Smith And Walker Celebrate Longstanding Friendship With Senior Four-Ball Win

  • Thursday, May 23, 2024
  • Paul Payne
Jeff Walker, left, and Stuart Smith won the Tennessee Senior Four-Ball Championship
Jeff Walker, left, and Stuart Smith won the Tennessee Senior Four-Ball Championship
photo by courtesy Tennessee Golf Association

The friendship between Stuart Smith and Jeff Walker traces back 50 years, and their life journey has centered around their shared golfing experiences.

It all began as 14-year-olds competing in a junior event in Nashville, then they roomed as freshmen at the University of Tennessee in the early ‘80s where both lettered four years in leading a resurgence in the Vols golf program, then to a lifetime of pursuing careers and raising families while enjoying rounds together whenever possible.

Their five-decade connection with golf serving as the epicenter is what made Thursday even more special in the Tennessee Golf Association’s 31st Senior Four-Ball Championship at Toqua Golf Club. The long-time friends teamed to win their first TGA title by defeating Tullahoma’s Jay Potter and Davis Burris of Manchester, 2 & 1.

“I’ve got to pinch myself to make sure this is real,” Smith said. “We’re just two 64-year-olds who have been playing golf this long as friends, going to ball games together, whose families are close, and we get to share this moment. That’s pretty special.”

Their championship match was deadlocked through 12 holes after Burris recorded a birdie. But Smith won No. 13 with a par and Walker birdied No. 14 after hitting a wedge to eight feet to go 2-up, and both groups halved the remaining three holes.

The fact Smith and Walker even made it to the championship match seemed unlikely early in Wednesday’s semifinal tilt. They were 4-down after seven holes to Bill Oliver and Will Kegley, eventually prevailing after 20 holes.

“It didn’t look good for us there for a while, but that’s the beauty of playing golf together for 50 years,” Smith said. “It’s a testimony to having a great partner. We knew that if we just kept playing, good things would happen.”

Smith, who lives in Nashville where he plays out of Hillwood Country Club, has a vivid recollection of his first encounter with Walker.

“It was the Middle Tennessee Junior tournament, and I was thrilled that I broke 90 for the first time,” Smith said. “Then I saw where Jeff shot 76, and it showed me I still had room to improve. He’s always been a really good golfer since I’ve known him.”

The pair decided to play collegiately at Tennessee after being recruited by Memphis State, hoping for immediate playing time with struggling Vols program.

“Jeff went on his visit to Memphis first, and he didn’t really like it,” Smith. “After I heard that, I told him ‘If you didn’t like it, then I won’t either’ so we decided to walk-on at UT because they weren’t very good.”

Little did they know the impact their presence would make in Knoxville.

Smith emerged as a four-time All-SEC golfer and two-time All-America, winning the SEC team title their freshman year and guiding Tennessee to three straight NCAA Championship appearances. Walker, a resident of Greenbrier who plays out of Legacy Golf Club, was also a pivotal contributor to the Vols’ success.

Their special lifelong friendship came full circle at Toqua on Thursday, adding another chapter to their cherished golfing odyssey.

A dramatic ending on the 21st hole in the finals of the 12th Tennessee Super Senior Four-Ball Championship enabled Tony Green of Kingsport and Garry Siddons of Knoxville to successfully defend their title from last year.

Green drained a 50-foot putt for birdie on the third extra hole – the par 3 No. 3 - for the win, defeating the duo of Danny Green of Jackson and Doug Harris from Nashville.

“It’s hard to win the same tournament back-to-back years, but Garry played so well that it freed me up to go after some birdies,” Tony Green said. “It was a great match where both teams shot 66 with no bogeys all day.”

Green and Siddons opened with three straight birdies to go 3-up early. But unlike last year’s tournament that resulted in a 4 & 3 win, they knew retaining the title would be no easy feat.

Birdies by Harris at No. 9 and by Danny Green at 10 and 14 squared the match with four holes to play. Harris then birdied 16 to give his team their first lead, only to have Tony Green send the match into sudden death with a birdie at 18.

“We knew that this would be a dogfight all day,” Tony Green said. “Danny’s pedigree as a champion speaks for itself, and Doug won this tournament twice in a row a couple of years ago.”

After both teams birdied No. 1 to open the playoff, Siddons’ chip to mere inches on the second hole seemed seal the win. But Danny Green jarred an 18-footer to keep the match alive and halve the hole.

That led to Tony Green’s heroics on the final hole, with Danny Green and Harris missing their birdie attempts.

There was a sense of poetic justice to Green’s winning putt that enabled him to claim his ninth state championship, having won three Super Senior State Opens, two Senior Match Play titles, a Senior Four-Ball and Super-Senior Match Play to go along with his pair of Super Senior Four-Ball trophies.

“I lost in the semis three years in a row with someone making a long putt, so I guess it was finally time for me to win one that way,” Tony Green said.

It was a rewarding finish for Tony Green, 72, who didn’t start playing competitive golf until he was in the Senior division.

“Working the way I did, I didn’t play golf for a lot of years,” Tony Green said. “I made it to a couple of U.S. Senior Opens and I’ve had some success along the way. Being able to still compete and win this tournament at my age is special.”

Paul Payne can be emailed at paulpayne6249@gmail.com

Garry Siddons, left, and Tony Green won the Tennessee Super Senior Four-Ball Championship
Garry Siddons, left, and Tony Green won the Tennessee Super Senior Four-Ball Championship
photo by courtesy Tennessee Golf Association
Sports
Lady Vols To Host Florida State, Vols Get Syracuse In SEC/ACC Challenge
  • 6/13/2024

The Lady Vols will play host to Florida State on Dec. 4 as part of a 16-game SEC-ACC Women's Basketball Challenge over a two-day period. The Tennessee men's basketball team will host Syracuse ... more

Chattanooga FC Travels To Florida To Take On Orlando City B
  • 6/12/2024

Chattanooga FC looks to extend its three-match unbeaten run as it faces Orlando City B on Thursday evening. Chattanooga Football Club (6-2-5D, 3SOW, 26 pts - 2nd in East) looks to extend ... more

Former Lee Baseball Standout Logan Workman To Pitch Against Lookouts
  • 6/12/2024

It is homecoming time again for former Lee University Flame and Soddy-Daisy’s Logan Workman. The talented member of the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits is in Chattanooga to face the Lookouts in ... more