LUMBERTON — In a year that many sporting events have moved from their traditional date, the Robeson County Golf Championship sponsored by Dial Insurance will be played this year at a new date in September as it takes place at Pinecrest Country Club from Friday through Sunday.
Unlike many of the other events moving on 2020’s calendar, however, this change was planned; the event has been held in July previously but was planning to move to September even before the COVID-19 pandemic, so the event could be played in more comfortable temperatures.
“We tend to have a large number of Super Seniors playing,” said Pinecrest head golf pro Dwight Gane. “July was just so hot, so we were trying to find better weather.”
The Championship Division will be played from Friday through Sunday, with the Super Seniors Division playing Friday and Saturday and the Regular, Ladies and Senior divisions playing Saturday and Sunday.
With the date change, the course conditions will be moderately different. Gane expects the rough will be thicker and the grass around the course will be more filled in, whereas in July it has been thinned out due to the heat.
“Right now we have very good grass; the grass is thick, the rough is a little tougher I believe,” Gane said. “But I imagine the good players will still shoot very good scores.”
Ryan Bass, the Championship Division winner in 2013 and 2019, said he isn’t sure the ball will travel as far on shots in the cooler weather.
“I think it will affect a little bit. I don’t think the ball will travel as far,” said Bass, who finished in 7-under 209 last year. “There’s possible rain, so I think the rain will affect it.”
That rain could offer softer conditions for the players, but also could affect tournament play Friday. Forecasts indicate an 80 percent chance of rain all day Friday as remnants of Hurricane Sally come through the Southeast after its anticipated landfall Friday morning on the Gulf Coast.
Gane says that, in the event the tournament cannot be played Friday, the Super Seniors’ 36-hole event would move to Saturday and Sunday and the Championship Division would be shortened to 36 holes over Saturday and Sunday.
“If we get Friday in, we get Friday in,” Gane said. “We’re hoping the forecast gets a little better; hopefully that storm heads a little south and we’ll be OK.”
Bass said the possibility of a 36-hole event would bring more potential winners into the fold.
“Playing good for one day is one thing, but trying to do it for three days straight, it’s tough,” Bass said. “If they were to make it a 36-hole tournament, I think it would bring more guys into the picture of actually winning the tournament. It could help me, it could help everybody really.”
Gane mentioned a few names as possible contenders, but said the tournament is wide open with a variety of potential winners.
“Ryan Bass is our defending champion; he will be hard to beat. Jamie Locklear has played well lately. Steve Pippin is back in the golf tournament and back playing good golf,” Gane said. “There are a bunch of people capable of winning this golf tournament. If I get to naming them all, I’ll leave somebody out, but there are 15 people capable of winning this golf tournament.”
Five-time champion Dyrck Fanning is back in the field after not playing in 2019. Kyle Covington, who has won the Championship Division nine times, most recently in 2015, will also play.
Bass is ready for the challenge of trying to successfully defend his 2019 title.
“I’m just going to keep the same game plan as last year, just go out and try and make as few mistakes as possible, just try and stay steady,” Bass said. “I’m kind of an aggressive golfer, so just try and limit the mistakes and go from there. … I’m actually playing pretty well right now, and I know Pinecrest pretty good so there’s nothing wrong with my confidence.”
Gane says about 70 players were registered as of early Tuesday afternoon. That includes just one entry so far in the Ladies Division.
Applications will be accepted at the Pinecrest golf shop until Wednesday at 5 p.m. for the Championship and Super Senior divisions, and until Thursday at 5 p.m. for the Regular, Ladies and Senior divisions.
Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.