E.A. Sports Today

Evans on his way

Oxford golfer adds to GC Am Tour status with major victory; local tournaments seek players (UPDATES with Ellison vying for a spot in PGA Tour event, JCA fundraiser)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Lance Evans knows what it’s like to play with house money.

The Oxford golfer already has secured a spot in the Golf Channel Amateur Tour National Tournament next fall through four events, but needs to play in six to fully qualify his status on the tour. He’s wrapped up the exemption in so many ways, though, the last two tournaments will have as much pressure as a Sunday walk.

Actually, Evans was locked into the Nationals with three prior victories, but this past weekend he added a fourth by winning the Tour’s monthly major at Dancing Rabbit. He shot 72-74 and won the Palmer Flight by 16 shots.

His previous wins came at Silver Lakes, Pensacola (Fla.) Country Club and Point Clear.

Now, he has time on his side. The two events he has left to fill are expected to be at Greystone next month and something in the summer to satisfy the Tour’s requirement of playing at least one tournament after June 1. The breath Ellison k will allow him to fully concentrate on organizing the Lord Wedgwood Charity event, the Links to Life Celebrity Golf Classic, April 26-27 at Shoal Creek.

But just because he’s already in the National Tournament doesn’t mean he’s letting up.

“It doesn’t change how I approach it,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal (to reach and win the Nationals), so, yeah, it takes a little bit of stress off you, but it doesn’t change my philosophy in playing.”

That’s because he’s pushing his game toward a larger goal – being prepared for a shot at the Champions Tour in 2020.

“I can’t compete with any of those guys out there right now, I know that,” he said. “What I’d like to do is be in a situation in two years where if I wanted to focus on it, it’d give me four years to do so before I’m 50.

“Now, it’s just about the competition; you get out there and play and it makes you better. It’s not more than a desire to want to play when I’m older and if the opportunity presents itself to be able to focus on it. My ultimate goal is be in situation when I’m 50 I’ll be able to compete.”

Once at the Nationals, he figures a score around par or slightly better could get him the championship. He made it there last fall in Palm Springs, but his plans to win were scuttled by a gimpy knee and rough second day.

TAKING HIS SHOT: Jaylon Ellison is set for his first PGA Tour prequalifying tournament Friday. He’s trying to make the field for next week’s Sanderson Farms Championship, but has to clear two hurdles to do it.

If he makes it through Friday, he’ll face a greater gauntlet Monday in the regular qualifier. He’s playing as an amateur, which takes off some of the pressure.

“I enjoy my career; this is always something in the back of your mind to see where you stand,” Ellison said. “I don’t have any pressure because I have a job to come back to Monday.”

Among other familiar names in the 92-player pre-qualifier field are Nate Rau, Pope Spruiell, Will McCurdy and Smiley Kaufman.

Among the players registered for the qualifier are former Anniston resident Nick Rousey, Birmingham’s Garrett Osborn and PGA Tour veterans Arjun Atwal, Len Mattiace, Billy Mayfair, Vaughn Taylor and Dicky Pride.

Ellison is coming off a win in Atlanta Golf Association Tour’s Tournament of Champions at The Georgia Club. He shot 71 in the one-day event. It was his fifth win (in five starts) on the Tour this season.

MORE TREATS: There is still room and time to enter the Trick or Treat Two-Man at Silver Lakes this weekend as organizers hit the home stretch looking to draw a field of 30 teams or more by Friday.

A unique aspect of the event is the field plays the entire facility over the course of the weekend – scramble Saturday on Mindbreaker and Short Course, with a scamble Sunday on Backbreaker and Heartbreaker.

“We try to get every golfer involved and it’s cool to see how the teams come about,” said Silver Lakes pro Brennan Clay, who’s playing with his father. “If you want to play with a different partner other than the guy you play with in the Sunny or the County Two-Man or the guy you usually play with on the weekend, it happens here. And you get to play all four courses at Silver Lakes, which is a pretty good deal.

“And it’s a little bit different weather, too. The first year we had it, it was pretty chilly, and the next year it was perfect. You never know what the scores are going to be. It’s kind of interesting to see what happens.”

Entry fee is $125 per player with prizes paid out in multiple flights. Call Silver Lakes (892-3268) for details.

FILLIN’ UP FAST: The seventh annual Toys for Kids Tournament Dec. 6 at Pine Hill is filling up faster than a Christmas stocking. Tournament officials just completed the first week of registration and they already have 70 players for the 120-man field.

Entry fee for the four-man blind draw scramble is $45 per player for Pine Hill members, $55 for non-members, plus an unwrapped toy valued at $10 or more. Call the pro shop (237-2633) for details.

JCA FUNDRAISER: Spots are still available for Jacksonville Christian’s fundraiser tournament Thursday at Stoney Brook Golf Course. Entry fee for the four-person scramble is $50 per player and teams can register right up to the shotgun start. Registration opens on tournament day at 8 a.m.

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