Pine Hill Country Club will replace the upscale Robert Trent Jones Trail facility for the scramble format of the 33rd annual Classic July 8-10.
“What basically we were told is there is uncertainty as to, No. 1, if they get the course open what kind of condition it will be in and, No. 2, if it’ll even be open,” tournament committee member Hank Smith said. “With the uncertainty surrounding it with a month and a half away from the tournament, we have to go with the sure thing.
“With a tournament this big, there can’t be an uncertainty this late in the game.”
A field of more than 400 players is expected to participate in the two-man event, making it one of the largest charity golf tournaments in the Southeast. Registration forms will be available on the tournament website starting Thursday and, as usual, the field is expected to fill quickly.
Silver Lakes had been a Classic staple since replacing Pine Hill in 1995 and just last year returned to the rotation after a four-year break, but the course and its neighborhood were devastated by the April 27 tornadoes that ripped through the area.
The facility’s maintenance building and equipment were destroyed. The clubhouse lost a portion of its roof and countless number of trees were felled.
Course officials said shortly after the storms hit they hoped to reopen with 18 holes June 1. Nearly two dozen events scheduled for the facility through July have been impacted.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable having the Sunny King out there,” Silver Lakes director of golf Jason Callan said. “We didn’t know what kind of product we could produce and that’s just not fair to the event and the participants. It’s unfortunate and I hate it. We hope we will be back in 2012.”
The course change will not affect the other formats or venues — Anniston Country Club (best ball) and Cider Ridge Golf Club (modified scramble).
Tournament officials also considered Cane Creek Golf Course, which replaced Silver Lakes from 2006-2009 before settling on Pine Hill.
“We felt Pine Hill really, really wanted the tournament,” Smith said. “We felt like they were going to go the extra mile to meet the expectations our committee has for this tournament. That ultimately was why the committee voted for Pine Hill.”
The Choccolocco area course was last in the rotation in 2000. It also was a tournament venue in 1997.
Director of golf Cory Etter called the chance to host the tournament a “big positive” for Pine Hill.
He said it was a big opportunity to display “all the hard work and determination” he and partner Jason Edwards have put into the project since their E&E Golf Management company took over the operation 18 months ago.
He pledged to do “everything to go above and beyond” the committee’s expectations to justify the confidence it has in them.
“I’m glad we could step in and be the ones who could fill the spot,” Etter said. “I hate to not see it at Silver Lakes just because it is a great facility and I hate what happened there, but as far as Pine Hill and E&E Golf Management, it’s a big step and a big honor for us.
“I really don’t see anybody, from the tournament officials to the players, being disappointed. I think they’ll be more than happy when the tournament is over.”
Entry fee for the event is $600 per team. As is the goal every year, tournament officials hope to raise at least $100,000 for local charities.
Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.