast greens.  

But it was his tackling of the monstrous 18th hole that earned Ingram the champion’s crystal trophy.  Normally a par 5, the final hole played as a 503-yard par 4 with a hazard bordering the left side. After a solid drive, Ingram stroked a four iron from 207 yards to 12 feet. He promptly drained the putt for a one-stroke margin, then patiently waited for the final two groups to finish.

“There weren’t a lot of birdies on 18, especially playing into the wind. But I was kind of thinking birdie there,” said Ingram, who plays out of Coosa Country Club in Rome. “I parred it the other two days, but those felt like birdies as long as it was playing. That three felt more like an eagle.”

After recording a birdie on the par-3 17th, Thomas needed to match Ingram’s birdie on the final hole to force a playoff.  But the Knoxville native knew that was a tall task.

“I didn’t look at all at the number to beat,” Thomas said.  “Coming down 18 you’re looking at four all day long because it’s a 500-yard hole.  I wouldn’t have played it any differently even if I had known I was one back.  It’s been a while since I’ve been in the final group.  I had to battle some nerves but I proved something to myself today.”

Campbell Wolf, who will finish his collegiate career at East Tennessee State after transferring from DePaul, eagled the opening hole en route to a 5-under 66 to finish third at 8-under.  Tennessee’s Brayden Garrison, who won this event in 2018, was among a quintet of golfers tied for fourth at 7-under along with UTC’s Braedon Wear and second-round leader Austin Vukovits.

Heritage High School product Ben Rebne, who competes at Dalton State and is the son of Council Fire head professional Richard Rebne, tied for 10th (4-under) as the top local performer.

Ingram has committed to Georgia Southern to continue his golf career following high school.  His father, Joe, played at Georgia State and is a PGA professional. The younger Ingram will compete in his club championship this weekend, then travel to Athens for the Georgia State Championship next week.

“He’s got another year left in high school and he just won against a field where 98-percent of the golfers are proven college players,” Joe Ingram said. “This is a tremendous field, and we are through the roof excited for Hogan to win.”

Paul Payne can be contacted by email at paulpayne6249@gmail.com or via Twitter @Paul_A_Payne


Chattanooga Choo Choo Invitational Top Ten
1.   Hogan Ingram (Rome, GA) -10 69-69-65
2.   Chip Thomas (Knoxville, TN) -9 68-68-68
3.   Campbell Wolf (Mechanicsburg, PA) -8 71-68-66
4.   Steffen Smith (Alpharetta, GA)  -7 68-71-67
      Brayden Garrison (Nolensville, TN)  -7 68-70-68
      Braedon Wear (Maryville, TN, UTC)  -7 66-71-69
      Hunter Logan (Steens, MS)  -7 67-69-70
      Austin Vukovits (Noblesville, IN)  -7 68-66-72
9.   Mason Greenberg (Southlake, TX)  -6 65-71-71
10. Clay Amlung (Louisville, KY)  -4 68-71-70
      Ben Rebne (Ringgold, GA)  -4 67-72-70
      Bryce Beeler (Maryville, TN)  -4 70-68-71 

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