E.A. Sports Today

Perfect practice

Shields tunes up for Sunny King Charity Classic with a course-record 59 at Cider Ridge, giving partners confidence on course that vexes them

In the three years they have partnered in the Sunny King Charity Classic, P.J. Shields (L) and Jaylon Ellison have finished second (last year), third (2015) and eighth, and have been disappointed with their play at Cider Ridge each year.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — P.J. Shields was in need of some confidence in his game and his Sunny King Charity Classic team was in need of some confidence playing at Cider Ridge Golf Club. They got good doses of both Wednesday when Shields hit golf’s magic number at the Oxford course.

The 26-year-old from LaFayette, Ga., shot a course-record 13-under-par 59 – with an early bogey – during a practice round with partner Jaylon Ellison and friends for the 39th annual Classic that starts Friday. Playing his own ball on a course set up at 6,175 yards, he had 12 birdies, an eagle and the bogey.

P.J. SHIELDS

“This is big because I haven’t been that confident lately, so maybe this will help,” said Shields, who just finished his junior season on the golf team at NAIA Dalton State. “I was playing decent up to the end of our golf season and didn’t play that well at the nationals. I took about a week and a half off and started back grinding, really working on my short game.”

Shields has always been long off the tee, but he credited his wedge play with being the key to his round Wednesday. He figured he missed one putt inside 10 feet all day.

He went out in 30, with a bogey on No. 2 and chip-in eagle on No. 9, and came home in 29. He played holes 7 through 12 in 7-under and birdied or eagled 10 of his last 12 holes. His two-man best ball with partner Ellison was 17-under 55.

He had a four-footer on 10, an eight-footer on 11, a seven-footer of 12, hit it to three feet on 14 after almost driving the green, hit it to five feet from 130 yards on 16 and had two-putt birdies on the two par-5s.

“Chad (Martin) and I knew it was a great score, but we didn’t know how good,” said Rush Rutledge, one of the players sharing the foursome. “We never brought it up or looked at the score card, but he was throwing darts at the pin.”

Things got “pretty quiet” when the group got to 18, then Shields made his birdie putt to break 60 and everybody “went nuts,” he said.

Shields and Ellison go to Cider Ridge with the championship flight Saturday for the modified scramble now hoping Wednesday’s round signals “a big turn of events” over their previous three years there.

Last year they finished second in the SKCC after losing ground with a team 62 there. The year before they wound up third after shooting 59. They shot 61 on the course in 2014.

“We talked about what our expectations were for the weekend and the way we wanted to approach our practice,” Ellison said. “The last three years we’ve done a poor job putting up our best at Cider. We felt like the other two courses we played pretty well, but at Cider somehow someway we can’t get our games together there. Today we had in our minds to play it better.”

It’s the second time Shields has shot 59 in his career. He hit the magic number several years ago at his home LaFayette (Ga.) Golf Course. The old Cider Ridge course record was 60, set by Marcus Harrell.

NOTES: The SKCC tournament committee has revisited its “max bogey” scoring rule for this year’s Classic, making it “net bogey max” on every hole instead of the original gross bogey. The change is intended to “encourage a speed up in play.” Officials have checked the last three years of scorecards and determined not one flight’s outcome would have changed if it used max gross or max net bogey scoring … Also, the field will have an option at Cider Ridge to play No. 16 from a 125-yard drop area for a $20 donation.

P.J. Shields (second left) displays his scorecard surrounded by playing partners (from left) Chad Martin, Jaylon Ellison and Rush Rutledge after posting a 59 at Cider Ridge Golf Club Wednesday. (Photo courtesy Doug Wert)

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