By Tate Russell
Sun Sports Writer
GREENEVILLE – Greeneville has turned into quite the destination for big-time golf tournaments.
For the second year in a row, the Greene County Sports Council and Link Hills Country Club will host the AAU Golf National Championships, which is expected to bring as many as 150 of the nation’s top junior golfers to the area this July.
Last year’s tournament welcomed participants from seven states and Canada. Tammy Kinser, tourism director with the Greene County Partnership, expects golfers and their families to bring an anticipated $205,000 economic impact to the county.
“One thing we like about the AAU tournament is that it brings in youth golfers who will bring in their parents and grandparents to our community,” Kinser said. “Last year we had 53 participants. This year we hope to triple that number.”
“We have had more time to promote it this year, we are contacting middle school programs across the state and working closely with the Tennessee Golf Association. They have said they are going to really promote this to get some people in.”
The event will start on Thursday July 18 with a parent/junior competition. Practice rounds will be held the next day.
Tournament competition is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, July 20-21, and will be followed with an award ceremony.
The AAU national championship is not the first major golf tournament brought to Greene County by the Sports Council. In 2011 and 2012, Link Hills was host to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) women's golf national championships. Those events were very successful and helped to promote Greeneville's reputation as a destination for sporting events.
“The golf course is great but I think the hospitality the participants receive is what makes our event stand out, especially with the NAIA where we involved host families,” Kinser explained. “Every team had a host family. They had cook outs, came and watched the girls, took them places in the area, really just giving them a family atmosphere.”
“With AAU, we have a hospitality area on site and have had several people tell us they had never been treated like this anywhere else. I think the more we do, hospitality wise, at our events, the more it shows what type of events we can offer.”
The NAIA championships have moved to Lincoln, Nebraska this year but with the positive reaction the Sports Council received from participants, it hopes to put in a bid for the event to return to Greeneville in the near future.
“We went to the NAIA tournament before we hosted it here, just to get a feel for how they do it and it was nowhere close to being what we provided,” Kinser said. “We had a bigger hospitality area, and athletic trainers and a orthopedic surgeon on-call, just in case anything did happen. We set the bar pretty high and I don't know if Lincoln, Nebraska is going to be able to top us.”
“We are interested in bringing the NAIA tournament back, hopefully next year because it is on a two year cycle.”
In addition to the NAIA and AAU events, the Sports Council is pursuing NCAA, Appalachian Atlantic Conference, National Christian Colleges Athletic Association, and Tennessee Golf Association events for the future.
“We have to be active in contacting these organizations and finding out what they have going on and letting them know what we have to offer so we can get more of these events,” Kinser said.
The Sports Council feels that these sporting events are great for Greeneville, not only because of the tourists they bring in, but also the media attention they garner, which in turn increases the community's profile and contributes to the economic development of the area.
In September, the Partnership plans to host a collegiate and youth soccer tournament in conjunction with Tusculum College. The goal of that event is to bring up to eight collegiate teams and as many as 60 youth teams from across the Southeast to Greeneville.
Another event the Sports Council is excited about potentially bringing to Greeneville is a United States Tennis Association tournament for athletes ages 65 and up. The event could include 300 hundred participants, and Kinser thinks Greeneville would be the ideal location for tournament because of the facilities in place.