It’s the dog days of summer, which is one of the best times of the year in Blount County for athletes and the family and fans who love to watch them play.

The 48th Smoky Mountain Classic softball tournament wraps up today at Sandy Springs Park as the kickoff to a busy two weeks before the Olympics roll through, and football is more than just a speck on the distant horizon and the focus turns completely to kickoffs.

The British Open begins Thursday, but the real golf action begins Tuesday with the Blount County Men’s Amateur (Blount Open) teeing off at Green Meadow Country Club. The Smoky Mountain Invitational swim meet hits the pool at Springbrook on Saturday and Sunday and the East Tennessee Perimeter Passing Day provides that first taste of fall in July, also on Saturday, at Maryville College.

The busy week truly begins Monday when the newly rebranded Smoky Mountain Veterans Golf Classic — the event now benefits HonorAir — tees of at Green Meadow. Besides a worthy fundraiser, it’s a sneak peak for players wanting a last minute chance to play the club’s uniquely fast and tricky greens before the start of the Amateur.

It’s a unique twist to the order of the courses visited by the Amateur, which has in recent years played its final round at GMCC, but will now start there. It provides a different approach with three days and three rounds at Pine Lakes, Lambert Acres and Royal Oaks, respectively, to make up any ground lost for a bad day on the Green Meadow greens. The four-day event will still end with a premium on placement within the confines of Royal Oaks, but it’s a refreshing change to the format that should provide a different mental approach for the field.

That field is once again driving the organizers wonky with waiting to the last minute to register. Registration ends at 6 p.m. tonight, so it’s not too late to sign up at the last minute and add to Bob Perkinson’s stress level as the organizers attempt to flight the event in the final 24 hours before Tuesday’s start.

It promises to be a fun week ahead.

Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times.

An East Tennessee newshound since 1990, minus a few years spent working the road race circuit in D.C. , Marcus has been a reporter, copy editor and sports editor, and is now a production manager of APG's Design Hub located at The Daily Times.

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