E.A. Sports Today

On familiar turf

Ellison returns to Cane Creek with shot to join select group; defending champion Sapp has it in the (new) bag

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The first wave of pros made their way onto Cane Creek Golf Course Wednesday to start their preparations for this weekend’s Fort McClellan Credit Union-Pro Invitational. No one had to give Jaylon Ellison directions to the first tee.

Ellison may have moved off to Atlanta, where he balances a career as an investment banker and golf pro, but he still knows his way around the Cane Creek course, having won invitational and county titles here. If he gets the big check this week he’ll join an elite group.

He twice won the Invitational as an amateur and finished second as an amateur in the pro division once, but with a win this weekend he would join Garrett Burgess as the only players to win this tournament as an amateur and a professional.

“I grew up playing in this area,” Ellison said. “There are a bunch of great guys here — I really enjoyed playing with them — and when I come back, you always have that little bit of excitement playing back on your own turf again.

“I think it would be cool to finish second as an amateur in the pro division, win on the amateur side and be fortunate enough to come out on top on the pro side, which is going to be very tough.”

The 2010 Calhoun County Player of the Year and two-time series runner-up is coming in with confidence. He’s not that far removed from his first pro win on the Open Golf Atlanta tour and tied the course record on the Creekside Course at the Golf Club of Georgia, but the pro field this week is stout. It includes two-time Pro-Invitational champion Kyle Sapp and at least three players with some sort of status on the Web.com, Canadian or PGA Latinoamerica tours.

He finished fourth here last year playing in the event as a pro for the first time.

The Pro-Invitational might not be the only time Ellison tees it up in the old hometown this summer.

He had partner P.J. Shields have committed to playing together in the Sunny King Charity Classic and Ellison said there’s a “good possibility” they will, but it depends on his schedule. The pre-qualifying tournament for the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship at RTJ-Grand National is two days before the SKCC and the qualifier to make the main event is the day after it finishes.

IT’S IN THE BAG: No, that wasn’t a PGA Tour player you saw in the fairway at Cane Creek Wednesday practicing for the Fort McClellan Credit Union Pro-Invitational that starts Friday. That was just Kyle Sapp playing out of the bag of one.

Sapp, the two-time and defending tournament champion, is playing this week with a Srixon bag Will Wilcox has used on the Tour this season. And it’s not just any bag – it’s the one Wilcox was playing out of when he excitedly made his hole-in-one on the famous 17th at Sawgrass during The Players Championship.

Sapp’s original bag, to put it mildly, was showing its age. He was telling Wilcox about it and his longtime friend from Pell City came to the rescue.

“I’m pretty sure I’ve got a pretty good collectors item right there this week,” Sapp said.

The Gardendale veteran is looking forward to moving that new bag around the course that has been pretty good to him over the years. He has two wins (2012 and 2015) and a second here. Last year he birdied the first three holes coming out of The Hollow and made a 15-footer for par on 18 to win by one over Zach Portemont.

“That’s as good of a resume of any course I have anywhere,” he said. “This course could not fit me any better, I don’t think. I’ve been looking forward to this big time.”

Something else he’s looking forward to is the return of football to his alma mater, UAB. He’s so excited about it nothing is going to keep him from going to the Blazers’ first game back in 2017.

“Even if I have PGA Tour status I’m not going to miss the first one; I’ve got to be there for that,” he said.

Then he thought about the implication of what he just said.

“That might have been a big excessive,” he said. “That’s a big deal for UAB; I guess that’s the point. It might have been a large commitment, but I really am a big Blazers fan.”

(Pro division — scheduled to appear)

Jordan Anderton, Birmingham; Jimmy Brandt, Auburn; Jared Davis, Tifton, Ga.; Tol Dozier, Dothan; Jaylon Ellison, Atlanta; Clayton Gregory Bartlett, Tenn.; Neal Grusczynski, Green Bay, Wis.; Zack Lynch, Dothan; Glenn Northcutt, Dothan; Zach Portemont, Birmingham; Kyle Sapp, Gardendale; Jared Smith, Hattiesburg, Miss.; Alex Tull, Corinth, Miss.; Brent Witcher, Atlanta.

On the cover: Kyle Sapp (holding check) and Jaylon Ellison (third from right) were right in the middle of last year’s trophy presentation.

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