E.A. Sports Today

Twists to SKCC

New scoring rule, hole options highlight changes that could bring the Sunny King Classic a record year for its charities

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By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

One of the biggest challenges organizers of the Sunny King Charity Classic face each year is coming up with ways to keep the tournament that already has run successfully for 38 years fresh for the field.

There are two new twists the full field of 204 teams will be oriented to when this year’s Classic begins July 7 at Silver Lakes, Cider Ridge Golf Club and Anniston Country Club.

In an effort to keep the field moving at a brisk pace, the maximum gross score allowed on any hole at any of the venues will be bogey; handicap strokes are only allowed to take scores to par, so it’s not like it’ll dramatically impact scoring.

The same might not be said for the other twist. Each course will have one hole that offers two pin locations and players can choose either one to sink their putts. It will be the same hole all three days at each course.

“We’ve done the big hole in the past,” SKCC co-chairman Hank Smith said Wednesday after the tournament committee held its final meeting before the event to iron out details. “We wanted to do that on the par-3, that’d be the obvious choice, but that would impact the hole-in-one (prizes).

“I know Cider Ridge is doing it on No. 18. I told Jason (Callan, director of golf) at Silver Lakes whatever he’d think best. I guess at the Club, we might put it on 18 for the spectacle of it, and it’s one of the biggest greens we have. We might put it there.”

It’s where organizers put the oversized hole when they employed that novelty at ACC several years ago before it was determined to be detrimental to the green.

“We think it’ll probably be more of a unique thing for the lower flights than the lower handicaps,” Smith said.

Defending champion Gary Wigington and Ty Cole set a tournament scoring record last year with a 43-under-par total. Smith doubts the winning score would reach that this year given the amount of rain that has softened the courses, but given the increased skill of the players and increased advances in equipment it wouldn’t surprise him if it did.

The co-chairman also reported the field was full with a waiting list developing “for the first time in a while.” He credits two factors — a perceived uptick in the interest in golf after a downturn for the past 10 years and a level of tournament sponsorship that has “gone through the roof” producing more sponsored teams.

That increased sponsorship also is expected to be a boon to the tournament’s mission – benefitting the event’s charities. Smith declined to give a figure, but anticipated a 25 to 30 percent increase over last year’s $107,000 contribution, which would put this year close to the record of $135,000 set in 2008.

The tournament has raised more than $2.6 million for local charities since its inception.

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