2016-07-07 / Sports

Annual tourney set July 9-10; Echols could be first to win 5

The 89th playing of what is now the Amos Martin Invitational golf tournament is set for the weekend of July 9-10, at the Washington-Wilkes Country Club. Local golfing sensation Graham Echols is poised to become the classic’s first-ever five-time winner if he can repeat his win from last year.

Echols became only the third four-time winner last year, having just missed being the first-ever four-in-a-row winner the year before. He first won the tournament in 2011 and followed with wins in 2012 and 2013, making him the first three-in-a-row winner ever.

A hot young college player, Dalton Reese, interrupted the streak in 2014 but Echols started over last year with his fourth title.

Back-to-back winners have been a recurring trend in the Amos Martin Invitational’s history. Those who have accomplished the feat since 1955 (as far back as records are available) are Mel Fleisher (1961-62), Sammy Craig (1972-73), Ed Moore (1977- 78), Mitch Marchamn (1990-91), Steve Chafin (1997-98), Alex McMichael (1999-2000), Bryan Barnett (2001- 2002), Billy Craycraft (2006- 07), and Echols (2011-12-13).

The tournament is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 9, and continue through Sunday afternoon, July 10. A newly added function will be a Champions Reception for all former winners of the tournament to be held following the Saturday afternoon rounds at about 6 p.m. Former champions are listed below.

“We’re hoping to have a full tournament of 80 players,” planner Hugh Hopkins said. “With the recent rains, the course has really come along and by July 9 should be in great shape.” Golfers are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible to participate in the event.

Prizes will be awarded for shots closest to the pin on Saturday and Sunday and also to flight winners at the tournament’s conclusion on Sunday. There will also be a “senior division” by invitation only.

As always, the weather could be a factor but indications are that it won’t hamper play this year.

Adequate spring rain and careful attention have the course in good shape, and there has also been a lot of volunteer work done by members of the tournament committee and others.

The Washington-Wilkes course is still a classic. Designed in 1925 by Donald Ross, who also designed the Augusta Country Club course and had a hand in the design of Augusta National, it has remained basically the same for over 80 years. One of the characteristics of a Ross course, according Jack Harvey, a former tournament chairman, is the relatively small target greens, and these are like that.

Billy Craycraft set the course record of 137 (36 holes) in 1988 and now shares it with Bryan Barnett who matched it in 2001.

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