CIDER RIDGE — Brennan Clay is a competitive guy. When he and teammate Jeremy McGatha play in the Sunny King Charity Classic, they play to win.
That’s no different in the 41st annual Sunny King, which concludes today, but Clay has a new, little voice in his head. It softens momentary frustrations on a golf course.
At 9 months old, son Atticus, Clay’s first child, has grown beyond coos to expand his vocabulary. The little guy says “dada” and likes to echo his dad’s laugh.
“I’ll say ‘haha’ to him, and he’ll imitate it right back to me,” Clay said. “He’s like one of those birds that talk it right back to you.”
Nothing changes perspective like parenthood, and Clay isn't alone in that in this Sunny King field. Richard Poole, who lives in Nashville, Tenn., and teams with Ryan Howard, brought his wife and three kids, including 2-month-old twins. They also brought a full-time nanny to help.
As for the 30-year-old Clay, count him a somewhat changed man in this Sunny King go-round.
He’s not sleepless in the seat of a golf cart. As infants go, Atticus has been a good sleeper since he was born Oct. 9 of last year, one day after Brennan and Chastin Clay’s anniversary.
What an anniversary it must have been, with Chastin beginning 27 hours of labor, but the outcome sure was sweet. So began a life of changed habits.
Clay normally hunts with his dad and brother-in-law in late fall. The new pop didn’t hit the woods until January.
He has played about as many tournaments as usual but acknowledges not practicing as much. He also reports a different feeling, in the leadup to this year’s Sunny King.
“I told my wife, I usually go into this tournament pretty amped up and put pressure on myself,” he said. “I told her I’m not doing any of that this year. I’m going to try to do as good as I can but not be too serious.
“One of my friends said, our kids don’t give two rips how we play. He told me that, and it gave me perspective.”
Effects haven’t shown on the scorecard. Clay-McGatha were 16-under par and in third place after Friday’s first round at Silver Lakes. After Saturday’s second round at Cider Ridge, they stand 28 under … seven shots better than a their two-round score a year ago.
That puts them within range of 40 under for the tournament, once the gold standard. Leaders Jacob LeCroy and Jacob Harper, at 36 under through two rounds, look well on their way to establishing a new gold standard.
Whatever happens on the course today, Atticus is expected to make his first Sunny King appearance. Chastin has made him a regular on tournament Sundays and plans to bring him out to Anniston Country Club.
A “dada” likely awaits Clay at the clubhouse. However he and McGatha finish, bet on an exchange of “hahas.”
Before long, Clay must figure out how to coach Atticus.
“I can’t wait to figure out what sport he wants to do,” Clay said. “I don’t care what he wants to play. If I know about it, I’ll help him. If I don’t, I’ll learn, but he’ll definitely have a golf club in his hand at some point.”
Expect Atticus to squeeze Taylormade, Nike or Titleist products one day. Until then, it’s Fisher-Price.
In the meantime, Clay can dream of a day when Sunny King talk revolves around his father-son tandem, much like talk of Ott and Dalton Chandler now. Lots of wondrous years lie between now and then.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Clay said.