E.A. Sports Today

SKCC Round 1 notebook

[corner-ad id=2]Bennett’s first ace nets him big discount on car; 4 players chosen for Sunday’s big-money shots

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

SILVER LAKES — Jonathan Bennett couldn’t have picked a better place to make his first hole-in-one. Or in front of better witnesses.

The 29-year-old Birmingham accountant scored his first ace in Friday’s scramble round of the Sunny King Charity Classic.

It wasn’t just any old hole-in-one. This one earned him a $20,000 reward towards the purchase of a new car from title sponsor King Auto Group.

Bennett aced Backbreaker No. 2 with a 7-iron from 165 yards. When he came off the 18th green at the end of the round the feat “still hadn’t sunk in.” When it does, he predicted his first thought would be “overwhelming.”

“Actually, when I hit it, I thought it was over (the green), but it one-hopped and disappeared,” he said. “I’ve never been close to a hole-in-one. I’ve hit the stick a couple times back in junior tournaments and high school tournaments, but never been really close. That was really cool to see it just … vanish.”

Henry King, a partner in the King Auto Group, was playing in the same foursome.

“It was fun being in the group to see it,” King said. “It looked good in the air. If I can’t make one, being a witness is the next best thing.”

Actually, Bennett was making shots from everywhere. He chipped in for birdie on the par-5 Heartbreaker seventh and made a 30-foot birdie putt on Heartbreaker 9, their lost hole of the day.

“It was just on my side I guess today,” he said.

MORE BIG MONEY: Speaking of winning big money, four players from the field were selected to take the big-money shots at the end of Sunday’s round, including the first female contestant of the contests.

Nicole Burgess was picked for the $25,000 putt on the 18th green at Anniston Country Club. Kaine Gibson and Chad Martin were picked for the $100,000 fairway shots. And Henry Pritchett was picked for the million-dollar fairway shot.

“You don’t understand how super pumped I am about this,” Pritchett said. “I’m super excited and I hope I ring it. I’ve never made a hole-in-one, but I’ve been close. That may be my one and I hope it’s this one.”

Pritchett, the 27-year-old owner of Pritchett’s 280 Towing, figures he’ll hit a pitching wedge from the distance. He said if he makes the shot he’d return 10 percent to the charities, pay off his trucks and build his family a house.

Martin, the assistant principal at White Plains Middle School, didn’t go to the social event Friday, so he hadn’t heard the news. When he did, he laughed and said he was probably was chosen so the tournament committee would feel safe with their money.

“I think it’s neat to have those type of things; I hope I land somewhere near the green,” he said. “It’s going to be fun – fun-ny.”

ANSWERING THE BELL: Four-time Classic winner Jaylon Ellison celebrated his 37th birthday – the same as the Sunny King Charity Classic – Friday with a 14-under-par 58 with partner P.J. Shields, but there was more than a moment he thought he might have to withdraw.

Ellison suffered heat-related illness the day before while shooting 80 in the prequalifying tournament for next week’s PGA Tour Barbasol Championship in Auburn.

“Going into yesterday I felt I was prepared to give it my best,” Ellison said. “Health-wise I’m probably in the best shape in my life. As I was telling P.J. on the bag, it was rough. We had thoughts to go through both of our minds that I didn’t know if I’d play today or not. It was probably the sickest I’ve been for 24 hours in my life.”

Ellison said he was nauseated nine times during the day – four on the course and five on the drive home – but didn’t go to the hospital. He eventually convinced his partner he was going to play and help him as much as he could.

They shot 7-under-par on each side.

“I’m disappointed that happened yesterday,” Ellison said. “I felt like I hit the ball pretty well, but this heat … whew … it’s hard to bear.”

ANSWERING THE BELL II: Austin Minter might have gotten into the Sunny King Charity Classic field at the last minute following the birth of his son earlier in the week, but he was ready to play when he hit the first tee Friday.

So much so, he helped the team to birdie on their first hole when he found the green from the fairway bunker from 190 yards.

Minter’s wife Kelly gave birth to the couple’s second child Tuesday. He wasn’t going to play in the tournament, but his wife gave him the go-ahead and he quickly partnered with Allen Mangham. They played early and shot 64, currently tied for fifth in the Toyota Avalon (second) flight.
As the round progressed he made sure he stayed close to what was happening on the home front.

“I texted back and forth a few times,” he said. “She said she hoped I was having a good time. I said I was, but I’m ready to get back home.”

Mom, dad and baby boy made a brief appearance at the Friday night social. Mom and dad enjoyed the fellowship. Raylan Van slept through it all.

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