The Sunny King Charity Classic has reached another inflection point.
Such points have become more frequent, the more competitive the top end of the field gets, but the new tandem of Jacob LeCroy-Jacob Harper has left a whole new sense of what’s possible.
They shot a tournament-record 20-under par Friday.
They established a tournament-record, two-round score of 36 under Saturday.
They blew past the modern and all-time scoring record with a 51-under-par finish, beating the old mark by eight strokes.
As for how many resigned looks they left on the faces of the tourney’s other heavy hitters, there’s no telling. Many such looks came Friday, the day when most of the field realized victory had rocketed out of reach. The rest came Saturday, when the Jacobs finished just eight strokes short of the scoring record.
Well, it was coronation day at Anniston Country Club.
That’s the day when LeCroy, the biggest young name on the local golfing set after winning his second consecutive AHSAA state title in May, joined Harper, a pro and the best player in the field (do we hear state?), and hoisted a trophy.
As much as they etched their names in history of Calhoun County’s signature golfing event, they etched numbers. Those numbers established another, new way of thinking about what’s doable when two strong players better-ball, scramble and “scamble” their way around Anniston Country Club, Silver Lakes and Cider Ridge over three days.
The tourney has been here a few times recently. Ott and Dalton Chandler leaped over the 40-under barrier when they finish 42 under in 2015. Ty Cole-Gary Wigington made it 43 a year later.
What did it take to go 20-36-51 over three rounds?
It took one of Calhoun County’s best young golfers in some time wanting to win and seeking out the best player he could find for a teammate. LeCroy knew Harper through his dad, invited him and got a yes.
Welcome to the Sunny King, Jacob Harper … AKA 2018 Alabama Open champion. Talk about the ultimate brother-in-law.
One is 17 years old and about to embark on a college career after winning two state titles.
One is 24 and played a brief collegiate career, after winning a high school state title. He hopes to turn obvious talent into golfing paydays.
“That kid, Harper, is the best player in this tournament, by far,” said Brennan Clay, after he and partner Jeremy McGatha played with LeCroy-Harper on Saturday at Cider Ridge. “He is a player. It was fun to watch.”
What’s different about LeCroy-Harper than the rest of the Sunny King field?
“As far as I look at it, look, man, I work 50-something hours a week,” said Caleb Bowen, who teams with Pine Hill pro Cory Etter to form one of the tourney’s most competitive tandems each year. “I may play golf once a week.
“These guys, one’s a professional, and one’s going to college to play, and they’re playing every day, so I am pumped with how well we’re playing.”
So, what to make of the Sunny King with this new normal?
Should organizers pump brakes on the Jakes, or the next such combination that forms?
There’s no reason to think so. The competitive side of this charity event has gotten nothing but more competitive for years, and the tournament raised a then-record $140,000 a year ago, with corporate contributors giving extra for the 40-year tourney in 2018. Entry fees from a record field of 211 teams helped the tourney raise $120,000 this year.
Any changes organizers could make would make it harder on the rest of the field, too.
“If you add some longer distances, maybe it would cut it down to 35 under, maybe,” Clay said. “No excuses. We’ve got to play better.”
All the field can do for now is laugh the pain away. Ty Cole, who teamed with Gary Wigington to win the past three Sunny Kings, joked about inviting PGA star Brooks Koepka next year.
That assumes, of course, if Tiger Woods isn’t available.
McGatha, who won four Sunny Kings with Jaylon Ellison and teamed with Ellison to set the old scoring record of 39 under in 2011, likes another major champion.
“If they’re going to open it up,” he quipped, “I’m going to invite Jordan Spieth next year.”