E.A. Sports Today

September works

Sunny King Classic officials will revisit the idea of playing the tournament in September after seeing the response to this year’s move

Sunny King Classic tournament chairman Brett Key (R) addresses the crowd during the trophy presentation at the end of Sunday’s round.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Brett Key looked out at the scene around the 19th Hole on Championship Sunday at Anniston Country Club and knew he had a problem.

The Sunny King Charity Classic has traditionally been a July tournament. It had to play in September this year due to some extraordinary circumstances. Key, the tournament chairman, said in the run-up to the event the committee would revisit the idea of a permanent move to September after the conclusion of this year’s tournament.

After seeing the response to this year’s event, it may actually happen.

Key said a move to the fall will be “highly considered” when the committee meets for its tournament post-mortem and he would be “shocked” if it didn’t happen.

“It is going to be heavily put on the table,” Key said. “Just because of the response. Everybody’s happy with this time of year. It makes me nervous because we had perfect weather (this year); now watch next year we’ll have a hurricane.

“We’ve listened to everyone, taken their feedback, so we’ll sit down next week after this is over with.”

Organizers pegged the tournament’s return after last year’s COVID-19 cancelation for September with an eye towards the world having a better handle on the virus. A by-product of going later was the chance to play in more moderate weather.

In spite of the competition with high school and college football and the challenge of having less daylight to play, the field sold out in record time. Even Key admitted he was surprised with the response.

“The weather had a lot to do with it,” he said. “I think coming back from COVID had a lot to do with it because everybody wants something to do. I think this is a good time of year for it, so we’ll sit down and revisit this.”

Of course, no move will be made without the committee voting on it.

One of the biggest detriments to the later start is about three less hours of daylight to play. The six-hole playoff that determined this year’s champion finished in darkness, but never that may not be a deterrent to a positive vote.

“This is the greatest thing to ever happen to this tournament,” Key said as the playoff continued. “Look at all these people around the green and the headlights on the green. It’s something right out of ‘Bagger Vance.'”

A lot of people like the idea of a September Sunny King, largely for the weather benefits. Ott Chandler is among them.

“I’d love it; hands down I like it,” the six-time champion said. “There’s no comparison, this time of year, compared to the summer time. The weather right here is absolutely perfect.

“Golf is golf, but I’m gonna tell you, if it were up to me, we would never have it in the summer again. It would always be in the fall. If I were voting, hell yeah, for the fall.”

BIG MONEY, BIG CHECK: One of the highlights of the Sunny King Classic is watching officials bring out the big check to announce their charity giving for the year.

They waited out a six-hole playoff that went into the night to catch it all.

Tournament director Brett Key rolled out a check for $130,000 from this year’s tournament, won by Ott and Dalton Chandler in a six-hole playoff with Gary Wigington and Ty Cole.

It wasn’t a record, but included a carryover donation from the namesake sponsors from the postponed 2020 Classic and extended the tournament’s all-time charitable giving to well past $3 million.

THE PLACE TO BE: They had another banner year in the Abbey Carpet & Floor tent on the 16th tee, which has become the most popular novelty on the county tournament circuit.

Ted Gregerson and Co. distributed $3,650 in cash prizes during its hit-the-green contest over the three days of the tournament. There were 44 winners Friday, 24 Saturday and 71 on Championship Sunday. More than 100 players won golf shirts for being closest-to-the-pin in their group.

Over the last three Sunny Kings, a total of 498 cash prizes have been awarded out of the tent. They gave out a record 180 in 2018.

Included among the winners were Jake Pollard’s $200 prize for landing in the Abbey Carpet & Floor sign on the greenside hill Friday and Chuck Robinson’s hole-in-one Saturday.

“We had a fabulous time at the Ted’s Tent,” Kathy Gregerson said. “Every year it gets better and better.”

ON A SHORT LIST: With his win Sunday, Ott Chandler joined a list of three players with six SKCC titles. The others are Randy Reaves and Eric Hamilton. Gary Wigington has the most wins — eight.

Chandler has won six of the last 17 King Classics, over the last three decades. He’s won two times each with three different partners — son Dalton (2015, 2021), Marcus Harrell (2008, 2010) and Gary Wilborn (2004, 2005)

BIG SHOT SHUTOUT: None of the four players selected for the big money shots after Sunday’s round found the bottom of the cup.

Speaking of big shots, while there were no holes-in-one reported Sunday, the day did produce another albatross. Kaine Gibson, one of the first-round co-leaders, made a double-eagle-2 on the 11th hole in the best-ball round at Anniston Country Club.

Kyle Daugherty delivered a big shot for his team, too. He holed out on No. 14 from 195 yards for an eagle 2 to get him and Jacob Harper to 34-under for the tournament.

Cars start lining up behind the 16th green at Anniston Country Club in preparation for shining headlights on the putting surface to help the playoff continue.

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