E.A. Sports Today

Fite, King qualify for State Am

[corner-ad id=1]ACC veterans grab two of the seven spots available at their home club Thursday

Jackson King waits his turn to tee off on the 17th hole at Anniston CC Thursday. On the cover, Freeman Fite (R) follows his drive off the 17th tee.

Jackson King waits his turn to tee off on the 17th hole at Anniston CC Thursday. On the cover, Freeman Fite (R) follows his drive off the 17th tee.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

It had been so long since Freeman Fite had to qualify for a spot in the State Amateur he didn’t remember what it was like.

Come to think of it, the more he thought about it he couldn’t remember that he ever had to qualify before.

“I called and asked,” he said.

Fite hadn’t played in the State Amateur much, but every time he did he remembered receiving or using some kind of exemption. But he took the extra step Thursday and parlayed his intimate knowledge of Anniston Country Club into a spot in the main event.

He bounced back from a disappointing finish in the recent ACC Invitational — and potential disaster early Thursday — to shoot even-par 70 for one of the seven spots up for grabs to next month’s 99th State Am at Mountain Brook Club.

“I guess I can say I’m glad that I had to qualify because, even though my score in no way reflected the way I played, I played really well today,” Fite said. “I know it sounds ridiculous having shot 70, but this was a day where I could’ve easily shot the course record. I made seven birdies and could’ve had more; I hit a lot of good putts that didn’t go in.

“I played really well and that, honestly, feels really good after how the Invitational went.”

The 35-year-old Anniston attorney was bidding to win his seventh ACC Invitational title, which would’ve been the all-time record. He had a share of the lead after the opening round, but then shot rounds of 70-72 on the weekend and finished fifth.

Jackson King also made the field on the qualifying score — 76. He grew up playing ACC before moving to Birmingham.

King hadn’t played in the State Am since the last time he qualified through ACC, but the logistics this year gave him the perfect opportunity to try. The main event is in the town he’s working in now working and the qualifier was on a course he grew up playing.

“I haven’t played a lot,” he said. “I feel like I played pretty well minus about five holes of just hitting lips and nothing really fell for me, but it was a lot of fun.”

Bo Farlow of Birmingham, riding in the same cart as Fite, was low medalist with a “pretty standard” 69. He was exempt from qualifying the last two years, but didn’t play well enough in the final round last year in Mobile to maintain his status and was back at it Thursday.

Farlow and Fite were the only two players at par or better in the round.

Fite took a 7 on his second hole after flying his second shot from 160 yards off the property, but had seven birdies in his round.

“He hit tons of good golf shots,” Farlow said.

In the past if Fite had such a disastrous hole he admitted it would “bleed into other parts” of his game. This time he birdied the next two holes to get back to even for the day and turned in even par. He birdied four holes on the front and 10, 11 and 18 on the back.

“I’m pretty hit or miss with attitude,” he said. “All three days of the Invitational something really bothered me, to the point it affected how I played.

“I know going into something like this 75 is probably going to get in, so I’m pretty relaxed anyway. Most of the time I’m going to make some birdies and as long as I don’t just completely lose focus … you know you’re going to get some chances.”

The other qualifiers were Richard Douglas of Trussville (74), Jake DeZoort of Tuscaloosa (74), Jon Key of Hoover (76) and Clint Calvert of Birmingham (76).

Douglas, DeZoort and Key all qualified from the first group of the day. DeZoort, a 17-year-old homeschooled student who just graduated, will join the Alabama golf team in Fall 2016, giving him an entire year to work on his game without interruption.

“We wanted to take a year to get more practice time, get a little better,” DeZoort said. “I’ll do a little bit of school in the fall and spring, but mostly practice full time. It’s kind of a free year to get better.”

STATE AM QUALIFYING
At Anniston CC

Qualifiers
Bo Farlow, Birmingham — 33-36–69
Freeman Fite, Anniston — 34-36–70
Jake DeZoort, Tuscaloosa — 36-38–74
Richard Douglas, Trussville — 36-38–74
Jon Key, Hoover — 36-40–76
Jackson King, Birmingham — 37-39–76
Clint Calvert, Birmingham — 36-40–76

Alternates
Jace Gordon, Hoover — 36-41–77
Preston Jones, Northport — 38-39–77
Jon Brady Sandlin, Scottsboro — 37-41–78

Failed to qualify
Derek Schroeder, Birmingham — 36-44–80
Deane Rikard, Killen — 37-43–80
Chris Hughes, Vestavia — 38-42–80
Robert Rikard, Killer — 43-38–81
Crawford Jones, Birmingham — 42-41–83
Christopher Cox, Gadsden — 40-44–84
David Beard, Owens Cross Roads — 44-42–86
Thomas Twitty, Birmingham — 43-43–86
Jeff Miller, Birmingham — 38-49–87
Ryan Jones, Fyffe — WD



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