They didn’t break any of the tournament records there for their taking midway through the round, but in the end, they collected the only prize that really mattered.
The last-minute first-time partners shot a best-ball 8-under-par 62 at Anniston Country Club and won the 35th Sunny King Charity Classic by five shots.
A bogey on the final hole cost them a chance to break the modern-day tournament scoring record – and reach 40-under for the first time under the current scoring rules -- but their three-day total of 38-under 176 still was good for a five-shot win over defending champions Randy Reaves and Gary Wigington.
Michael Lee and Mike Lewis of Guntersville were another shot back at 182. Three teams, including Burgess and Hathorn’s playing partners, Jake Nichols and Randy Lipscomb, tied for fourth at 184.
“Winning the tournament is big enough, it’s good enough,” Hathorn said. “It’s not about the record.
“Anybody who’s competitive wants to get their name chiseled in stone, I guess. We knew that number and were trying to get there … but golf is a crazy game.”
Several milestones were in play as the leaders came down the stretch: the modern-day scoring record of 39 under set by Jeremy McGatha-Jaylon Ellison in 2011; the all-time scoring record of 41 under (Jimmy and Charles Singleton in 1987); low final round by a tournament winner (59 by Ott Chandler-Gary Wilborn in 2004) and the margin of victory (9 by Eric Hamilton-Patrick Cushman in 1996).
Reaves would tell you even though were 18 holes to play the tournament was over Saturday after Burgess and Hathorn shot 14 under at Cider Ridge to reach 30-under coming to their home course.
The leaders got off to a slow start – making just two birdies in their first six holes and burning a mulligan on a hole they had a handicap stroke – before running through the stretch that allowed them to assault the records. They played holes 7 through 11 in 7-under-par with two eagles and three birdies that kept building with each successive play.
Burgess drove the green on 7 – nearly hitting Reaves in the foot as he lined up a putt in the group ahead – and made a 40-foot putt for eagle. He then birdied 8 and 9. Hathorn birdied 10, then Burgess chipped in for eagle from above the hole on 11.
Burgess also made a 35-foot on 4 for birdie earlier in the round.
“So many good things happened today that shouldn’t have,” Burgess said. “It was one of those days that just doesn’t happen.
“The 35-footer on 4, the 40-footer on 7, the chip-in; too many good things happened for us not to win. It was just destined almost. We never did anything bad and too many good things happened.… The record was there all day.”
They first tied the modern-day scoring record with seven holes to go, but made three bogeys in their last six holes. Each time they hit the benchmark, they followed it with a bogey.
They made a three-putt bogey on 13 to fall back to 38-under, but recovered the stroke when Hathorn birdied 14. They gave it right back on 15 when both players couldn’t get up and down after missing with their approach shots.
“I do think we let our foot off the gas a little bit when we got there,” Hathorn said. “I don’t know that we didn’t try, but we coasted. We had a five- or six-shot lead at one time – we heard that – and we didn’t grind to make it happen.”
“If somebody had been lighting it up, we probably would have broken the record,” Burgess added. “Nobody was pressuring us.”
Hathorn nearly chipped in for eagle on 17 and tapped in for birdie, giving the winners a chance to hit 40 on the final hole. They were in good position, too, but got too aggressive with their approaches and bogeyed to finish.
Hathorn punched an 8-iron from under the trees and Burgess flew a 60-degree wedge from 67 yards to the middle of the green. Hathorn ran his birdie attempt past the hole and missed it coming back. Garrett cozied his birdie attempt toward the hole, then his par attempt slid by the edge.
“I thought I could make that putt, that’s why I was so aggressive,” Hathorn said. “I wanted Garrett to make the last putt, get the congratulations. He played lights out today. I hate the story line to end like it did … but it doesn’t take the championship away.”
The play at 17 was nearly as miraculous as some of the shots midway through the round. Both players were in trouble off the tee and Burgess caught more trees on his second shot.
Hathorn wasn’t in much better shape, but he hit a low 3-wood that stopped short of the green. His chip struck the flagstick dead center and settled a few inches behind the cup for an easy tap-in.
“I really thought I could get it there,” he said of the 3-wood. “It didn’t do all it could. I didn’t hit it hard enough or it didn’t run hard.
“I just wanted to get it close and give us a chance on 18. We had it.”
Once again, the tournament was able to raise what tournament chairman Jimmy Flowers termed a “hard-fought” $100,000 for its local charities. There already is talk of Flowers serving a third straight term as chairman next year.
“We gave a bigger gift and had nicer parties, but all our sponsors, all the players, they came to the plate,” Flowers said.
None of the contestants in the four big-money shots was successful. Brian Clifton’s 50-foot putt for $25,000 missed the hole by a foot before settling 12 feet past. Jay McElroy’s million-dollar fairway shot flew over the flag, but was 15 yards long. Grant Hockman’s $100,000 fairway shot fell short of the green. Tommy Drew was drawn for the other $100,000 fairway shot, but didn’t participate because of injury.
Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577. SUNNY KING FINAL LEADERBOARD
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