Lance Evans, a former employee of The Anniston Star and a Sunny King Charity Classic flight winner with yours truly, is among 600 players in the Golf Channel Am Tour national tournament Sept. 22-25 at PGA West.
The Oxford resident qualified for the nationals by winning five Alabama Am Tour events during the season. He’s in the flight with the event’s best players, among them PGA Tour Network radio host Brian Katrek.
“I’m not really expecting anything,” Evans said. “I’m going out there to play golf with nothing to lose … and have a blast.
“Every guy I’m playing with is a 0 to 3 handicap. I feel I have as good a chance as anybody else if I play like I’m supposed to. If I got out and shoot even par I’d be tickled pink and think I’d have a good shot at winning it. That’s my goal, even par.”
Evans has been competitive in a national tournament before. He was leading the World Amateur in Myrtle Beach a few years back and would have won it if an oncoming hurricane had washed out the event after three rounds. They played through the storm, and he finished two shots back.
Playing at PGA West is just another step toward a bigger goal. At 43, he has seven years to hone his game for a shot at the Champions Tour. He’s thinking it’ll take that long.
“I’ve said this for 10 years: I’m not good enough to compete with all these young guys and I’ve tried for two years work-wise to put myself in a situation where I can,” he said. “If I played six hours a day for the next seven years, I think I could be good enough to do it. That’s my goal.
“I’m on track to. I get to hit balls every day. It’s a long way away, but if you can do something for seven years you ought to be a lot better.”
Evans already has an intimate look at life inside the ropes on that tour. He is an occasional on-course reporter for Golf Channel’s Champions Tour coverage.
IN PLAY: Jerry Kemp might not be a household name on the Calhoun County Golf Tour, but those who have played with him were not surprised he was the straightest hitter on the tour this year.
Kemp won the Tour’s season statistical title for fairways hit. He averaged 10.85 fairways per round. It was the fourth-best single-season average in the Tour’s history.
“Everybody knows I’m down the middle all the time,” he said. “I may not go far, but I’m down the middle.”
The 58-year-old quality assurance specialist who plays out of Cider Ridge hit 10 or more fairways eight times in 13 qualifying Tour rounds this season. He had a season-high 14 in the second round of the Fort McClellan Credit Union Pro-Invitational at Cane Creek and 13 three other times.
Now, if he could bring the rest of his game in line, he could improve that season scoring average of 86.15. He averaged 5.77 greens, 34.46 putts and ranked 32nd in scrambling (17 percent).
“If I could get that straightened out, I’d be good,” he said. “It’s real frustrating not to hit the next shot. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t.”
The desire to improve has prompted him to erect a hitting net on his back porch.
Ott Chandler won the scoring title (70.67), Jeremy McGatha hit the most greens (11.46), Billy Thompson averaged the fewest putts (26.92) and Daniel Black had the best average putts per greens hit (1.679). Chandler also was the best at three-putt avoidance (0.011) and scrambling (.658).
Player of the Year Gary Wigington had the most birdies (53) and eagles (5). Janson Wilborn had the best par-3 scoring average (3.065), Chandler the best par-4 (3.884) and par-5 (4.524) averages,
Thompson’s putting average is the best single-season mark in Tour history. He was 16th in fairways and 23rd in greens. He finished ninth in the points standings.
“Wow, it’s hard to imagine a hacker like me being fortunate enough to hold a record like this, especially with the guys who compete on this tour,” Thompson said. “I’m living proof that the old quote is true: Hitting a golf ball and putting have nothing in common. They’re two different games.”
There’s another old quote that applies as well – it’s not how you drive, it’s how you arrive.
FINAL FOUR: The semifinals for the Calhoun County Match Play are now set after No. 13 Gary Wilborn defeated No. 12 Clay Calkins 5-and-4 Friday at Cane Creek Golf Course.
Wilborn, the deepest seed remaining, will play top-seeded defending champion Gary Wigington in the Buddy Moore Bracket final.
No. 3 Jeremy McGatha will play No. 10 Grant Hockman in the Chris Banister Bracket final. Neither of their two previous matches have gone past the 15th hole.
The dates and times of the matches have not been determined.
SENIOR MOMENT: Entries are still being accepted for the Calhoun County Senior Championship noon Thursday at Anniston Municipal. The event is limited to the first 40 registrants. Entry fee is $35. To reserve a place in what might be the final county championship event at The Hill, call the pro shop at 231-7631.
ON THE TEE: Entry and sponsorship opportunities are available for the annual RMC Foundation Charity Open is scheduled for Oct. 2 at Cider Ridge. For more information on the four-player team event call Foundation executive director Vickie Simmons at 235-5147. Deadline for entries is Sept. 26.
ACE IN THE CROWD: Bill Owens recently aced the second hole at Stoney Brook Golf Course in Jacksonville. He used an 8-iron on the 160-yard par-3. The shot was witnessed by Sam Minnick, George Odom and Don Richardson.
Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Anniston Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.