SILVER LAKES — Randy Reaves chose his words like he chooses golf clubs.
“It was fun,” he said with a sly laugh, when asked how he and partner Brett Rothwell shot in Friday’s first round of the 40th Sunny King Charity Classic.
The laugh was an acknowledgement. He knew he didn’t really answer a question that sought a score, but then it says how one of the Sunny King’s greatest champions has come to view playing in Calhoun County’s signature tournament.
Of course, he wants to shoot as well as he can.
Of course, he wants to help his playing partner, whomever that might be, as much as he can.
But he keeps perspective in the bag, along with his clubs. He’s a busy man who, years ago, made peace with family and professional priorities trumping playing priorities.
It’s more about enjoyment for the six-time champion, who’s done his bit to enrich the Sunny King’s rich history.
The 40th King Classic is as much about history as the here and now. It’s a history of a community, using a game it loves to support worthy causes … to the tune of $2.7 million over the first 39 years.
It’s also the annual gallery call for the area’s golfers, who turn an individual game into a team game for three days over three courses to produce increasingly ridiculous scores and memorable storylines.
Reaves’ Sunny King story started in the mid-1990s, when the Saks High School and Jacksonville State alum first played in the tourney. In 1997, he and then-teammate Jeff Russell put a one-year break into Eric Hamilton-Patrick Cushman’s run of five titles in six years.
He made a downhill putt to get his team into a three-team playoff. They waited for one playoff team to arrive at Anniston Country Club from another course.
Another downhill putt then tap-in on 18, and Reaves-Russell won.
“The first win was pretty incredible,” Reaves said.
Hamilton-Cushman won in 1998 and 1999, then history took a big turn. On a Sunday night, after final-round play in 1999, Russell freed Reaves to find a partner ready to help him stay at a championship level. Reaves found his guy Monday.
Longtime friend Gary Wigington came by Reaves’ work. Reaves asked, and Wigington said yes.
They won in 2000. They won in 2001 and 2002. One of the tournament’s greatest tandems won again, in 2007 and 2012.
It made Reaves a six-time champion, a record he held alone until Wigington won his sixth, with Ty Cole, in 2016. Cole-Wigington won again last year to give Wigington the record.
Reaves and Wigington last played together in 2013, when Reaves did for Wigington what Russell did for Reaves 14 years earlier. Reaves wanted more time to follow son Will’s high school and travel baseball career and knew Wigington needed a more dedicated partner.
Reaves has been a part-time Sunny King player since. He played Kevin Daughtery’s fill-in partner in 2016, when Brian Woodfin fell ill during the tournament. Reaves filled in for Scott Martin on Rothwell’s team this year.
Reaves-Rothwell shot a 6-under-par 66 Friday at Silver Lakes … a good score for most Sunny King teams, but co-leaders Cole-Wigington and Cody Robinson-Dustin Viehe hit for 14 under.
Cole-Wigington opened at 17 under en route to the modern scoring record of 43 two years ago.
“To win it now, the guys out there are shooting some phenomenal numbers,” Reaves said. “It’s grown and matured. The courses are so good. They do such a good job setting up the courses.
“It’s just really an enjoyable time, and the competition has never been better.”
Contact Sports Writer Joe Medley at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter, @jmedley_star.