E.A. Sports Today

SKCC notebook

White Plains sophomore Okins taking what could be a life-changing shot Sunday, tournament committee reflights field on scores

Brian Woodfin (L) and Kevin Daugherty started their scramble round Saturday with nine straight 3s. On the cover, Kenny Okins was one of four players drawn to take the tournament’s big-money shots Sunday.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

SILVER LAKES – Kenny Okins may have a monumental decision to make if he catches lightning in a bottle late Sunday afternoon.

The 15-year-old White Plains High School rising sophomore was drawn to take a shot from the fairway for $100,000 at the conclusion of Sunday’s round at Anniston Country Club. Everyone connected with the tournament is excited about it.

There’s no question of Okins’ eligibility to receive the money if he makes the 160-yard shot into the 18th green with all the patrons watching, but the dilemma he faces is whether to take the cash and forgo his amateur status. He has “high aspirations” of playing in college and professional golf, but at a much later stage in his life.

“To make it would be pretty cool, but I don’t know if I could accept it because of keeping the amateur status,” Okins said. “I think it’s something I’ve really got to think about right now because you could accidentally do something and it can move that.

“To turn down $100,000, though, is just insane. It’s a lot of money. It’s tough to do.”

His father Rick said if Kenny hits the shot “we’ll have some discussion,” but he quickly added “he will not give up his amateur status no matter what that money is.”

Former Alabama golfer Jason Bohn, a sophomore at the time, famously made a hole-in-one in a charity golf tournament for a million dollars, took the prize and bankrolled his pro career. The USGA later adopted an exemption for such instances as long as it takes place in a regular round of golf, but it only applies to holes-in-one and it’s not certain if the exemption would apply in this instance since the contest occurs after the tournament round.

It really is something to think about. Okins played on the White Plains’ varsity as a freshman during all three of the Wildcats’ post-season tournaments this past spring and was low medalist in the sub-state qualifier.

He likely will hit a hybrid on his shot and said he was going to go home after Saturday’s round at Cider Ridge and hit 160-yard shots the rest of the day to prepare for the attempt. He and his dad are currently among six teams tied for the lead in the Championship B Flight after shooting 63 at Silver Lakes.

Okins was one of four players randomly drawn for the big money shots. Jeff Hansek also was drawn for a $100,000 fairway shots, Dallas Dunn was drawn for the $25,000 putt and Jeff Bain was drawn for a shot at $1 million from the fairway.

“The opportunity is awesome, because the probability of making it is slim and none,” Bain said, “but it’s better than other people who didn’t get selected.”

The Oxford High middle school teacher and coach said he’d probably go with an 8-iron on the shot because it fits the range and “do my best not to be short.”

He already has his windfall spent.

“The money was spent as soon as I heard (the news) yesterday,” he said. “There was a list a mile long. My wife got the first 10 and if I’m lucky I’ll get No. 11.”

Would Bain give up his amateur status for the million bucks?

“Absolutely,” he said.

SHUFFLE THE DECK: Some teams who saw the pre-tournament flights for the Sunny King Charity Classic might be surprised to see where they actually end up when Championship Sunday comes around later this weekend. Some certainly were Friday night.

In an effort to combat the scourge of sandbagging that rears its head during the event, tournament officials graded the field in groups of 25 by score after Friday’s opening round. They reserve the right to reshuffle again after Saturday when the flights will be final.

The issue has been on the committee’s radar for several years, but this is the first significant action it has taken. The tournament had always been pre-flighted based on the lowest submitted handicap of the teammates and the field played within those flights throughout the weekend.

“We’re trying to address a problem,” tournament chairman Hank Smith said. “The move is targeted to appease a lot of the people who say I’m tired of losing my flight when I’ve played good by 15 shots.”

Now, based on Friday’s shuffle, every flight is competitive. There is no more than one shot separating first from second in any flight, and with the exception of the Championship A and Sixth flights no more than three shots separating first from last.

NINE STRAIGHT 3s: That’s the way Kevin Daugherty and Brian Woodfin started their day at Silver Lakes on the way to one of the five 13-under 59s at the course that left them one shot off the lead.

Starting on the Backbreaker 9, they didn’t make their first number other than 3 until they got to Heartbreaker 1.

“The second hole’s a par-3 and the fifth hole’s a par-3, so we really weren’t doing that good,” Daugherty said. “Then we made the eagle on 7 and the eagle on 9. It was pretty cool, actually.”

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