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Classic Players Shining

By Buddy Hughes, The Brunswick News

Fans who attended last year’s McGladrey Classic, the PGA Tour Fall Series event hosted by the Davis Love Foundation, might have noticed a lot of familiar faces Sunday when tuning in for the final round of the U.S. Open.

Five of the top eight finishers at the year’s second major participated in last year’s McGladrey.

“It was exciting to see some familiar faces from our event at the top of the U.S. Open leaderboard,” said McGladrey Classic tournament director Scott Reid.

Two of the top U.S. Open contenders came within a couple of strokes of walking away with a McGladrey victory in October at Sea Island Golf Club’s Seaside Course on St. Simons Island.

New national champion Webb Simpson seemed poised to take home the Classic crown in 2011. Simpson and Ben Crane were tied at 15 under after 72 holes, setting up a sudden death playoff to see who would become the second McGladrey champion.

After both golfers parred the 18th hole on the first playoff hole, Crane carded a par on the second extra hole and backed away for Simpson’s turn. Simpson missed his par putt on the par-3 17th, giving the tournament to Crane.

If Simpson comes back to the Isles for the third McGladrey Classic, which tees off Oct. 18 at Seaside, he’ll do so with a major championship under his belt after outlasting Jim Furyk, Graeme McDowell and Michael Thompson — all of whom competed at last year’s McGladrey.

“We couldn’t be happier for him,” Reid said of Simpson’s win. “I know all of us that worked for the tournament and Davis — and Davis is a good friend of Webb’s, as is our defending champion Ben Crane — were excited to see him win. We hope to see him back here and be able to congratulate him in person.”

Thompson made an impression on Reid at last year’s McGladrey. The University of Alabama graduate and former Southeastern Conference champion played in the final group the last two rounds. Thompson would have been in the playoff with Crane and Simpson had he not bogeyed his final hole to finish at 14 under for the tournament.

Thompson tied for second at the Open, one shot behind Simpson.

“I certainly (remembered him),” Reid said. “Michael is a great player and probably doesn’t get enough credit for how good of a player he is. I think a lot of people forgot he had the tournament just about won last year and kind of let it slip away. Hopefully, when people saw him at the U.S. Open, that kind of resonated with them.”

With the third McGladrey Classic less than four months away, Reid said he and his staff are busy preparing for this year’s event.

“We’re still focused on getting more companies here from outside the area and trying to raise as much revenue as we can to meet our goal of giving half a million dollars to charity off of this year’s McGladrey Classic,” Reid said. “We’re starting to get involved a little bit more in the nitty gritty of things. The summer goes by pretty quick for us.”

One of the ways McGladrey is raising money for charities this year is the Birdies Fore Love program. The program offers participants a chance to compete for a new car by guessing the number of birdies recorded at the 2012 McGladrey Classic while also pledging money to help a charity of their choice.

“It’s really an opportunity for more charities to get involved with the Classic,” Reid said. “Any (nonprofit organization) that focuses on benefiting children and families can get involved with the Birdies Fore Love program. Essentially, it’s up to them to go out and get pledges based on the number of birdies that will be made at the McGladrey Classic. The great thing about the program is, 100 percent of the proceeds go to the charity. Whoever guesses the number of birdies or comes the closest without going over, wins a brand new Buick Verano that the program’s title sponsor, Nalley, donated. So there’s some incentive to do the contest.”

The tournament is also bringing in a musical act for the second straight year. Country music star Gary Allan will perform Oct. 17, the night before the tournament’s opening round, on the grounds at the club. Allan will also play in the Pro-Am with tournament host and chairman Love.

Darius Rucker played a concert the night before the 2011 McGladrey Classic.

“When we came up with it last year, the intent was to maybe get some folks out here that wouldn’t normally come to a golf tournament,” Reid said. “It’s kind of a community kickoff event for the McGladrey Classic. Wednesday is the first day we’re open to the public, and it’s the night before the tournament, so it’s really a celebration of the McGladrey Classic. It gives everybody the opportunity to come out to a beautiful venue to hear some great music, enjoy some great food, and they don’t have to be golf fans to enjoy that.”

Patrons are entitled to both golf and the concert with their $35 Wednesday ticket.

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