Classic golf returns to Hillandale

Jun. 16, 2014 @ 12:05 AM

When the 68-year-old Herald-Sun Golf Classic starts today at Hillandale Golf Course, it will feature some minor format changes that were made to increase competitiveness and fairness.

The Champions and Presidents flights have been cut from 32 players to 16 players each, and a 60-and-over Senior Division has been added to the tournament.

Shrinking the top flights at the tournament means the No. 1 seed will start against the No. 16 seed instead of the No. 32 seed.

“We’re trying to make it more enjoyable for everybody,” Hillandale head golf professional Joe May said. “We’re trying not to have blowout matches, where guys are losing matches 8 and 7.”

The Senior Division will have two full flights of 32 players in its inaugural competition.

“We wanted it to make it more competitive and fair for everybody,” May said. “We talked to some guys last year and got the vibe that if we had the Senior Division, we’d have some participation. We’d give them a chance to be competitive with guys their own age so they’re not playing against teenagers that are hitting it a hundred yards past them.”

There will be 140 golfers in the field this week, down slightly from recent years. The tournament will feature two rounds of stroke play qualifying today and Tuesday, followed by match play Thursday through Sunday. The elimination of the 32-player flights meant that Wednesday is now a day off.

Ronnie Williams Jr., who won the event in 2010 and 2012, said he had mixed emotions about the changes.

“It takes a round of golf out, which I love playing, and it’s been tradition for so long,” Williams said. “If you finish 17th or 18th (in qualifying), I would hate to be that guy who legitimately has a chance to win the championship, he just didn’t qualify well.

“But I think it’s going to be a great tournament. There will be better golfers in both flights. That senior division is going to be a very competitive flight. Those guys can still play. They beat me up too bad anyway. It’s going to be fun, I’m sure.”

NOTE — Reigning champion Todd Eckstein, who now plays at Davidson, had a school conflict and is not competing this week.