E.A. Sports Today

SKCC notebook

Circle of hope: Players took advantage Friday of the option to reduce No. 16 at Cider Ridge to a 125-yard par-4, benefitting their score and SKCC charities

Many of the teams at Cider Ridge Friday chose to play their tee shots on No. 16 from the circle at 125 yards. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

For a $20 donation, players in every Sunny King Charity Classic flight will get to hit on No. 16 at Cider Ridge Golf Club from a circle from just above the green.

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to take driver out of the equation on one of the tightest holes in the county and turn it into a 125-yard par-4? Apparently, everybody did during Friday’s opening round there.

Before rain came to the Oxford course, Junior League monitors of the game reported to SKCC officials 35 teams had taken advantage of the premium. That’s at least an extra $700 for the tournament’s charities – and there are still two days to play.

“We really didn’t know what to expect, but that’s a fantastic number in our opinion,” tournament co-chairman Hank Smith said.

The novelty has sparked some confusion, however. Initially, the plan was for the premium to serve as a power drive and count 1; some played it that way, but many others had the impression they lay zero in the circle.

Going forward, SKCC officials said Friday night, players setting up in the circle will be laying zero.

“It’s an (inexpensive) way to get a birdie – or an eagle,” said Jeremy Waters, a Toyota 4 Runner sixth flight player who birdied the hole from the circle and went on to shoot 70, 11 shots better than last year’s opening round.

Waters said if he and partner Justin Brown played No. 16 the traditional way they “probably” would have made bogey.

“Just not having to hit a blind tee shot helps,” said Rush Rutledge, who’s leading the Honda Pilot fourth flight with partner Chad Martin after a 64. “I hit a gap wedge to about 12 feet, we both missed it, took our birdie and moved on. I did have to think about paying the 20 dollars. I would have paid 40.”

Players from the Ford Mustang championship flight said Friday from Silver Lakes they wanted to get an interpretation on the 1 or 0 rule before deciding how they’d approach the circle Saturday.

Defending champion Ty Cole said he’d do it “because everybody else is going to do it,” but partner Gary Wigington cautioned they wouldn’t if Cole hits a driver long and in play.

The three options to play are don’t tee it at all, pay the $20 and drop it at 125; one player hits a bad drive and other says I’m paying $20 and drops it at 125; or if both players hit in the woods they can pay to drop but will be laying 3.

Tournament leader Jaylon Ellison said “from where the tees are” (Cider Ridge’s traditional III tees) he and partner P.J. Shields “probably will” play out of the circle.

“If that’s the case, why wouldn’t you?” Ellison asked.

ON THE MEND: Ott Chandler is trying to help his son Dalton as much as he can this weekend, but it’s kind of hard with a sore foot.

Chandler, a five-time past champion (2015 with his son), has been having an “inside the bone” issue with the big toe on his right foot. It’s likely something stemming from the time he broke his foot playing in flip flops after the 2013 SKCC.

The Chandlers got around Friday in 13-under 59 at Silver Lakes – four behind leaders Jaylon Ellison and P.J. Shields — but the injury is keeping Ott, 53, from being as effective as he can be.

“It’s been going on over a month and hasn’t gotten any better,” he said. “When you don’t get to play it affects (your game) a whole lot. I played one tournament all year and I’m not getting to practice hardly any. It’s hard enough to walk. It took its toll today, too. I just can’t help him on any shots. I didn’t play like super bad, I hit like six or seven gimmes, but my bad ones are bad.”

As painful as the foot may be at time, Ott has no intention of packing it in.

“It is what it is and we’ll keep on truckin’,” he said.

BIG-MONEY SHOTS: Four players have been chosen from the SKCC field at random to hit the big-money shots at the conclusion of play Sunday at Anniston Country Club.

Christian Fulda has a chance at a million-dollar payday in the shot-for-a-million fairway shot. Logan Craft and Jason Lett have been chosen for the $100,000 fairway shot, while Bobby Dillon will line up a putt for $25,000.

“I didn’t realize I was chosen,” said Fulda, a Championship Flight player from Dallas who shot 64 with partner Tim Fulmer Friday at Silver Lakes. “My goal is to hit the green and not embarrass myself.”

Ott Chandler follows the flight of his shot on one of the par-3s at Silver Lakes Friday. (Photo by Austin Minter)

On the cover: Honda Pilot fourth flight leader Rush Rutledge looks for a clear path out of trouble during his round at Cider Ridge Friday. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

To see more B.J. Franklin photos from Friday’s round, visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

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