Defending Champion Ingram Returns To Choo Choo Full of Confidence

Sunday, June 13, 2021 - by Paul Payne
Hogan Ingram
Hogan Ingram

Hogan Ingram was a relatively unknown entity prior to last year’s Chattanooga Choo Choo Invitational, but he was perfectly fine with that anonymity.

As a rising senior at Rome High School, Ingram birdied the final hole to win the prestigious tournament against a talented field of collegiate golfers. The win served as a springboard for him to gain momentum that has elevated his status as he enters his freshman year at Georgia Southern.

Ingram won’t be able to fly beneath the radar as he seeks to defend his title in the 54-hole event that runs Monday through Wednesday at Council Fire Golf Club.

Tournament director Chris Schmidt along with the efforts of more than 140 volunteers has helped build the Choo Choo into one of the top amateur events in the country. This year’s roster of participants is evidence of the continued growth of the tournament now in its tenth year.

“No doubt this is the best field we’ve had, and many of the players are rated highly in the world rankings,” Schmidt said. “It would be difficult to pick five favorites from the field. I think there’s at least 30 players who could win.”

There are 55 colleges represented among the 100 participants representing 21 different states. The tournament has also garnered an international flair by inviting players from England, South Africa, India, Dubai and Canada.

South African Ruan Pretorius was recently named the winner of the Jack Nicklaus Award, recognizing him as the top golfer in NAIA while playing at Point University. Pretorius will continue his career at Mississippi State.

The layout at Council Fire will be a hearty test thanks to the meticulous preparation of long-time course superintendent Gary Weller, particularly with the addition of numerous native areas of thick Scottish fescue that will penalize errant shots.

“We expect three days of conditions where Council Fire will play like a major event,” Schmidt said. “This is Gary’s golf course and he and his staff have created a great challenge for our participants.”

Ingram, who was named after golf legend Ben Hogan, is primed for a repeat of last year’s success.

“I’ve gained 25 pounds since last year which has allowed me to gain more length,” Ingram said. “That has made it easier for me to score. Plus, my putting has improved.”

Ingram’s success at the Choo Choo prompted some inquiries from several college golf powerhouses to gauge his interest in flipping his commitment from Georgia Southern. But the unassuming Ingram couldn’t be swayed.

“I never wavered on my decision to go to Georgia Southern,” Ingram said. “Chris (Schmidt) told me there were bigger schools interested in me after I won. But the way I looked at it was if they didn’t want me before, then it was too late.”

Arriving at the Choo Choo as reigning champion has not altered Ingram’s outlook or preparation

“I don’t feel any additional pressure,” Ingram said. “My goal is always to win. If not, then why be there? I gained a lot of confidence that’s led to more success. It’s been life-changing since I won here.”

* * *

Contact Paul Payne by email at or via Twitter @Paul_A_Payne




Winner will get this champions trophy
Winner will get this champions trophy

Double-A South Standings/Results

Three Lee Golfers Named GCAA All-American Scholars

Randy Smith: SEC West Preview

Double-A South Standings/Results (as of games of 8/1/21) North Division Team W L PCT GB Birmingham (CWS) ... (click for more)

Srixon/Cleveland Golf All-America Scholars for NCAA Divisions II have been announced by the GCAA and three Lee players earned the prestigious honor. Senior Evan Spence, junior Dustin DeMersseman, ... (click for more)

I'm hesitant to make my SEC predictions because of the COVID resurgence, especially in the southern part of the country. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey has already stated that if a team has a COVID ... (click for more)


Double-A South Standings/Results

Double-A South Standings/Results (as of games of 8/1/21) North Division Team W L PCT GB Birmingham (CWS) 42 35 .545 - Chattanooga (CIN) 39 36 .520 2.0 Rocket City (LAA) 37 ... (click for more)

Three Lee Golfers Named GCAA All-American Scholars

Srixon/Cleveland Golf All-America Scholars for NCAA Divisions II have been announced by the GCAA and three Lee players earned the prestigious honor. Senior Evan Spence, junior Dustin DeMersseman, and sophomore Beck Burnette all garnered the award which highlights players who excel both in the classroom and on the course. All three players were instrumental in guiding the Flames ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Walden Rezoning, Intended To Clear Way For Grocery Complex, Violated Land Use Regulations And The Law, Bradley County Judge Rules

A Bradley County judge has found that Walden officials’ 2019 decision to rezone a piece of property so it could be used for a grocery store complex was “illegal, arbitrary and capricious.” Consequently, Judge J. Michael Sharp said in a decision released Monday, the ordinance is declared invalid. The judge denied a request from landowner/developer/attorney John Anderson to ... (click for more)

Things Were Looking Good At The Convention Center, But Now Mike Shuford Is "Not So Sure"; Getting Workers Is Big Headache

Things were looking good at the Chattanooga Convention Center with new bookings starting to come on the books after the ruinous COVID seemed to be finally waning. However, longtime Executive Director Mike Shuford said with the new highly contagious Delta strain, "I'm not so sure." He said some who had planned future events are having second thoughts. Another big problem ... (click for more)


Big Dogs At The City Get Most Of The Salary Money

The current crisis concerning recycling is nothing more than too much pork in the high end paychecks. The top 31 combined salaries in the city of Chattanooga amounts to $3,750,000 per year. That's right folks, millions. The average pay for these people is $121,000 coming from our hard-earned tax dollars. The average income of the citizens of Chattanooga is $26,200 per year based ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Liberty Above Mandates

It is no secret I’ve been on the COVID vaccine bandwagon since the very get-go. Due to my compromised immune system and my age (72) I am one of those at-risk people and I got my first shot the first minute I could; around Valentine’s Day. Since then, I’ve used my opinion pulpit to push the vaccine as hard as possible because I am totally convinced it saves lives. Therefore, this ... (click for more)