E.A. Sports Today

Big year for County Tour

New tournament, new course, County Championship returning to The Hill all highlight the 2016 golf calendar

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The convergence of two milestone anniversaries on the county golf scene has brought some big changes to the Calhoun County Golf Tour calendar for the upcoming season.

With this being the 10th year of the Tour and the 80th anniversary of the Calhoun County Championship, tour organizers are taking the major back to where it all began – Anniston Municipal Golf Course.

In addition, a new non-points event, the County Four-Ball Championship, will debut at The Hill and Indian Oaks Golf Club has rejoined the Tour rotation with a season-opening event.

The County Championship was played at the Hill from its inception in 1937 to 2004 when it was moved to Cane Creek Golf Course in hopes of generating larger fields. The Hill can only accommodate a maximum of 80 players, a number that just seemed so right for this year’s moves.

“Our county championship shares a birthday with the Masters, in April it’ll be the 80th Masters, in August it’ll be the 80th County, 80 players (at The Hill), everything just rolls out 80,” Tour director Jeremy McGatha said. “It just makes sense.

“We got the blessing of the Cane Creek pro and he’s OK with it. We’re not moving it out of the City of Anniston, we’re taking it back to where it started. There’s just something about The Hill, the nostalgia up there. It’s not the most pristine place, but everybody loves it. Every tournament we have up there fills up.”

Indian Oaks was part of the Tour’s original tournament rotation, when the series was called “The Best of the Best.” It retired from the Tour in 2010, but the new ownership is eager to show its product to the golf community.

The Indian Oaks tournament replaces the Tour-created King of the Hill, which was dissolved with so many other events headed to the Muni this year. In keeping with the Tour’s tradition, a player’s best five finishes among the seven tournaments will count towards the County Player of the Year standings.

“Everybody who has ever played in Calhoun County at one time or another has cut their teeth on that golf course,” Indian Oaks director of golf Ron McClellan said. “I feel kind of fortunate to be the first one out of the box to showcase what we’ve done since June of last year.

“I think people are really going to be surprised when they come out to play how receptive the greens area, how they putt. They’re rolling about 9.5-10 (on the Stimpmeter) and we’re cutting them four times a week. We’ll be ready.

“I’m pretty stoked. I think it’ll be a big plus for us as well as them. This course is not for the weak of heart. I don’t think anybody coming out there will shoot 8-, 9-, 10-under for the two days. Maybe 3-, 4-under will be the winning score.”

With the County Championship moving back to Anniston Municipal, the big event at Cane Creek this year is the Fort McClellan Credit Union Pro-Invitational. This year, the championship flight amateurs will be competing for three days from the same tees as the pros.

One significant rule change for the Tour this year: Following the lead of the USGA and R&A, anchored putters will no long be permitted in the seven Calhoun County Tour events.

“There are a few tournaments on our County Tour that are sanctioned by the Alabama Golf Association that awards points to the winner,” McGatha said. “That being the case, we have to treat all the events like the governing bodies do.”

Here are the major Calhoun County Tour-related events this season. The ‘x’ indicates a points event. A schedule of all events in the community can be found in the easportstoday.com golf section and will be updated as tournaments are made available.

March 12-13: Calhoun County 2-Man Championship, RTJ Silver Lakes
x-April 2-3: Indian Oaks Golf Course Amateur Championship
x-April 23-24: Cider Ridge Golf Course Individual Tournament
April 30-May 1: Calhoun County 4-Ball Championship, Anniston Municipal
x-May 13-15: Wilfred Galbraith Anniston Country Club Invitational
x-June 10-12: Cane Creek Pro-Am Invitational
x-June 25-26: Silver Lakes Amateur
July 8-10: Sunny King Charity Classic, Silver Lakes, Cider Ridge, ACC
x-July 30-31: Pine Hill Country Club Invitational
x-Aug. 13-14: 80th Calhoun County Amateur Championship, Anniston Municipal
Aug. 27-28: Buddy Moore Charity Classic, Anniston Municipal

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