Past EHS standout Gouge enjoys super Saturday at Tillinghast

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, June 9, 2016


JOHNSON CITY—Though the ending was not the one Taylor Gouge wanted, the former Elizabethton High School standout had an experience to remember in what has become a home tournament for him.

The 2011 Region 1-A/AA Individual Champion who went on to have a great career at King University finished 10th overall at The Tillinghast at the Johnson City Country Club with a score of -2 for the tournament.

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The final tally is misleading, as Gouge carded a 68 on Saturday to earn a spot in the final pairing with former ETA champion Blake Howard and eventual winner Ben Campbell of Bristol, Va.

Gouge, who grew up playing on his hometown course at Elizabethton Golf Course, now has two home courses, as he is a cart attendant at the Johnson City Country Club and many people at the club were cheering him on Sunday.

Sunday was not as kind to Gouge as the great round on Saturday was, but for Gouge, it was a tournament he will always remember.

“It was fun and I really enjoyed playing with Ben and Blake,” said Gouge. “They played well. I just wish I had putted a little bit better today.’

With Campbell and Howard having won major tournaments on the local amateur scene before, Gouge might have been feeling a little pressure. Gouge did have the low round of the day on Sunday in 2014 at The Tillinghast, but that was after he was out of contention.

This time it was the opposite for Gouge. He had a great first day, then fell off on Sunday.

“The greens kind of slowed down today and I couldn’t get the ball in the hole,” said Gouge. “That’s about it.”

Gouge’s first final pairing in a major summer local adult amateur event is an accomplishment in itself.

The fact that many of the accomplished golfers at the tournament were not in the final pairings speaks of how good Gouge is and the potential he has to win a championship of this magnitude.

“I made a lot of birdies on the back and birded five of the last six to shoot 68,” said Gouge “Today I had four three-putts right on line. I played well, I just wish I had putted a little bit better today.”

Overall, Gouge is pleased with the weekend on his adopted home course.

“I was very pleased to be playing in the final group,” said Gouge. “I have to do a little bit more practicing, but it was a pretty good tournament.”


On a warm and muggy Saturday morning, the Tillinghast started with best friends being able to compete together in one golfer’s first amateur tournament.

Josh Taylor is a former standout golfer at Hampton who now plays for Milligan College. Taylor’s best friend, Sullivan East junior Ethan Mays, was playing in his first championship flight of an adult amateur tournament.

It was appropriate that when the pairings came out at 8 a.m. Saturday morning, Taylor and Mays were put together.

However, it took a request by Mays to allow it to happen, and it was kindly granted by the Tournament directors of The Tillinghast.

“It meant a lot to me that he asked instead of me having to ask,” said Taylor after his round of 77

Saturday morning. “It was a comfortable pairing, but when it comes down to it, you still have to play your own game. You still have to focus on what you are doing and not focus on what the other guy is doing.”

Mays first round ended up being a 90, but Taylor and Mays had a great time being able to play together.

“We had a good time,” said Taylor. “I enjoyed it.”

Mays and Taylor have played a lot of golf together over the years, but with this being the Patriot standout’s first adult-amateur tournament, this was one was the most special.

“It meant a lot to play together especially with it being his first one,” said Taylor. “The first time can be difficult so I think it was good for him to be able to play with somebody you know.”

Mays wanted really badly to play with his best friend in his first tournament.

“We just always play together,” said Mays. “It’s fun and we really enjoy ourselves. I figured we would try. Josh is a big brother to me.”

Even though Mays wears the red, white and blue of Sullivan East, he really does have a lot of Carter County in him. Mays and Taylor are inseparable brothers who play a lot of golf together and their families are best friends as well. Mays is also a member at Elizabethton Golf Course.

“Playing at Elizabethton every day makes it seems that way,” said Mays.

Mays had to battle the nerves on this day of playing in his first day, but overall it was a good experience for both. Taylor thought Mays playing in his first championship round at the very laid-back Tillinghast was probably better than some of the others to do it in.

“There’s not as much pressure in this tournament as there is in a collegiate tournament or for a tournament like the East Tennessee Amateur,” said Taylor. “This was a good tournament to try it.”


Other than Gouge and Taylor, who finished +10 for the tournament in the championship flight, several Carter Countians were in action in all sorts of flights last weekend.

Among the notables in the championship flight was Happy Valley Middle School principal Jonathan Minton. The former high school golf coach at Unaka finished +14 for the tournament.

Former Happy Valley standout Cameron Dugger tallied a +17 total for the event.

In the Seniors Championship, Taylor Gouge’s father Tony finished +11 and Jeff Isaacs finished +20. Mitchell Nidiffer participated in the Regular Flight 2 while Felicia Nidiffer competed in the regular flight three, where she shot from the men’s tees and ended up with a very respectable 195. Nidiffer was only one of two women in the entire field, with Virginia Tech golfer Allison Woodward competing in the championship flight.


While The Tillinghast kicks off the local summer golf scene, it also leads in to one of the biggest sporting events the Elizabethton Star covers all summer and that is the Carter County Bank East Tennessee Amateur to be held at Elizabethton Golf Course July 1-3.

Beginning next week, part of the Sand Trap for the next three weeks will be devoted to the promoting the E.T.A. We hope to get everyone ready for the very vital event in our community.

For the next four weeks, the Elizabethton Star will be E.T.A. central and we look forward to bringing full coverage of this event to you.

Elizabethton Star golf writer Matt Hill can be reached at