There’s less than a week until the Emerald Coast Professional Golf Tour hits the TP Country Club for the inaugural Cullman Summer Pro-Am Classic. The professionals will begin the 54-hole tournament July 10 with a pro-am and junior clinic slated for July 11.
“We’ve never been to Cullman,” tour director Geno Celano said. “It’s a new area for us, so we’re looking forward to it. We’re trying to see how we can get a tournament that can grow each year.”
Over 20 PGA Tour winners, including Boo Weekley, Heath Slocum, Len Mattice, Brian Gay, George McNeil and 2012 Masters champ Bubba Watson, have played on the southeastern-based professional tour since its inception in 1989.
“It’s a regional tour for guys to start out, play and get experience so they can move on to the next level, which is the PGA Tour,” Celano said.
According to the director, there’s far more to the ECPGT than helping the professionals develop their golf games. Celano and Co. hold junior clinics and pro-ams and also lend a hand with charity work at every city they visit. This year’s spring/summer schedule has included in-state stops in Dothan, Anniston and Troy in addition to Cullman.
“We’re trying to go into these communities and make a difference,” Celano said. “It means a lot to us.”
Spots are still available for the pro-am portion of the tournament. The cost to register is $100 per golfer, which includes a pairing party July 10, as well as lunch the day of the competition.
“I hope they have a good experience,” Celano said. “We try to make it a fun day for them. It’s pretty cool because the pros’ round usually counts for the tournament. The amateurs get to see the pros when they’re grinding, but they’re still pretty cordial with them.”
Nearly 20 professionals and amateurs from around the state and region are currently registered for the inaugural Cullman Summer Pro-Am Classic. That list includes Glenn Northcutt, of Auburn; Kyle Sapp, of Gardendale; and Patrick Drake, of Cullman.
Northcutt, the winner of the ECPGT’s stop in Shalimar, Fla., in early April, has spent some time on the Nationwide Tour, while Sapp earned a victory at last month’s ECPGT tournament in Anniston. Drake, the TP Country Club’s director of golf, is coming off his third Buck Shear Memorial Golf Tournament title.
“We’ve got some pretty good players that’ll be playing next week,” Celano said. “I’m hoping we’ll have some more local amateurs sign up. We’ll hopefully be getting some last-minute people in this weekend.
“It’s just like any other first-year tournament. It just takes awhile to get established in an area. Hopefully we can build on this thing. I don’t want it to be a one-year deal.”
Former Cullman High golfer, Jake Tucker, now at Troy University, will compete as an amateur, as will current Bearcat Sylas Elliott.
“I think they’re really going to learn a lot,” Celano said. “This is the age where they’re going to see the pros and learn what to do, how these guys go about their business. I think they’ll take away a lot of knowledge. It’ll help their game down the road a lot.”
Cullman’s Bob Kurtz has also committed to playing.
The purse at this year’s tournament in Troy was $50,000, while the one in Meridian, Miss., last week was $16,000. Celano said he expects between $15,000 and $20,000 to be split by the field of Cullman’s inaugural classic.
The ECPGT will head to the Arrowhead Country Club in Montgomery for its next event one week after the TP tournament.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.