E.A. Sports Today

Hold onto your hats

[corner-ad id=2]Tightly packed leaderboard expected to make for a wild weekend in 37th annual Sunny King Charity Classic

First-round leaderboard

Jeremy McGatha-Brennan Clay 56 (-16)
Chad Reavis-Chad Calvert 56 (-16)
Gary Wigington-Freeman Fite 56 (-16)
Ott Chandler-Dalton Chandler 56 (-16)
Daniel Guthrie-Billy Thompson 58 (-14)
Jaylon Ellison-P.J. Shields 58 (-14)
Warren Askew-Jackson Bonner 58 (-14)
5 teams at 59 (-13)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

SILVER LAKES – With four teams tied for the lead, three others two shots back and five more a shot behind them, Dalton Chandler says hang on, “it’s going to be a wild ride between now and Sunday.”

The 37th annual Sunny King Charity Classic got off to a roaring start Friday. With the inclusion of the Backbreaker nine in the Silver Lakes rotation, five-time champion Gary Wigington didn’t think 18-under-par was likely in the championship flight scramble round there, that 16-under might be the best score of the day.

He hit it right on the number. Four teams were at 16-under 56, setting the stage for some real scrambling Saturday in the scamble round at Cider Ridge.

Dalton and Ott Chandler, Wigington and Freeman Fite, Jeremy McGatha and Brennan Clay and Chad Reavis and Chad Calvert all posted the leading number.

Three other teams were at 14-under: second-flight Jackson Bonner and Warren Askew, Jaylon Ellison and P.J. Shields and Billy Thompson and Daniel Guthrie. Five others are at 13-under and another nine are at 12.

That’s 21 teams within four shots of the lead after the opening round.

“Its hard to catch up in this tournament, for it to be this close at the top tomorrow is going to be great,” four-time champion McGatha said. “I’ve seen it tight before, but not like four teams tied and then 14s and 13s.

“Tomorrow we’ll see what happens because at Cider Ridge when you have to play a little more of your own ball, you either go to the top or you lose ground. It’s going to be fun.”

It’s the tightest start to a Classic since 2010 when three teams shared the opening-round lead. Three teams also were tied after Round 1 in 1992, 2002 and 2004.

“I wouldn’t think there’d be four teams tied for the top tomorrow,” Dalton Chandler said. “The next two days is where you have to grind.”

“I think you’ll see a big shuffle tomorrow,” said Ellison.

For a while early the round was shaping up to be a repeat of last year. Reavis and Calvert shot 16-under last year early in the scramble round only to be passed by Wigington and Fite’s 18 later in the day.

Playing in the fourth group of this day, they made an estimated 100 feet of putts on their first five holes to start 5-under, lipped out 6, then closed the side with three straight birdies. They eagled Heartbreaker 1, then birdied six of their last eight holes.

“We made every putt we looked at; it was incredible,” Calvert said. “I just think we brother-in-lawed very well today; we were a team today. That’s what the three days is all about. If you’re both playing bad at the same time, you’re getting lapped.”

What will keep the pair in the hunt this year is Cider Ridge on Saturday. Last year they played well at Silver Lakes, struggled in Oxford, then fought their way back into contention at Anniston Country Club on Sunday.

“The key to this tournament is to go out there and eat Cider’s lunch tomorrow, because it has got us two years in a row. I love the golf course, but something has gotten us. Tomorrow I feel confident we’re going to go out there and eat it alive. We’ve got to get some redemption on Cider.”

Wigington and Fite appeared on their way to matching that, turning in 9-under. But they left the course with a bitter taste after parring three of their last four — including the final two with a lip-out on 18 — to spoil a bid to at least take sole possession of the lead and at best set the tournament scramble record they tied last year.

The only hole they didn’t par in the closing stretch was an eagle on Heartbreaker 7. The close was strikingly similar to Wigington’s individual finish in the Silver Lakes Championship two weeks ago when he eagled 7, parred the last two and came up one shot short of forcing a playoff.

“We were pretty happy to get it to where we were because we weren’t hitting the ball all that good,” Wigington said. “We weren’t hitting our wedges in there close at all. For how we hit it, we scored good, but not hitting it close kind of caught up to us on the last three or four holes.”

The Chandlers, meanwhile, eagled all four of the par-5s in their round. They eagled their first hole of the day with Dalton hitting all three shots. Dalton made a seven-footer on Heartbreaker 7, Ott made one from the fringe on Backbreaker 7 and Dalton made an eight-foot breaker on Backbreaker 9.

“We both played really good today,” Dalton said. “We really could have shot one of the best rounds we’ve shot – ever – together. Everything just clicked. I putted first all day and I made a lot of putts, and Dad chimed in there and made a few clutch putts. He kept us in position and let me swing at it all day long.

“We’ve played together in this one other time before, but I’m a lot more mature now. Our team last time wasn’t very strong, but now I feel we have as strong a team as anyone, especially if he’s driving the ball straight.”

McGatha and Clay, the Silver Lakes assistant pro, played a consistent round. They shot 8-under on each side.

Defending champions Lance Evans and Ryan Howard found themselves down in the pack. They started off fast, getting to 6-under through seven holes, then parred four of their next five holes to lose their momentum and bottomed-out with a bogey on Backbreaker 5.

“If we make all our 10-footers, we shoot 14 easy,” Howard said. “We just didn’t make a putt. If we shoot 16 tomorrow we’ll be all right.”

Jonathan Bennett scored a hole in one on Backbreaker 2, winning $20,000 toward a new car. Henry King, a partner in title sponsor King Auto Group, was playing in the same foursome.

All the scores can be found on the tournament website — www.kingclassic.com

You must be logged in to post a comment Login