E.A. Sports Today

Classic plays it forward


Irwin, Maddox excited to play in Sunny King Classic where seniors (ladies and juniors, too) can play from forward tees

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

When tournament organizers approved the change to let seniors play the most forward tees allowed in this year’s Sunny King Charity Classic, the back-nine roar was deafening.

All the older players in the field wanted was a chance to feel competitive with the younger, longer hitters in their respective flights. The change certain got the attention of Jerry Irwin and Don Maddox.

Irwin and Maddox were regular contenders in the Classic about a decade ago, but stopped playing in the event because of long rounds and, frankly, younger players hitting shorter clubs into greens than they were.

Now with the rule change in place, not only do they feel the playing field is leveled you can consider them contenders for the title again.

“Everybody wants a fair shot to compete in their flight,” Irwin said. “I just feel the new ruling allowing seniors to play their normal tee location actually makes the tournament more competitive and adds a new flavor to the thing.

“I think seniors who are able to hit the ball as far, given the same opportunity to hit the same shot a 25- or 30-year-old can hit, that makes the game more fair and attractive to me and Don who are in our 60s.”

Irwin is 68, so he’ll be able to take direct advantage of the new rule. Maddox is 62 and will get the benefit of Irwin hitting from the forward tee in the scramble formats.

Depending on the course there is anywhere from a 600- to 1,200-yard difference from the traditional white tees to the forward tees.

The forward teal tees on Silver Lakes’ Mindbreaker/Heartbreaker combination play to 4,850 yards with no par-5 longer than 431 yards and three less than 405. The white tees play 6,021 yards and its shortest par-5 is 475 yards.

The forward tees for the tournament setup, however, will be a combination of the teal and silver for a yardage of approximately 5,300-5,400 yards. The rest of the field will play between 6,000 and 6,100 yards.

At Cider Ridge, the III tees play 5,924 yards and the IV tees 5,186. At Anniston Country Club, where everybody plays their own ball, the red/gold tees play 5,086/5,357 while the white tees are 5,924.

Juniors and ladies also will play the forward tees.

Tournament officials have said if it becomes too much of an advantage for the seniors they’d revisit the rule for the 2017 tournament.

It’s not that Irwin and Maddox are simply old enough to take advantage of the forward tees, they’re both quality players who can score from whatever sets of tees they play. Maddox carries a 4 handicap at Cider Ridge from the II tees, Irwin a 6 from the III tees. They played in the final group in 2000 and finished runners-up to Gary Wigington and Randy Reaves.

They weren’t going to play before the rule change and didn’t register until they confirmed teams playing from the forward tees were eligible to win the overall title.

“We’re entering to win it,” Irwin said. “I think we can be in the hunt if we play our game well and the putts fall. It’s basically a putting contest, so if the putts fall for us I think we’ll be in the hunt. We’re going to do our best.”

In addition to addressing the seniors’ concerns, the rule change could bring some longer-range benefits to the tournament — like increasing participation.

“I think it could change the overall setting of the game,” Maddox said. “I think you’ll find people looking for quality senior partners in the future to play in the tournament and it will only add to the number of players.

“There are a lot of senior players in Calhoun County already and great quality golfers who are above 50-, 60-years-old. I think it’ll be an asset to the tournament to give them a chance to be competitive.”

While Maddox appreciates the benefits of playing the forward tees, he’s in no rush to join his teammate up there. He’ll get there in due time.

“I’m not wishing my life away at any point at this time,” he said.

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