Local players take aim at Georgia Amateur Championship title

sports@macon.comJuly 9, 2014 

ga_am_golf

Travis Steed lines up a putt on the 18th green at Idle Hour Club where he and others were practicing for tomorrow's opening round of the Georgia Amateur Championship.

BEAU CABELL — bcabell@macon.com Buy Photo

Macon’s Travis Steed has taken a somewhat odd path in his golf career.

After a successful stop at Georgia College and a seven-year professional career, Steed quit playing golf for 11 years to concentrate on growing his business, the Mid-State Striping Company. But Steed always knew that he would come back to the game in hopes of making it on the Champions Tour, and at the age of 44, he is once again taking aim at his goals on the golf course.

After finishing second to Stan Gann Jr. in the Macon-Middle Georgia Championships, Steed feels like he is ready to make a run in the Georgia Amateur Championship, which starts Thursday at Idle Hour Club. He is one of many Middle Georgia players who hopes to contend this weekend.

“My game is coming around, and I feel good heading into this tournament,” said Steed, who missed the cut in last year’s event. “I have been working with Ray Cutright for about three years, and I am happy where I am at right now. I didn’t quit playing because I was tired of it; I quit because I needed to work and make this company successful. Sure I missed it, but I just really didn’t have the time to play very much.

“I still don’t get to play but maybe three times a week, but I feel like at 44, I am able to handle my emotions and play the course a lot better than when I was younger. I definitely feel like I can contend this year. And the feeling you get when you are playing against the best never goes away.”

Gann Jr., who is from Bonaire, is playing the event for the first time since 1997 and regained his amateur status in 2013. He has since claimed two Macon–Middle Georgia championships, as well as the Valdosta Open.

“I don’t get to play as much as I would like to because I have to support my family, and I really don’t play a lot unless there’s something on the line,” said Gann Jr., who is 37 years old. “I know there will be a lot of great college players here that play all the time, but once we get to playing and the juices start flowing, I feel like I can still play with them. I always expect to be in contention when I play in a golf tournament, and I am looking forward to seeing what I can do this week.

“If the course is anywhere near as tough as it was at the Peach Blossom, I think any score under par will be a great score.”

Kathleen’s Shawn Hodge, who regained his amateur status four years ago, is looking forward to seeing where his game is.

“I haven’t played that much since the Peach Blossom tournament, maybe only three or four times since then,” said Hodge, 41, who has been busy taking care of his wife, Liz, who broke her hip a little more than a month ago, while caring for his two young children, as well as working. “My first goal is always to win the tournament, and when I have played, I have been pleased the way I have hit the ball. You just never know how the week will go, but I feel like if I can get in some type of groove early I will be fine.

“I am very excited to compete in such a strong tournament with some many great players. I don’t have high expectations, but then again, I still hope to be somewhere in the picture on Sunday.”

Local players in field

Thursday tee times

No. 1

12:45 p.m.: Trey Rule, Eatonton

1:05 p.m.: Travis Steed, Macon

1:15 p.m.: Bill Brown III, Dublin; John Walker IV, Macon

No. 10

7:35 a.m.: Conner Albright, Macon

8:25 a.m.: Stephen Howell, Fitzgerald

8:35 a.m.: Stephen Amerson, Gray

9:05 a.m.: Taylor Jernigan, Macon

9:15 a.m.: Sandy Burgess, Macon

9:25 a.m.: Chuck Bass, Dublin

12:20 p.m.: Shawn Hodge, Kathleen

1:50 p.m.: Stan Gann Jr, Bonaire

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