E.A. Sports Today

The King’s jewels

Notes and nuggets from and about the Sunny King Charity Classic

Steven Driggers, the new GM/head pro at Anniston Country Club, is experiencing the Sunny King Charity Classic for the first time. He's no stranger to big events, however, having overseen several at his previous posting in Greenville, Miss. (Photo by Sandra Howell)

Steven Driggers, the new GM/head pro at Anniston Country Club, is experiencing the Sunny King Charity Classic for the first time. He’s no stranger to big events, however, having overseen several at his previous posting in Greenville, Miss. (Photo by Sandra Howell)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Jim Gosnell is an occasional golfer. He plays maybe a half-dozen times a year when the weather is nice and has never hit a shot in the Sunny King Charity Classic but he is a big fan of the tournament and knows exactly how much it means to the community.

It means a lot to his. Gosnell is the commander of the Pell City squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, one of the more than 30 organizations and charities that benefits from the generosity of the tournament.

“The tournament is huge to our squadron,” Gosnell said. “It provides a vehicle for us to do things that we normally couldn’t do. This is probably our most important project we do each year. It helps us with everything we do all year.”

The Classic has raised nearly $2.5 million for its charities since its inception as a fundraiser for Anniston Christmas decoration. About half of that total has come in since 2005.

The contribution the CAP receives each year goes toward supporting its three missions — emergency services, cadet programs and aerospace education. It helps defray the costs associated with sending cadets to their summer training encampments, some as far away as Alaska.

All the organizations that are helped by the Classic work for what they receive. The CAP cadets are the first friendly faces players see when they come off the 18th green at Silver Lakes, collecting scorecards and reporting the results to tournament central. Teams of four to six cadets will work the event in any given shift each of the three days.

The CAP has been involved with the Classic since before Gosnell joined it 13 years ago and its representatives have manned their post through oppressive heat, hurricanes and tornadoes. The group has even drawn a few members to their organization through their participation in the event and wherever possible they patronize the tournament’s sponsors.

“They send an email in the spring asking if we’re interested in participating and my response is always an enthusiastic yes,” Gosnell said.

Understandably he has become a big fan of the tournament and enjoys watching the action unfold. Instead of picking a favorite he wishes every team the best of luck.

“If I ever become good enough I would love to play in that tournament,” he said. “I’m not sure they have a flight low enough to cover me right now.”

QUICK STUDY: Steven Driggers has only been at Anniston County Club for about a month, but it didn’t take him long to get a handle on the magnitude of the Sunny King Charity Classic.

In fact, he actually started doing some work on it before he arrived as the club’s new general manager and head pro.

“It became pretty clear to me early how big of an event this was,” Driggers said.

The biggest thing he’s learned about the Classic is its benefit to the community and the charities it supports. “That’s a great thing,” he said.

Driggers is no stranger to big events. At his previous posting, the Greenville (Miss.) Golf & Country Club, he was the host pro for the Delta Soul Celebrity Classic, a three-day event that annually raises $100,000 for local singer/songwriter Steve Azar’s foundation to benefit the arts and just the weekend before he started at ACC his course hosted a two-day junior event with 200 players.

That experience will serve him and the Classic well in the future. This year, it’s all about watching and learning.

“If something is running well and going very smoothly there’s no sense for me to put my stamp on anything,” he said. “I’m not interested in rocking the boat at all. I’m interested in making sure this event is run as efficient and well as I can possibly make it.”

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER: After 37 years in business, the Sunny King Charity Classic is a tournament that basically runs itself, but the toughest job is putting together the pairings for nearly 200 teams on three courses over three days.

Tee times chairman Keith Howell put a preliminary wrap on the pairings Friday, but of course there are always changes due to late registrations, player switches and unforeseen circumstances. The first wave of changes were inserted Tuesday and are reflected elsewhere on the East Alabama Sports Today website.

Putting the pairings together this year was really no different than most years. Some things just never change.

“The field is the same as always,” Howell said. “The people who have been in contention will be in contention again this year — not just the championship flights, but across all flights. Partners may change, but those who have always supported the tournament will continue to do so. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be on our 38th year.

“The golf competition is important. People want to win, if for nothing more than bragging rights with their friends, but the competition is not our — GABPA’s — focus. The money this event raises for local charities is so needed and deserved. I know that I will never be a good golfer, but I feel that GABPA enables me to do some good for the community.”

MULLIGANS & SANDIES: One thing Howell did notice while putting together this year’s tee times was an apparent influx in juniors. Among them are Charlie Smith, Taylor Harris, Tripp Flowers, Keaton Borrelli, Harrison Hughston, the Svensen brothers Jack and Ross, and the Dyar sisters Layne and Hanna. Juniors will play from the same forward tees as the ladies and seniors … Layne Dyar is coming off a T-9 finish in the 53rd Alabama Girls State Junior at Bent Brook (T-6 in the 16-18 age division). She shot a final-round 70. She was 4-under at one point in her round … ACC has plans to take some of the slope out of its Nos. 2 and 6 greens, but it won’t come in time to help the SKCC field. The project begins the week after the tournament ends. … Be sure to add your voice to the East Alabama Sports Today poll to predict the winner of this year’s SKCC. Voting closes at 4 p.m. Thursday. Early returns make it too close to call.

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