E.A. Sports Today

Harper wins Shootout

Atlanta pro eagles first playoff hole to win Rolling Red Tour’s Cider Ridge Shootout

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — Keller Harper had a hole in his schedule between the Forme Tour Championship and second stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-school and he really didn’t feel comfortable taking that big a break with a big tournament on the back end. 

The Cider Ridge Shootout provided him the perfect scratch for that itch.


The 24-year-old Atlanta pro eagled the first hole of a sudden death playoff with Mobile native Wesley Hunter Wednesday to win the one-day preliminary to the Rolling Red Tour’s Cider Ridge Classic that starts Thursday.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I was not planning on playing anything after the Forme Tour Championship and before second stage of Q-school, but I’m not one who likes to take any time off. That can be good and bad sometimes if you’re not playing a lot. 

“I felt like I needed to put myself through the ringer a little bit with one more competitive round before second stage; it’s just kind of where my game is. I loved Cider Ridge because there were a lot of tight driving holes and a lot of shots that required some serious precision. I was really excited to just go and play a really focused round and see where my game was.”

Both players posted 4-under-par 68s in regulation with five birdies and a bogey and headed to the par-5 18th for the playoff. They both parred 18 in regulation.

Harper, a former walk-on at Furman who became a three-time Southern Conference Player of the Year, hit a serviceable drive into the left rough, then hit a 6-iron from 225 yards that hit about a foot from the tucked right pin and settled four feet behind from the hole.

“It was a little right of where I was aiming because the flag was tucked pretty far right,” he said. “I had to play for my ball to end up just over the bunker in the air, but it came out like I wanted to. I’m a good iron player, especially from longer distances, so I felt pretty comfortable over it and fortunately I hit a good shot.

“It actually wasn’t what I would call a perfect shot because it wasn’t where I was intending the ball to go, but that’s why you aim at conservative targets and make aggressive swings so that if it does come out a little right or left of where you’re aiming you’re giving yourself some room to work with … It was a nice shot under pressure and to make the putt felt good, too.”

Hunter, a 26-year-old Spring Hill grad with two Rolling Red wins this season, bounced into the fairway from the right rough off the tee and then found the greenside bunker with his second shot. He blasted out to a couple feet, meaning Harper needed to make for the win.

Harper recently finished T-4 in the Forme Tour Championship. It locked him into the top 20 in the season standings for an exemption into the second stage of Q-school, which for him is in Dothan Oct. 19-22.

While Harper made his hay at Furman, his family’s sports legacy is at the University of Georgia and has a connection to Anniston in a Six Degrees of Separation sort of way.

His grandfather played quarterback at Georgia and later became an SEC official and his great-grandfather played football and baseball there. His great-great-grandfather, a country doctor, delivered baseball great Ty Cobb, who 18 years later in 1904 played minor-league ball for the Anniston Steelers.

Many of the players in Wednesday’s field will play in the 36-hole Cider Ridge Classic that starts Thursday, but Harper won’t be one of them. The one-day shootout satisfied his competitive itch before Q-school.

“It was good for me to see some things working well in preparation for Q-school coming up,” Harper said.

The Rolling Red tournaments are the first pro tour events at Cider Ridge since the Sunbelt Senior Tour came to town in 2015.

Cider Ridge Shootout

x-Keller Harper, Atlanta333568
Wesley Hunter, Birmingham353368
Bo Hayes, Birmingham363470
Matt Elliott, Hoschton, Ga.333871
J. Michael Riley, Birmingham353873
Cory Etter, Anniston373875
William Harrison, Birmingham413677
Morgan Driskell, Maylene423678
Alan Graves, Clinton, Miss.404181
Noel Sims, Pheonix384583
Case Bryant, Jasper424688
x-won on first hole of playoff

Cider Ridge Classic

7:30 a.m. — Noel Sims, Phoenix; J. Michael Riley, Birmingham
7:39 — a-Joseph Vinyard, Gardendale; Bo Hayes, Birmingham; Alan Graves, Clinton, Miss.
7:48 — Wesley Hunter, Birmingham; Matt Elliott, Hoschton, Ga.; Case Bryant, Jasper.

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