E.A. Sports Today

Seniors catch Sunny King break

UPDATED: Players 65-and-older will get to play from forward tees in this year’s Classic

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

For the past several years, as the golf population ages, older players in the Sunny King Charity Classic field have clamored for some relief from the limber backs that were passing them by.

The tournament committee moved on the idea and Monday decided to allow players 65 and older to play from the same sets of tees as the female players in the field this year.

The change is only for a ladies/seniors tee, not a separate senior flight. Tournament officials do not expect it to impact the flighting of the field.

“There’s really not a whole lot to tell,” committee member Keith Howell said. “We had somebody ask about it the other day and I felt, ‘Why not?’

“It’s come up a bunch (in the past) and usually the people who bring it up are already decent golfers so we had always been hesitant to say yeah. This time, it was an older golfer who asked with the heat if we could move it up.

“We’re going to give it a try and at the end of this year if we see nothing but seniors won we might have to reconsider it. I honestly don’t know if it’ll make a difference scoring. It makes it a little less challenge and they’ll have more fun, and unless you’re in contention that’s all you need to worry about — having fun.”

The change was applauded by the 65-and-older set, and may even boost entries as officials make a late push to fill the 204-team field. Less than three weeks out, there are effectively 175 teams committed, roughly the same number that played in the event last year.

“Fantastic,” said 71-year-old Billy Grizzard of Oxford, a perennial contender in his flight with longtime partner Wayne Tillman.

“I’ve always thought it would be a good idea,” 71-year-old David Martin of Piedmont said. “Respect your elders, that’s what I say. It’s hard for us old folks to compete with them young boys. I don’t expect to compete with them now, but it’ll help us. It won’t make the golf courses as hard.”

Ron McClellan just turned 65. He was “borderline” about playing in the tournament this year, but after hearing the policy change said he’s “absolutely” interested in playing now and looking forward to finding a partner.

“The cost had never been an issue for me, it’s just every year you’ve got maybe five (teams) who are going to win it or lose it,” he said. “Now you’re going to feel like for three days you can compete in the flight you’re going to be in.”

Entries are still being accepted for the tournament, July 8-10 at Anniston Country Club, Cider Ridge Golf Club and Silver Lakes. Registration information can be found on the tournament website (www.kingclassic.com).

At Silver Lakes, the tournament rounds will return to the more traditional Heartbreaker and Mindbreaker nines.

At Cider Ridge, in moves designed to improve pace of play, planners look to have a bigger break between the morning and afternoon waves and they’ll ask director of golf Doug Wert to move the par-5s back “as much as he can” when the championship rotation arrives Saturday.

Practice rounds at all three venues began Monday. Contact the courses for availability and pricing.

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