E.A. Sports Today

Record year

Expanding ball-drop to all three courses helps SKCC produce a record-setting charitable contribution – $140,000

The Sunny King Charity Classic raised a record $140,000 for its charities this year. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

With the addition of several new sponsors, increased participation by others and the expansion of a popular premium to all the courses in the rotation, the 40th Sunny King Charity Classic enjoyed a record setting year in 2018.

At the end of the awards ceremony Sunday, the SKCC committee presented title sponsor Patty King one of those giant checks for $140,000 for the tournament’s various charities. The amount eclipsed the old mark of $135,000 set in 2008.

“That’s a big accomplishment, to set the record by a pretty good margin,” eight-time tournament champion Gary Wigington said.

The Classic has raised nearly $2.9 million for local charities in its 40-year history, almost half of it since 2005. Its contribution has increased every year since 2014.

“In all honesty, we had some new sponsors and sponsors who went to higher levels of sponsorship and honestly the ball drop raised a ton of money,” SKCC chairman Hank Smith said. “That was sort of the difference.

“We felt really good about it (being a banner year), but the ball drop put us over the record.”

In a program started last year at Cider Ridge’s tight par-4 16th hole, for a $20 donation teams were allowed to forgo the tee and advance up the fairway for their second shots at each of the three participating courses. It was 125 yards on 16 at Cider Ridge, 75 yards on 15 at Anniston Country Club and 200 yards on Heartbreaker 7 at Silver Lakes. There is some talk of making it a first shot to eliminate any confusion on how the premium is played.

The novelty raised in the mid-$6,000s through Saturday and Smith estimated it added approximately $10,000 to the overall contribution.

“We did it at one course last year and did $2,800,” Smith said. “It was popular, everybody liked it, so this year we decided to do it at all three.”

Brett Key (foreground) will be the SKCC chairman next year.

The other big issue surrounding this year’s tournament was the committee’s policy of reshuffling the field after each of the first two rounds based on scores to combat the prospect of sandbagging.

Smith said the limited comments he heard about the policy all were positive. He would favor it continuing – “yeah, if it works,” he said – but its impact would likely be discussed at the committee’s post-tournament meeting.

Smith also confirmed Brett Key, his SKCC partner, would be next year’s chairman of the Sunny King Charity Classic. Key has been sort of a chairman-in-grooming the last couple years and Smith said he accepted the invitation to the big chair Sunday afternoon.

“He said I’ll do it as long as y’all don’t leave,” Smith said.

The Ted’s Abbey Carpet hit-the-green tent was a popular location with players and spectators.

POPULAR PROMOTION: By far the most popular game of the tournament was the hit-the-green contest sponsored by Ted’s Abbey Carpet & Floor on the 16th tee at Anniston Country Club.

Dustin Viehe takes his shot in the Ted’s Abbey Carpet $25 hit-the-green contest.

Without the players having to shell out a dime, store manager Kathy Gregerson would happily peel off $25 from the bankroll she brought for every player who hit the elevated green with their tee shot. In addition, the closest player to the pin in every group also received a Nike golf shirt. The nine-man crew of hosts also offered up complimentary grilled burgers, a mini-bar and logoed novelties to the players.

“We love helping the community; we love getting our name out there,” Gregerson said. “We believe if we do something, it will make people remember Abbey Carpet. We want to market Abbey Carpet. We’re not going to charge you; we want you to remember us. If we charged you, you wouldn’t remember. We want people to remember Abbey.”

The company actually pitched its promo tent for the first time at the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce tournament and was invited to participate in the Sunny King as a new sponsor. It also has been invited to spread its cheer at the RMC Foundation tournament.

“They were a new sponsor and that was just purely for entertaining and for them to see their product,” tournament chairman Hank Smith said. “We got as much out of it as they did, I promise you. It was fun, a lot of fun. It added just a ton of fun to the day.”

At the end of the three days, Ted’s had awarded 175 hit-the-green prizes to the field of 408 players – it’s not an easy shot – and approximately 100 purple golf shirts. You do the math.

Understandably, their tent was a beehive to activity all weekend. Cheers could be heard across the golf course whenever the greenside monitors raised a green flag signaling another player was getting green for hitting the green.

“I love opportunities where it’s a no-lose opportunity,” tournament runner-up Cypress Hathorn said. “I love that, that’s perfect. I think we need to have those on 18 holes.”

The good news is they plan on being back next year. Sharpen your irons, boys.

Anniston Country Club pro Steven Driggers (L) and other SKCC witnesses watch Dallas Dunn attempt his $25,000 putt at the end of Sunday’s round. Dunn was one of four players taking big-money shots at the conclusion of play.

SHARP WHEN IT COUNTS: Kenny Okins didn’t make his shot from the 18th fairway for $100,000 Sunday, but he did hole another shot from the fairway for eagle that was more important to the day.

For the second day in a row, the 15-year-old White Plains sophomore holed a shot from the fairway for a 2. This time, it was a 105-yard shot on No. 2 at Anniston Country Club. It helped him and his father Rick post a final-round 63 to shoot 186 and finish tied for tenth in the Championship Flight.

“It’s insane; preparation, right?” Okins said as he followed his Pine Hill pro Cory Etter through his SKCC round while waiting out the rest of the day to take his big-money attempt.

It was his second eagle since having his name chosen for one of four post-round big-money shots. On Saturday he holed out from 130 yards on No. 10 at Cider Ridge. On Sunday he had four birdies in addition to the eagle.

“The first time it’s like you kind of hit the right shot,” he said. “The second time it hits you’re like ‘Oh my goodness;’ the odds (of it happening twice) are not good.

“It makes you feel you can do it and you have an honest chance to make the shot.”

Well, he didn’t make the shot, although he did hit the green. By missing out on his payday he avoided any questions about the future of his amateur status.

ACE IN THE CROWD: Michael Herndon caught lightning in a bottle right before the rain came and at the most visible venue in the tournament.

There was only one hole-in-one prize awarded in this year’s Classic and that was claimed by Herndon. The Alexandria physician aced the 16th hole at Anniston Country Club with a 9-iron Friday. He won airline tickets and a $2,000 line of credit with a tee-time vendor – plus the $25 and golf shirt from the Ted’s Abbey Carpet promotion.

“It was absolutely lightning in a bottle,” he said. “John Michael (his son) and Tony (Strickland) were finishing 9 and got to see Tim (Coffey) and I hit, and that was special. It was a fun time.”

It was his second hole-in-one ever. Unlike the first, this one had nearly 100 witnesses between the people at the Abbey Carpet tent, up at the green and milling around the 19th Hole, which he said added to the excitement of the moment.

“It was about to rain,” he said. “We got on 15 and the wind started blowing; I’m thinking we’re gonna get wet. Tim goes first (on 16) and hits a 9-iron inside three feet and I followed him and one-upped him. Good times.”

Michael Herndon, playing at Cider Ridge Sunday, had the only hole-in-one of the Sunny King Charity Classic. It came on No. 16 at Anniston Country Club Friday.

To see a photo gallery from the round visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

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