Melvin Barnes ready to defend Herald-Sun title

Winning the 2016 Herald-Sun Golf Classic made Melvin Barnes a little more recognizable and he has enjoyed the attention.

"You definitely get a lot of attention from it," Barnes said. "People still congratulate me to this day. That's pretty cool."

He and 93 other golfers will take to Hillandale Golf Course on Monday seeking to win the title in the 71st edition of the tournament.

Barnes outdueled Ronnie Williams to win his first title as Williams was trying to become the third three-time champion in the history of the event. Barnes said he'd like to have another showdown with Williams.

"Ronnie and I go way back and that was a joy to face him last year," Barnes said. "Unfortunately, one of had to win. We've always played golf together and enjoy being on the golf course with him."

The tournament also will be a family affair for Barnes, who will be playing with his son, Destin, in the first two qualifying rounds.

"We've had him playing with the little plastic clubs when he was five and now he's about 6-3 and 190 pounds so he's a big boy now," Melvin said. "We used to play side-by-side but he's outdriving me by about 80 yards now."

Destin will be playing in his fourth tournament after missing last year while attending classes at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington.

"I feel like it's a father-son outing with him every time we go out," Melvin said. "This year year it will be more special playing after Fathers' Day."

The Barnes are spending their weekend at the beach with a couple of rounds of golf there before teeing it up at Hillandale. It is a special weekend for Melvin, who said he is reuniting with his father after more than 20 years apart.

Melvin has had a busy spring of playing on the Golf Channel Amateur Tour and most recently trying to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open last Monday.

"Unfortunately, that didn't work out for me," Barnes said.

But in February he won a tournament in Puerto Rico that qualified him for the Golf Channel National Championship which will be played in September. He also had a second-place finish two weeks ago at a tournament in St. Augustine, Florida at the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Barnes, as returning champion, automatically advances to Thursday's match play as the No. 1 seed. The rest of the field will be set for match play based on scoring in the first two rounds.

Another golfer with his sights set on the title is Michael Wicker, who recently won the Durham Amateur. Wicker, who just finished his freshman season at UNC Greensboro, has been playing the tournament since he was a junior.

"Honestly, these are two tournaments I want to have under my belt soon," Wicker said. "It took me three tries for the Durham Am and I hope it just takes me three times to win the Herald-Sun. I expect to be there on Sunday and give somebody a heck of a round."

Wicker just missed the cut on Friday at the North Carolina Amateur, which is being held at River Run Country Club in Davidson.

"That was a tough couple of days," Wicker said.

But he said he was looking forward to getting back to Hillandale and the familiarity which it brings.

"I'm still confident in my game," Wicker said.

Joe Johnson: 919-419-6889, @HPreps