E.A. Sports Today

Sunny King sets dates

Classic officials choose Sept. 16-18 for 2022 tournament, entry fee raised $60, stage set for first female chairman

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Organizers of the Sunny King Charity Classic knew well before last year’s historic tournament finished the event would be staying in September. It was just a matter of finding the right dates.

Well, the dates are in.

The 2022 Classic will be played Sept. 16-18 at the same three courses it has been held 10 of the last 12 years – Anniston Country Club, Cider Ridge Golf Club and Silver Lakes. The only times during that stretch they didn’t play there was 2011 when Silver Lakes was recovering from the spring tornadoes and 2020 when the event was cancelled due to COVID.

“I’m excited about September,” tournament chairman Brett Key said. “We talked to all our stakeholders – Patty King, the Sunny King Auto Group, our major sponsors, the committee and we even reached out to some golfers. We’ve got Auburn-Penn State that weekend so we have a little bit of a football conflict, but we don’t think it’ll be a big deal.

“We were kind of down to those last two weekends in September. We’ll have a hair more daylight if we go earlier, so we stuck on that weekend.”

There are some changes coming next year. The entry fee will bump up to $385 per player at the time of registration, but that will include the $60 for the mulligans/sandies that 95 percent of the field purchases day-to-day anyway. With a full field of 408 players, that’s a guaranteed $24,480 that goes directly to the tournament’s charitable contribution.

Also, Jacki Lowry of Alabama Power will join Key as 2022 co-chairman, paving the way for her to become the tournament’s first female chairwoman in 2023.

Last year’s Classic, staged in September for the first time, was indeed a classic. It sold out in record time, and when they got to playing, Ott and Dalton Chandler defeated three-time champions Ty Cole and Gary Wigington in a playoff that lasted six holes and carried a strong Bagger Vance vibe going well into the night.

Cars drove up behind the 16th green with their headlights on to help the players see their line. Observers down on the tee box cut on their cellphone flashlights to illuminate the situation. Key said they may be able to secure some LED lights for around the green if they run into that situation again.

The limited amount of daylight at that time of year is an issue, of course, but, really, how many times will you have a playoff go that long? There’s only been nine playoffs in the history of the tournament, and none had gone longer than two holes before last year. Besides, the excitement that grew the longer the playoff lasted only seemed to add to the enthusiasm of playing in September.

“Barring us just having some kind of catastrophic year I don’t see any reason why we’d go back to July,” Key said. “Now, that’s just my opinion, but the response last year was incredible, the response from the golfers was great, the spectators were great. Nobody really wants to play golf in July when you can play in September.

“But at the end of the day, the most important thing to me is the money we raise to pump back into the community. As long as we can continue to clip that $100,000 threshold (in charitable giving) in September and fill the tournament, I see no reason to go back to July.”

Another plus for the September date is it gives Cider Ridge a larger window to bring in the new greens it plans to install later this spring.

Wigington and Andrew Brooks, the two finalists in this year’s Calhoun County Match Play Championship, both were excited about the prospect of the Classic remaining in the fall.

“The weather being so much better was just so pleasant this year,” Wigington said. “It was the best year as far as weather that we’ve ever played in. I’m glad they’re going to do it in September.”

“How many times are you going to hve a situation where you’re going to have seven or eight playoff holes,” Brooks said. “It stretches out our golf season, but the time of year is great for it. I was afraid they were going to have decrease how many people they allowed in it, but as long as they can have the same number why not have it that time of the year?”

Electronic registration for this year’s Classic is expected to open in June.

On the cover: Ott and Dalton Chandler signify their second Sunny King Charity Classic title together after winning last year’s tournament in a six-hole playoff.

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