E.A. Sports Today

Late entries McClellan, Barker the Classic ‘odd couple’

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

When it comes to joining forces in the Sunny King Charity Classic, it’s not unusual for players to hook up with partners a lot alike.

Similar handicaps, similar personalities, complementary playing styles.

But Ron McClellan and Caitlin Barker may be the most contrasting partnership in this year’s field.

McClellan is 63, a 0 handicap and recently came on board as the new pro at Indian Oaks Country Club. Barker is half his age, an accomplished tennis player and distance runner, gets the maximum handicap strokes allowed by the tournament – and, oh yeah, gets to hit from the ladies tee.

“We’re certainly the odd couple,” Barker said Wednesday.

The pairing came together only a few days ago after a casual conversation between McClellan and his boss, new Indian Oaks owner Lewis Roberts.

“Lewis was getting some stuff together for him to play and he asked if I was,” McClellan said. “I said I didn’t have a partner, but if I had one I’d play. He said ‘how about my son-in-law’, then ‘how about my daughter?’”

Roberts, a two-time SKCC champion who has played in all 35 previous Classics, drafted the son-in-law, Neal Barker, a former Alexandria and Jacksonville State basketball player and current Spain Park head coach. McClellan signed on with Caitlin.

With schedules and commitments being what they are, the new partners won’t play their first holes together until their opening round of the tournament Friday.

“Looking forward to it,” McClellan said. “I’ve never seen the young lady, but if she’s as good looking as I am, we have a heck of a combination.”

As with most teams in the Classic, both partners see the outside benefits to playing in the tournament. McClellan is hoping to use their spot as a vehicle to promote Indian Oaks. Caitlin is looking forward to the opportunity to pick up a few pointers and improve her game.

McClellan hasn’t played in the Classic in several years, but in his last appearance he won his flight with Oxford’s Gary Austin.

Caitlin, a speech pathologist at Shelby Baptist Medical Center, played in it a few years ago with her father and he said “she carried the team” with limited experience. She is, however, an accomplished tennis player, having won a USTA team national championship in 2009, and currently runs half-marathons as a trainer for the full 26.2 miles.

“I’m definitely excited (about playing), but that’s me,” she said. “You never know what you’ll get on the golf course. I may hit one great ball followed by 10 horrible ones, but they always say it’s the one good shot that keeps you coming back to play.

“I definitely feel there’s a little bit of pressure not to embarrass myself too bad. I hope there aren’t too many times I have to pick up my ball, and if I am picking up my ball it’s because he’s doing well.”

Even though their handicap spread is so wide, McClellan has high hopes for the team. He says he is hitting the ball “about as good as I can hit it” right now and is coming off a smooth 68 at Bent Brook. Roberts said his daughter is “unbelievably long,” and that should be an advantage in the scramble and scamble formats from her tees.

“I want to play well and I’m sure she does, too,” McClellan said. “Anytime you’re an athlete and you’re asked to perform on a stage you want to perform. I don’t care if it’s tennis, bowling or whatever, when you’re out there and asked to step up your game when the light comes on you’ve got to go.”

Caitlin definitely is going into the tournament with a goal in mind. Not surprisingly, it has something to do with that other team in the family.

“If Ron’s on my team, I think we might could take them; I will have no benefit to the team with regards to that,” she said. “If it’s tiddly-winks I want to win. Will we be trying to get them, my husband and my dad? You bet.”

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. He can be reached at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and follow him on twitter regular tournament updates.

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