E.A. Sports Today

Bringing a ringer

When his original partner had a conflict, Layton Bussey reached out to a former college teammate who won the PGA Tour Latinoamerica tour championship; Cider Ridge update

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The Sunny King Charity Classic has had professionals in its field before. Club pros. Mini-tour pros. Even mini-tour winners. But not until this year has it had a PGA Tour winner play in its tournament.


When Layton Bussey learned his original partner, girlfriend Ana Perez Altuna, had a trip scheduled that that would prevent her from fully committing to the Classic, he turned to another former Jacksonville State teammate for relief.

He reached out to Greystone playing professional Jesus Montenegro and the team was made.

One thing you need to know about the new guy: He won the PGA’s Latin American Tour tour championship in Mexico earlier this summer and now has a spot in the final stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School and conditional status on that Tour.

“For me, it’s just one of my best friends,” said Bussey, a state champion at White Plains before going on to JSU. “I know that he’s playing well and he has been playing well. He would have been my top choice other than Ana wanting to play.

“It’s pretty cool to know and be able to kind of support him through that win and celebrate with him when he got back. I think he’s just getting started.”

Montenegro is one of several pros committed to this year’s Classic, Sept. 16-18.

PGA Tour hopeful Jacob Harper, who teamed with Jacob LeCroy in 2019 to tear up the SKCC record book, is back with Kyle Daugherty. Jack Stumpfig is a teaching professional in Florida teaming with Cody Robinson, an aspiring pro living in Ranburne.


Montenegro’s two-shot win in Mexico in June was life-changing for the 25-year-old Argentine they call “Pochi.” He had partial status on the Latin America Tour to start the season and played his way into full status by the middle of the year. He made the 60-man tour championship at No. 59, won the tournament and moved all the up to No. 10 on the points list.

It’s a big jump from finishing third in the Calhoun County Championship two years ago with rounds of 65 and 68 at The Hill.

“It’s life-changing, not financially, but it’s that boost to get to the Tour,” Bussey said. “He doesn’t win that, he has no Korn Ferry Tour status and let’s say he doesn’t have any Korn Ferry status he may not get any Korn Ferry starts this year. He has to start back over in Q-school. That’s how life-changing it was.”

Bussey, a long hitter in his own right, hopes to be an equal partner with his former college teammate in the Classic. They played Silver Lakes together in college, so they know that course intimately, but Bussey’s local knowledge of the other two courses they’ll play in the tournament — Cider Ridge and Anniston Country Club — will be a big help on their journey.

“We haven’t played together, really, since college,” Bussey said. “We might have met up and played together since then, but as far as knowing his game, I haven’t been around it that much. I’ve seen it on TV and stuff like that, but it’ll be interesting. We’ll have a good time.”

CIDER RIDGE UPDATE: Cider Ridge has had its new TifEagle Bermuda greens open to play since Monday, but the back nine will remain closed until perhaps as early as Tuesday. Course operators are going slow to ensure the players in the Sunny King Charity Classic have “the best condition we can get them in the process.”

It’s been 11 weeks since the course began the process of replacing the bent grass greens that have beee in place since the Oxford course opened the doors 20 years ago. There are some spotty areas around the edges of the greens, particularly the seven they returned to their original shape with USGA-spec soil, and surprisingly aren’t as firm as players might expect after a reconditioning.

Generally the reviews have been good and players are returning to course again. Earlier this week they had two players from Atlanta and two from Birmingham come to the course for the first time just to play on the new greens.

“I think by this time next year they’ll be unbelievable,” course operator Cory Etter said of the new greens. “They’re growing in great. Our staff has done an incredible job to get them where they are. It’s exceeded our expectations so far.”

The immediate concern, however, is how good will they be in two weeks when the Sunny King Classic takes flight with more than 400 players.

“They’ll probably still have a few spots, but they’re growing and filling in at such a rapid pace,” Etter said. “We’re not having issues with anything we did not make bigger.”
Course officials are meeting Friday to determine if they can open the back nine before Tuesday.

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