Tournament officials said Monday at their final organizational meeting 204 teams were locked and loaded in advance of the July 12 start at Anniston Country Club, Cider Ridge Golf Club and Silver Lakes.
“I’m very happy,” tournament chairman Jimmy Flowers said, “because it shows there’s a lot of interest with the different things we’ve tried to do to get the word out.
“It’s always a struggle with people making their Fourth (of July) plans, but once Memorial Day hits and people start talking about it, it starts getting out there and we’re filling up. Within the last four or five days we had 20 teams sign up. We had a lot of teams get off the fence. If you’re on the fence now, we have a formal waiting list.”
There are four teams on the waiting list, officials said.
One of those teams just might find its way into the event after one of former champions suffered a foot injury over the weekend.
Ott Chandler, a four-time Classic champion, broke the big toe on his right foot hitting a shot in flip-flops on Backbreaker No. 6 after completing his Saturday round in the Silver Lakes Invitational. He did not play Sunday.
“I’m holding out hope,” Chandler said. “(The doctor) told me it’d be about five or six weeks before the bone heals up. I’m going to wait until the first of next week to see (if he’s able to play). I’m holding out hope. If I had to say now I’d say probably not ... but you never know what 14 days will do; it may come together. If I had to go out right now there’s no way. I couldn’t even putt-putt right now.”
Chandler, who turned 49 last week, won the Classic in 2008 and 2010 with Marcus Harrell. He won in 2004 and 2005 with Gary Wilborn. He is scheduled to play this year with Nathan Bennett, but now, with his foot in a protective boot, the rest of his summer schedule is in limbo.
“I hate it, too, because we’d have had a pretty good chance,” Chandler said.
The injury occurred as he tried to hit a shot from left of the cart path about 30 yards from the bridge that leads to the green after both his partners found the water. He finished the round, but hit only wedges in the scramble format they were playing. With the long-hitting Bennett as a partner he could play the same way in two of the three Sunny King formats, but he wouldn’t be much help off the tee in the best ball format at Anniston Country Club.
“I knew as soon as I hit it; that thing swole up like a lemon,” he said. “I’ve hit a million wedges with flip-flops before. The only reason (there was a problem) was it was on a slope. Just a bad decision on my part.”
The injury also brings into question Chandler’s chance to win the Calhoun County Golf Tour Player of the Year. He was third in the points standings before last weekend and is now fifth after Silver Lakes with two events remaining.
The points standings will be adjusted to a player’s top four series finishes before the Calhoun County Championship. Chandler also missed the Cane Creek Pro-Invitational because of illness, but he has a win (Cider Ridge) and two seconds in his three full-term Tour events.
“I was playing good, but now I don’t know,” he said.
The last non-sponsor-dedicated team in the field — effectively No. 204 — went to former Star sports editor Bran Strickland and his new partner, Keith Gray.
On-line registration had been open since March, but Strickland, who now works for The Charlotte Observer, said the demands of a new job were conspiring against him posting an entry earlier.
“Adjusting to the much more hectic pace of big-city living, it seems like every day I’m robbing time from Peter to pay Paul — and Peter had threatened to call the cops,” he said.
“Hopefully, it will be the only thing I’m dead last in.”
Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.