Joe Medley: Ailing uncle's final Sunny King Classic about finally getting to play with nephew
by Joe Medley
Jul 13, 2013 | 3871 views |  0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don Taylor, left, drove from Florida to play in the Sunny King Classic with his uncle, Rick Taylor, right. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Don Taylor, left, drove from Florida to play in the Sunny King Classic with his uncle, Rick Taylor, right. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
CIDER RIDGE -- Rick Taylor walked off Cider Ridge’s No. 16 hole with that smiling-through-pain look Saturday.

It’s a common look for golfers who just played a hole that players voted among the Sunny King Charity Classic’s hardest, but Taylor was thinking more of a bigger picture.

“Golf is a chore,” he said light-heartedly.

It’s more of a chore that ever for the 58-year-old Oxford businessman, playing his 27th and final Sunny King through the pain of Plantar Fasciitis in his right foot. Then again, he had special reason to put off saying uncle one year.

His nephew wanted him to play the two-man tournament, so they could play golf together for the first and, likely, final time.

It’s the nephew Taylor didn’t even know played golf.

It’s the nephew whose dad, Taylor’s brother, suffered a fatal heart attack on Christmas Eve in 2001.

“He’s probably smiling right now, seeing us finally playing together,” Donald Taylor said.

And welcome to the essence of the Sunny King Classic, now in its 35th year.

For sure, it’s about charity and the competitive challenge of playing one of the top charity tournaments in these parts. Even the Taylors signed up for the championship flight. Rick played at that level for many years, and Donald hit that level for a time in and about Gainesville, Fla., where he owns an invisible fencing business.

They couldn’t bring themselves to sign up for a lower flight, but neither uncle nor nephew has delusions about winning. They’re at 3-under par, 27 shots off the lead, headed into today’s final round.

No, this is more about that other essence of the Sunny King, the one that causes family members and friends to circle calendars for that special chance to play together.

“We ain’t in it for the score,” Rick said. “We’re in it for the fun.”

Their pairing almost didn’t happen.

Donald, 40, was 15 when his dad followed a job offer from DeArmanville to Florida. He never played golf in high school.

He took up the game as an adult, got serious and got good for a time -- close to the level of play shown by the Sunny King’s top players, he said -- but kids and business cut into his golf time.

Through his dad and cousins Grant and Jessica, Donald heard all about how Uncle Rick’s golfing exploits. At one time, not so long ago, Rick was the guy who played 36 holes a day and played at the top levels of Calhoun County golf.

The thought of uncle and nephew bridging distance and playing together became a some-day proposition, filed away in the heart.

Rick, who put off his wedding a week because the Sunny King was rescheduled, started dialing back his course time four years ago. Years and golf scores tend to notch higher together, and competitive golfers don’t keep playing just to play.

Donald heard through family channels that Rick was ready to call the 2012 Sunny King his last, so Donald contacted his uncle and sold him on playing one more time -- so they could play together.

“This was just about us,” Donald said. “I wanted to play, and I didn’t want him to stop and me not never get a chance to come up here and hang out with him and play with him.

“This is a three-day deal and the biggest amateur charity tournament I’ve ever heard of.”

Rick has dealt with foot pain since January. He has taken steroid shots and reluctantly concedes that surgery is likely, so he’s playing through the pain.

Then again, his treatments might have their plusses.

“I muscled up on it,” Rick joked after hitting his tee shot long on the par-3 17th hole on Saturday. “I think it’s the steroids.”

On longer holes, Rick and Donald have an understanding about tee shots.

“He sits in the cart,” Donald said. “As long as I bomb one out there, he doesn’t even get out.”

It’s worked for 36 holes of their one and only golf outing together. They have just one more round to go, today at Anniston Country Club.

“My life is built around the Sunny King, and I didn’t know he played golf,” Rick said of his nephew. “Evidently, he remembers back when I played golf every day, and I guess he always wanted to play golf.

“I’m 58, and you know you ain’t got that many chances left. You don’t care about the score. You don’t care about how you hit it. It’s all about the fellowship, and it’s meant a lot to him.”

Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, On Twitter @jmedley_star.
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