By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
The countdown is on.
Many of the area’s top golfers are ready to invade the links in hopes of becoming the next BNI Memorial Classic champion.
“We’ve got about 156 golfers signed up,” BNI director David Hunter said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Half of the field will begin the tournament at Brier Patch Golf Links on Saturday while the other half begin at Grandview Country Club. They’ll switch on Sunday. The championship round will be played on Monday at The Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs.
“We’ve got most of the foursomes that are always together back together and a lot of individual golfers that signed up,” added Hunter. “We try to put groups together based around their handicap.”
It will be a battle of youth against experience when the first ball is hit off the tee on Saturday.
“We have seven returning champions coming to play and quite a few younger players,” said Hunter. “We have a pair of 17-year-olds from Shady Spring High School who are going to be very competitive in Dakota McComas and Todd Albaugh. They’re incredible golfers. They’ll be joined by a young man named Davey Jude. And then Winston Canada will be there, as well. He’s always in contention.”
The returning champions will be Dennis Vass, Mike Mays, Bob “Wheel” Thomas, Greg McGraw, Jerry Hickman, Brandon Reece and Allan Wharton.
“No matter what their age is, there is always going to be a lot of talent in the championship flight or competition,” Hunter said.
One of the most common questions Hunter has been asked, however, has been the playing conditions of the courses due to the wet summer that our region has experienced.
Thankfully, it’s good news.
“I’ve not been to Grandview yet, but I’m told it’s in good shape,” he said. “The Cobb course is always in great shape, and Brier Patch is in excellent condition. It’s the best it’s been in a long time, if not ever. They’ve worked hard at it, and they're very excited to have us back there this year. They’ve taken great pride in making sure the course is fun, playable and challenging -- and not impossible to shoot a good score on.”
This year’s event will honor the memory of the late Andy Holland, the 1985 BNI champion who passed away in 2011 following a short battle with cancer.
One of Holland’s best friends, former Woodrow Wilson assistant basketball coach, Butch Freeman, will be playing the event with former Flying Eagle stars J.T. Bradley and Tink Brown. It’s just part of what makes the BNI special.
“It’s all about the comradery,” Hunter said. “These people know each other. And they play against each other. It’s like a family reunion every year.”
Most family events, though, don’t provide a chance to win a car.
“Lewis Automotive will be sponsoring our hole-in-one hole on Monday at the Cobb Course,” added Hunter. “It will be the No. 3 hole. If you hit a hole-in-one there, you can win a car.”
Hunter added that BNI wouldn’t be possible without the great support of the sponsors.
“First Community Bank has been a great sponsor for us. This is their second year doing so,” he said. “Jeff Miller from First Community is an excellent golfer, as well. I expect we’ll see him in the championship round.”
Tee-times begin at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning.
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