The 74th Tennessee State Open is set to begin June 6, 2023 at GreyStone Golf Club in Dickson, Tennessee. The 144 player field was narrowed down from 431 entries, the most in the 74 year history of the Tennessee State Open.
It’s impossible to tell the story of the Tennessee State Open without talking about GreyStone. This year marks the ninth time the course has hosted the State Open, the most times by any course in the tournament’s history.
“We kept wanting to have it,” GreyStone’s Director of Golf Bob Wolcott. “Nine times, it’s hard to believe. It’s a lot of good champions that have won here and the golf course loves it.”
GreyStone first hosted the event in 1999 as part of a five-year agreement to host the men’s and women’s Tennessee State Opens. It most recently held the men’s State Open in 2021 where Brentwood native Nolan Ray captured his first professional victory.
Wolcott describes the Mark McCumber-designed course as one that builds to a strong finish. The final four holes require a golfer to “finish with a flurry and have to win the championship.”
Many late leads have been lost on those final four holes, a reality Wolcott knows all too well. A three-putt on the challenging 18th green in the 2003 Tennessee State Open forced a playoff with Tennessee Golf Hall of Famer Rob Long and future PGA Tour champion Brandt Snedeker. Wolcott expects the same challenge from the course 20 years later in another strong field.
“It’s amazed me how many good players we have in Tennessee [today,]” Wolcott, winner of the 1983 Tennessee State Open, said. “Now it seems like every player that makes the cut and qualifies can win. They’ve done a great job throughout the state growing the game and it’s gonna be fun to watch.”
Notable players in the field
Josh Bevell (Nashville) – PGA Professional Josh Bevell comes into this year’s Tennessee State Open just as hot as anyone around. Bevell has one win and two T-2 showings so far this year in professional events. In late April Bevell traveled to New Mexico to compete in the 2023 PGA Professional Championship at Twin Warriors & Santa Ana Golf Club. Bevell had a strong showing making the first of two cuts after posting a 36-hole 142 total (-2). The teaching professional will look to build on that success this year at the Tennessee State Open.
Blades Brown (Brentwood) – While he may be one of the youngest in the field, that certainly is not a disadvantage for the budding golf star. Brown, the 2022 Tennessee Boys Junior Player of the Year, just recently returned from the US Amateur Four-Ball Championship where he and fellow teenage Tennessean Jackson Herrington advanced to the Quarterfinals. Prior to that, Brown captured his first American Junior Golf Association title at the AJGA Junior at Canebrake. His prowess on the course doesn’t end there. Brown, who just turned 16 a few weeks ago, is already a two-time TSSAA Individual Champion, having won the Division II AA title in 2021 and 2022. Brown also finished 3rd at the 2022 Tennessee State Amateur. The Brentwood native continues to add to his laundry list of accomplishments with the hope of adding another at GreyStone Golf Club next week.
Casey Flenniken (Knoxville) – The 2022 Tennessee PGA Rolex Player of the Year is no stranger to the Tennessee State Open. Flenniken finished T27 last year, but will look to build on his recent success. Flenniken, the 2022 Tennessee PGA Professional Champion, has finished in the Top 5 nine times in professional events since 2022.
Gibby Gilbert III (Ooltewah) – Two-time winner of the Tennessee Parent-Child championship in 1983 and 1986, Gilbert III has found success in both duo and solo golf tournaments. He was the 1988 Tennessee Amateur Champion. Gilbert III has found recent success, finishing T3 at the 2022 Tennessee Senior State Open, along with a seventh place finish at the 2022 Tennessee State Open. Good golf runs in his veins as the son of four-time Tennessee State Open Champion Gibby Gilbert Jr.
Brad Hawkins (Knoxville) – The reigning Tennessee State Open champion returns with his sights set on defending his 2022 title. While competing in other events throughout the year, Hawkins also helped lead the Walters State Community College men’s golf team to the 2023 NJCAA National Championships in his first season as head coach. Hawkins has two professional wins on the GPro Tour. He recently announced he will be taking over as the head professional at Beaver Brook Golf and Country Club.
Braxton Hunter (Knoxville) – When it comes to PGA Professionals in Tennessee, Braxton Hunter has been among the very best in recent years. He’s finished third or better in the Tennessee Section Player of the Year rankings every year since 2018, including a first-place finish in 2020. He has 16 first-place finishes in his career, including five just last season.
Tim Jackson (Williston) – One of the most decorated golfers in Tennessee history, Tim Jackson returns to the site where he won his only Tennessee State Open in 2002. That victory 21 years ago is one of 27 Tennessee Golf Association event wins in his Hall of Fame career. Just last year, Jackson captured his fourth Tennessee Senior Amateur title. Also last season, the Williston resident finished T3 at the 2022 Tennessee Senior State Open, an event he won in 2011. He is one of just three amateurs to ever win the Tennessee Senior State Open. Jackson is a 19-time Tennessee Player of the Year.
Johan Kok (Nashville) – Since 2013, the Troubadour Golf & Field Club professional has been one of the top PGA Professionals in the state. Kok has finished in the Top 5 of the Tennessee Section Player of the Year rankings eight times, including receiving top honors twice (2018 & 2021). The South African native has been one of the most formidable competitors in the Volunteer State, having racked up 26 first place finishes with 26 more Top 3 finishes.
Grant Leaver (Murfreesboro) – Grant Leaver’s return to the amateur circuit couldn’t come at a better time or place. The Centerville native won the 2010 Tennessee State Open at GreyStone, though that wasn’t his first professional win. That came just a few months after graduating Austin Peay State University at the Hilton Garden Inn Classic at Dancing Rabbit Golf Club. In 2015, Leaver was inducted into the Austin Peay Athletics Hall of Fame. To qualify into this year’s State Open, Leaver shot the low round at Old Fort Golf Club with a 5-under-par 67 that included eight birdies.
Nolan Ray (Brentwood) – The Brentwood native returns to the site and tournament where he secured his first career professional victory. The 2021 Tennessee State Open champion has continued his professional career on the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA TOUR Canada. Last year while playing on PGA TOUR Canada, Ray had three Top 25 finishes. In 2023, Ray Monday qualified for the HomeTown Lenders Championship where he finished 2-under-par, good enough for a top 55 finish. Before his professional career, Ray was also a decorated amateur in Tennessee. In 2019, he won the 104th Tennessee Amateur Championship at The Honors Course. He also competed for both the University of Tennessee and Lipscomb University golf teams.
Ben Wolcott (Burns) – A little over a decade ago, Ben Wolcott was named Tennessee Junior Player of the Year in 2012. Now a golf professional working at GreyStone, the oldest of the Wolcott brothers has played well at his home course. Ben surged into the top 3 at the 2021 Tennessee State Open with a final-round 64. He also finished top 5 in the 2019 State Open. While he admits he doesn’t play as much golf now, when he does play it’s at GreyStone Golf Club. Keep an eye out for him as he plays his home course for the upcoming State Open tournament after earning an exemption into the field.
Bob Wolcott (Dickson) – Bob Wolcott’s success in golf in the state of Tennessee is one few have and will ever replicate. He is one of three golfers to win both the Tennessee State Open and State Amateur in the same year (1983). The only two other Tennesseans to complete this feat are Tennessee Golf Hall of Famer Mason Rudolph (1956) and Knoxville’s Andrew Pratt (2004). Bob has given outstanding performances in championships as both an amateur and a professional. He is a three-time Tennessee Men’s Player of the Year, achieving that accomplishment in 1980, 1982, and 1983. Bob also showcased his skills in 1981 and 1983 when he became a two-time Tennessee Amateur Champion.
Hunter Wolcott (Burns) – Like father like son(s), Hunter Wolcott has created quite a name for himself in the Tennessee golf community. Keeping the family name on the map, he was Tennessee Men’s Player of the Year in 2019. Hunter has had success at GreyStone where he finished one shot off the lead at the 2019 State Open as an amateur. Continuing his accomplishments at GreyStone, he also landed himself in the top 15 at the 2021 State Open. On the pro circuit in 2022, Wolcott continued his success at his home club where he won the Nashville Classic at GreyStone.
Brendon Wilson (Ringgold) – Wilson has been a fierce competitor on the amateur golf circuit as of late and has started to see his hard work translate to wins just in the past twelve months. He started by finally capturing a Tennessee Mid-Amateur Championship in 2022 after being so close in the previous two years. That momentum carried on to the 2023 Gasparilla Invitational where he took top honors at the prestigious Mid-Amateur event in Tampa. Wilson has also competed in the Tennessee Challenge Cup Matches multiple times, including winning all three of his matches in the Amateurs 21-11 victory over the Professionals in 2021.
For the full field, visit tngolf.org/StateOpen.