SILVER LAKES — Say this about the new Sunny King Charity Classic tandem of Jacob LeCroy and Jacob Harper … they have everyone’s attention.
They tore through Silver Lakes like a tornado during Friday’s first round, shooting a tournament-record 20-under par, 10 on both sides. And yes, that’s good enough to lead, even in a field where “dream team” Ty Cole and Gary Wigington came shooting for their record fourth title in a row.
Cole-Wigington teed off just before noon, well after word of LeCroy-Harper’s torrid play became the talk of the tournament. The tournament’s force of nature the past three years, Cole-Wigington shot 13 under Friday.
As for the emerging force of nature, LeCroy is the most known quantity locally. He just graduated from Donoho School having made history, becoming the first high school golfer from Calhoun County to win at least two AHSAA state titles. He won in 2018, repeated in May and aspires to play professional golf after doing it collegiately at South Alabama.
He’s real good.
Jacob Harper comes new to the tournament but came with a reputation. He played for Troy University, after winning a 3A title at Beulah High School. He’s the reigning Alabama Open champion and won the Public Links tourney in Opelika in May.
Just how does that look on local courses?
Familiar to regulars on the local golf scene, he’s played at Anniston Country Club several times. It showed when he shot 64 in a Wednesday practice round.
The 24-year-old Harper played a high school sectional at Cider Ridge and returned for the first time in nine years Thursday, shooting 64.
He said he “piddled around” for nine holes at Silver Lakes on Thursday, and that was enough to make an impression.
“He’s probably the best player in the state, pros or amateurs,” said Pine Hill pro Cory Etter, who regularly contends for the Sunny King title with teammate Caleb Bowen. “He’s just so good.”
Harper missed out qualifying at PGA Q school by a stroke last fall, two months after he won the Alabama Open. He said he has aspirations to try again and make a career of it.
Losing 25 pounds has helped the 6-foot-4 Harper’s game.
“The only flaw he’s got — and I think he’d tell you this, too — is he’s got health issues,” said Lance Evans, a Golf Channel commentator and PGA caddy who teamed with Ryan Howard to win the 2014 Sunny King. “He’s just a big boy. Great guy and good shape, but you get out there playing five or six rounds a week and trying to walk, I’m sure it’s a little different process.
“This is not knocking anybody, but, if he gets in shape, he’s going to beat everybody out there.”
Pair that with LeCroy, a strong player with more extensive experience on the Sunny King courses, and the potential for combustible golf is clear. It became clearer in Friday’s first round of the three-day tournament.
We think about 59 as a gold standard for pros playing a round of golf. In the Sunny King, we’ve come to see 54 or 55 as a winning threshold for a single-round score.
LeCroy and Harper did it in 52 Friday.
The 20-under score broke the tournament record by two strokes. One round in, LeCroy-Harper stands nearly halfway to the 41-year-old tournament’s modern scoring record of 43 under for three rounds.
LeCroy played each hole first, allowing Harper to take chances.
“We had us an awesome time out there today,” LeCroy said.
News of their round spread quickly around the field. Dalton Chandler, who teamed with dad Ott Chandler to win the 2015 Sunny King, joked when asked how they shot Friday.
“Not 20,” he said.