E.A. Sports Today

Szuch ‘swats’ an albatross at Oakmont

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Nothing was going to keep Kenny Szuch from making his annual pilgrimage to one of the most iconic courses in the country to play in an event he hasn’t missed in years. Not even a bad back.

The Cane Creek pro tweaked his back two weeks ago — in the interest of full disclosure, it was right after a round with me — but after it flared he was determined to do whatever it took to make The Swat at Oakmont. What happened next made it worth the effort.

Szuch’s team won the day’s play Friday with a 63 as he delivered a shot for the ages – a double-eagle 2 on the par-5 ninth. He brought the crowd sitting on the clubhouse porch to their feet when he holed a 4-iron from 220 yards.

Good thing it found the hole. Oakmont’s greens for the Swat are taken down to faster than you can imagine. There are legendary stories of players four-putting from six inches.

The uphill hole guarded by a ditch on the left, pot bunkers on the right (15 total on the hole) and two large mounds fronting the green measures 477 yards, but plays as a par-5 for the members.

“I got a standing ovation at the dinner,” said Szuch, whose resume includes playing collegiately at Florida State and stints on the European Tour. “(Oakmont pro) Bob Ford said it was the first double eagle ever made on No. 9 in the history of Oakmont.

“My team gave me an autographed flag they all signed and put ‘Nice Double Eagle’ on it. Could not have happened at a better place. Enough to make an old pro get choked up. What a day.”

MEN AT WORK: In the coming weeks look for work to begin on refurbishing the No. 12 tee at Cider Ridge Golf Club. The plan is to level the ground to correct the crowning created by years of divot repair, create a multi-tiered teeing ground and replant a more aggressive strain of bermudagrass. It likely will happen in November and be done in two phases to avoid any disruption in play.

Elsewhere around the county, Indian Oaks has been busy with multiple cosmetic projects since the new owners took over earlier this year. Meanwhile, Pine Hill is putting the finishing touches on a new tee on 17 and Anniston CC is looking at ways to take some of the bite out of its most severely sloping greens and repairing 12-15 bunkers and cart paths.

MATCH PLAY: The title match of the Calhoun County Match Play Championship is expected to be played this week at Cane Creek. Top-seeded Player of the Year Gary Wigington will take on No. 10 Andrew Brooks.

“I think it’s going to be a good match,” Jeremy McGatha said after being eliminated in the semifinals by Brooks. “If Andrew keeps playing steady like he is, if he can putt like he did (in their match), it’ll be good. All I know is Twig, when he’s on, he’s near impossible to take down.”

Both are players are among the longest hitters and top putters on the Calhoun County Golf Tour. Wigington anticipates it being a good match since both their games are “very similar.” Brooks said he couldn’t remember if he ever played a round with the record-tying six-time County Champion before.

“I know what kind of player he is, but I’m confident enough to where I feel like on any given day I can play well enough to compete,” Brooks said.

ROAD GAMES: Jaylon Ellison shot 9-under-par 63 Saturday and set the course record during a family outing to the Dogwood Hills Golf Resort. After a birdie-double-bogey start on the 6,670-yard layout, he had seven birdies and two eagles the rest of the way. He said it was the fourth course he has set. … Garrett Burgess shot 72 and is three shots back after the first round of the Emerald Coast Tour Panama City Beach Classic at Holiday GC.

MASTERS GOLF: Seniors interested in playing in the Masters Games of Alabama golf events at Cider Ridge next month can sign up the day of play. The individual stroke-play event is Oct. 6 and the two-man scramble is Oct. 7. You can play either or both.

Cost is a one-time $10 games registration fee and $35 per event. Mulligans are available for $5, which enters players for closest-to-the-pin, long and straight drive contests. Competition is open to players 50 and older with divisions split in five-year increments. Games organizers recommend contacting tournament director Elton Reece at 334-874-2140 for more information.

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer of East Alabama Sports Today. To comment on this story, pitch a story idea or report local golf news, contact him at musky@wrightmediacorp.com. He can be followed on Twitter @easportstoday1.

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