E.A. Sports Today

Senior Pros coming back

Sunbelt Tour returning to Cider Ridge in May; Franklin scores 13th ace

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The Sunbelt Senior Pro Tour is coming back to Cider Ridge Golf Club in 2016.

Tour founder and commissioner Don Barnes confirmed the return of the Oxford Senior Open for May 24-26, with a Pro-Am planned for May 23.

“It’s always good to be able to come back to a place where you’re felt wanted,” Barnes said. “I think that community, that golf course, they have the desire and interest to want to go ahead and build a very successful tournament.”

Last year’s tournament bumped up with U.S. Senior Open qualifying and a big senior pro event in Colorado and it drew 15 players.

This year, with a more favorable date to eliminate potential conflicts and possible sponsorships to boost the purse — along with a course Tour officials say is in the top 10 percent conditioned of those they play — more players are expected.

“They don’t talk about the past event, just the future,” Barnes said. “The word will spread. Even though we had a fairly small field last year when those guys know we’re going back, they’ll say that’s an event you’ll want to play in.”

Former PGA Tour winner Danny Edwards won last year’s event with a 17-under-par 199. Barnes said the scores “won’t be as low” the second time around.

ACE IN THE CROWD: B.J. Franklin had luck on his side Wednesday when he came to the 17th hole at Cider Ridge Golf Club.

The 71-year-old-old retired Marine scored his 13th hole-in-one – and fourth at the course – on the hole during the club’s thrice-weekly senior blitz he organizes. He got his 12th ace about 18 months ago.

“I’ve been waiting for it a long time,” he said. “I thought 13 was bad luck.”

Franklin, playing only his third round back with the group after a three-week layoff on his wife’s birthday, hit a pitching wedge hybrid on the 124-yard par-3 that landed about 15 feet above the hole and rolled back down the slope into the cup. He was playing with Wayne Loeffert and Dr. Kon Jin and a maintenance worker who just double-rolled the green was nearby.

“I think my short game has always been good enough to allow that to happen,” he said. “I can’t hit the ball over 185-190 yards, but my short game is usually pretty good. I’m not a good putter, but you’ve got to make it up somewhere.”

BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS: Playing and sponsorship opportunities are still available for Saturday’s Big Brothers Big Sisters scramble at Twin Bridges. Registration will be accepted up to the 8 a.m. shotgun start.

The current 11-team field includes at least one team from Oxford, as well as teams from Etowah County and players from Guntersville and Centre. Entry fee is $75 per player or $280 per team.

The event benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Alabama and its school and community-based mentoring programs for local youth in Calhoun and four neighboring counties.

For more information contact Big Brothers Big Sisters at 546-5079 or online at www.bbbsneal.org

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