E.A. Sports Today

Cider Ridge set for senior pros

Sunbelt Pro Tour arrives next week; slots available for the Monday pro-am

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — The Sunbelt Senior Tour makes its annual run through Alabama starting this week and among its stops is the first pro tour event to be played at Cider Ridge Golf Club.

The inaugural Oxford Senior Open is set for June 9-11 with a pro-am scheduled for June 8. Officials hope if it’s successful it can be an annual event.

The Tour features players who have played – and won — on the PGA and Champions Tours or have ambitions of doing so. It makes its eighth annual stop in Cullman for the Yellowhammer Open June 2-5.

“We’ve been going to Cullman and wanted to see if we could get more events to attract more pros,” Tour director Don Barnes said Monday from Niagara Falls, where he was waiting to start a meeting for his event there later this summer. “The golf course has a good reputation. I had one of my guys go there and he says it’s a beautiful golf course. I know they’re going to do a good job welcoming us. I’m just working to get some more players with all the other stuff going on.”

The Cider Ridge field is expected to be small because of conflicts with a major senior tournament in Colorado and U.S. Senior Open qualifying. The Tour changed its Cullman date to avoid a conflict in Colorado, Barnes said, and the Colorado event changed as well.

“It’s tough, but we’ll do the best we can,” he said.

As of Monday, 10 players were registered in Oxford, including Longs, S.C., pro John Whitty, who will be conducting a trick shot exhibition as part of the June 8 Pro-Am.

Other players in the field including two-time Nike Tour winner Tim Conley and Web.com Tour veteran Gibby Gilbert III, the son of the former PGA and Champions Tour winner. Barnes anticipates more commitments by the end of the week.

Former PGA Tour winners Blaine McCallister and Danny Edwards regularly play the tour and Marco Dawson remains committed to it even after getting his first Champions Tour win in Tucson earlier this year.

“The courses out here aren’t in the best of shape, it’s true, but I’d tee it up on I-95 if somebody put up some money,” McCallister told the Wall Street Journal earlier this year.

The Oxford field isn’t limited to members of the Tour. Entry fee is $800 for non-members and $400 for amateurs. Players can join the remainder of the Tour for $400.

Entry fee for the Monday pro-am isn’t as steep. It’s $40 for Cider Ridge pass holders and $50 for the public. It’s a four-man scramble (one pro, three amateurs), with players assigned tees based on age.

Call the pro shop (831-7222) for registration details.

“It’s going to be good to have this,” Cider Ridge pro Doug Wert said. “It’s an opportunity to showcase Cider Ridge and the City of Oxford. It’s going to be good for everybody all around.

“With my background and having the opportunity to work at TPC Southwind and been a part of the FedEx St. Jude Classic, and I also worked at a club that hosted the Honda Classic, it’s just going to bring back a lot of great memories for me. I think the fact I have that experience is just going to help us put on a great event.”

Wert is curious to see how the senior pros get around the golf course. A lot of the scoring, of course, will depend on the tees that are played.

“There will be some challenges for them, especially when they get to the back nine,” Wert said. “I’d be anxious to see how they play 7. We may just do what we do with the Sunny King and tip it just for pace of play.

“Once they get on the back nine I think they’ll see a few more challenges. I’d love to see what kind of scoring they get back there, especially when they get to 14 and beyond.”

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