The current COVID-19 pandemic has claimed numerous sporting events throughout the nation, including the cancellation of college basketball’s March Madness, cancellation of all college spring sports and the delay and partial postponement of professional sports leagues from the NBA to MLB.

On the local scene, the problems associated with COVID-19 have also forced the cancellation of the Kentucky high school state basketball tournament, all high school spring sports in Kentucky and forced the entire cancellation of the Madisonville Miners summer baseball season.

What additional sporting events COVID-19 will claim remains to be seen, but one sporting event that is going to be able to take place during this pandemic will be the annual Eli Barron Golf Tournament hosted by Madisonville Country Club.

This is the 52nd annual Eli Barron Golf Tournament, which is one of the longest continuing individual play golf tournaments in the commonwealth.

Over the years, many prestigious tournaments have fallen by the wayside and many have converted to a two-person or four-person scramble format. The Eli Barron is unique and in a class by itself.

In order to continue the 52nd year of the Eli Barron, the MCC leadership team has to make a few changes — but the tournament will go on.

One of the features that makes the Eli Barron Tournament unique is that on Friday nights there is a cocktail party with drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres. It is a homecoming to many golfers in western Kentucky.

Unfortunately, with the restrictions on crowd gatherings, the Friday night party was not held this year.

A second major feature of the tournament is the Saturday night dinner with live entertainment and dancing. Once again, this portion of the Eli Barron will have to wait for another year as the Saturday night dinner and party cannot be held this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

However, notwithstanding these two minor changes, the tournament will be held. The social aspect is a great part of the tournament, but the golf aspect is essential.

The Barron planned to continue its format of a practice round and then 36 holes stroke play format over Saturday and Sunday, but heavy rains Thursday and Friday — and more forecasted for the weekend — may put the tourney in jeopardy

The championship flight will be preflighted. In other words, golfers will be placed in the championship flight when they register for the tournament. These golfers will be competing not only for the title of champion — but also a cash prize and a chance to win the prestigious Ches Riddle, Sr. trophy.

Local golf professional Mike Thomas was very complimentary of the course condition.

“Superintendent John Martin and his crew have done a great job despite the heat and have the greens and fairways in impeccable and outstanding condition, worthy of a great championship,” said Thomas.

Like previous years, Thomas said the field is loaded with some great quality players.

“Among the out of town participants are Austin Knight from Hopkinsville and a Murray State University golfer who is the defending two-time champion,” Thomas said.

The best credentials of the field may belong to Andy Roberts of Owensboro, who is the 2007 and 2010 Eli Barron champion. He has also won the Kentucky Open and the Kentucky State Amateur.

One of the unique features of the Barron is it brings players not only from Hopkins County but also throughout the region back to town. Among this year’s out of town contenders will be Larry Maxwell of Owensboro and Derek Brinker of Evansville.

The tournament also provides a chance for former champions to come back.

“We have several former champions coming back this year,” Thomas said.

Among the former champions who have signed up to play who will be contenders in the championship flight will be Chad Audas, Chris Faulk, Brandon Tucker and Parker Scarbrough.

“There are a lot of local talent who could be in contention, including Jackson Hill, K.O. Taylor, Travis Snead, G.R. Chandler, Patrick Hibbs, Clint Sharber, Clay Williams and Lee Riddle,” said Thomas.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly made it difficult to plan for fall sports, and I am a pessimist and don’t believe we are going to see a lot of college sports — including college football this fall. However, golf is a sport that seems to be thriving during the pandemic as it is played outdoors and as you can see from the plans on the Eli Barron, with a few minor changes, even big tournaments can go on with social distancing.

Yes, the format may be a little different this year, but if you want to see some great golf, you can still ride your cart around and follow the championship flight on Sunday or you can sit and social distance from the patio and grandstand area on holes nine and 18.

Mr. Cartwright is a local attorney and contributing sports columnist. Email: kcartwright@feptc.com.

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