Jimmy White III Wins 2011 Men's Metro, Larry McGill Metro Senior Champion
Ten years ago, when Jimmy White last played in the Chattanooga Men’s Metro, he couldn’t have won the tournament.
Or at least, he couldn’t have won the kind of tournament the Metro evolved into on Sunday at grand old Chattanooga Golf and Country Club. On a day when at least seven players had a chance to win, when patience was a virtue and par was a good score, White shot par 71 for a 3-under par total and won by two shots over Mitch Hufstetler, Tom Schreiner and McCallie sophomore Gordan Hulgan
Larry McGill, who led the tournament after 36 holes, shot 81 to fall into a tie for 12th but had won the two day Metro Senior Championship on Saturday with his 36-hole total of 6-under 136.
In the old days, when White was part of one of the greatest high school teams in Tennessee history (Baylor) and later played for the University of Tennessee, he was a bit on the volcanic side. Which is to say when things didn’t go his way, White got down on himself in a hurry. Unable to shake off adversity, he lost a couple of tournaments he could have won, including the Metro at least twice.
It took a stint in the bush leagues of professional golf and eventually quitting the game to teach White a valuable lesson.
“Patience,” White said. “That was a virtue I never had before, but have definitely gotten better at.”
He proved that on Sunday, when a handful of players, all with a chance to win, fired and fell back. An early triple bogey took McGill out of the tournament. Chris Schmidt was in the thick of things until a double-bogey at No. 12.
If it weren’t for a double at 15, the 15-year-old Hulgan might have won the tournament; as it was, had he converted a long birdie putt at No. 18, he would have tied White and gotten himself into a playoff. Nick Blakeley was 3-under standing on the tee of the par-3 18th and left the green 1-over after a quadruple bogey 7.
White shot 67 in the second round but didn’t feel good about his swing. That uneasiness carried over to Sunday and resulted in three front-nine bogeys, including at the par-5 7th, when his second shot was a foot away from being dry and playable but trickled into the river.
An 18- or 20-year old Jimmy White might have used that opportunity to go bonkers. At 33, with several years of competing against the likes of Boo Weekly and Bubba Watson behind him and all the wisdom that experience gave him, White used that bit of misfortune at No. 7 as a launching pad. Only it wasn’t his temper that blasted off.
The swing that dunked his second shot helped him figure out whatever issues he was battling and he proceeded to make birdies at Nos. 11, 13 and 16. The last birdie got him to 4 under for the tournament. He missed his landing spot by about a yard at No. 17 and made a bogey at the short par 4.
Again, the old Jimmy White might have wrapped his sand wedge around his neck. New Jimmy was unfazed.
“It’s a completely different attitude now,” White said. “Before you were playing for a living and standing over every put thinking dollars and cents. The grind of that really gets to you. Now you realize at the end of the day, you’re just out there playing golf and having fun. Whatever happens, happens. You just leave it all out there.”
White, with sponsors behind him, turned pro after college. He shot 68-69-70 in his first tournament—also playing that week were Weekly and Watson—and was elated until he compared his third-place check of $1,800 to his expenses for the week—about $1,500.
“I said wait a minute,” White said. “This is not as glamorous as it’s cut out to be.”
In 2005, a back injury and subsequent surgery eventually ended his pro golf career. But living in South Florida, where he had moved to focus on his golf career, helped him in other ways. He found his way into the real estate development business, a gig that eventually allowed him to move back to Chattanooga.
He didn’t play for nearly three years, but upon reuniting with his old buddies—notably former Baylor teammate Richard Spangler and former Tennessee teammate Andrew Black—he got back on the course.
“I think I played maybe two rounds [in 2008],” White said. “Then the next year I got to where I was playing once a month. Then last year, I played in the Four Ball with Richard, and this year I started entering tournaments.”
White wasn’t sure he could win, at least from a physical standpoint. But his back is fine, and his attitude even better. Winning the Metro means a lot to him.
“Especially here,” White said. “There’s so much history here, and it’s a great golf course. And of course my dad and my uncle had a history with this tournament. The Men’s Metro is the holy grail of the city championships. It feels really good to have won it, after all these years.”
Wesley G. Brown traveling trophy