First Posted: 1/15/2009
By: Matt Duffy
LUMBERTON — Dyrck Fanning and Scott Benton have been dominant when it comes to the Kiwanis of Robeson-Lumberton All-American golf tournament, amassing nine wins between them — Fanning has six — since its inception in 1978.
But the two good friends had never won one together until 2006, when they paired together for the first time. Last year, they defended, and on Saturday, they will go for a three-peat.
“I think we’ve got a real good chance,” said Fanning, who has won five county championships, one more than Benton. “I haven’t heard anything about the field, but I feel like we can win it. But I just want to go out there and have fun and compete. We always go out and have a good time.”
On Saturday, about 75 teams will tee off in the event, which is the civic club’s key fund-raiser, with money raised being used to help children in Robeson County. The tournament uses a two-man, best-ball format, with no handicap, and will feature the county’s top player and some real hackers.
On Thursday, Fanning and Benton joined the other member of the county’s Big Three in golf — Kyle Covington, who has won five of the past six county championships, for a practice round. The Big Three were joined by Little T, Tommy Britt, who is Covington’s partner this weekend. Although Britt doesn’t have the golfing resume of the others, he does sport a 2 handicap.
At the end of the round, which included beverages and some ribbing, not much was decided, as each team shot a 6-under-par 66. They all agreed that it would take a better score this weekend to win.
Should those teams slip, there are plenty of teams capable of slipping on the blue blazer on Sunday. They include: Mark Kinlaw, a three-time county champion, and Patrick Smith, a two-time county champion, who between them have 10 Kiwanis title, three times while playing together, in 1995, 1997 and 2002; John Haskins, the women’s basketball coach at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Larry Cloninger, who once shot a 62 in the event; Jay Floyd and Scottie Pippin; Phillip Wallwork and Bobby Campbell; Brian Tart and Mac McLure; and Chris Evans and Jimmy Hammonds.
The course will present its own challenges, according to Dwight Gane, Pinecrest’s head professional.
“The golf course is in really good shape, just like it was for the county championship,” said Gane.
Gane also added that golfers who can keep their tee shots in the short grass will find the golf course friendlier.
“We have had a lot of rain recently,” Gane said. “And the rough is really going to be tough. It will be a factor.”
The rough has been topped, but remains thick and able to gobble up stray tee shots.
Players will be flighted after Saturday’s round and trophies and gift certificates will be awarded to the top finishers in each flight. The winner of the Championship Flight will also be presented with a blue blazer at the awards ceremony, which will be Sunday afternoon after the last group finishes play, which is usually about 6:30 p.m.
The Kiwanis, a national service organization of young business professionals, will use the money from the golf tournament to help more than 50 local charities.
“Our focus is solely on the focus for children,” said Jay Britt, the club’s president-elect and chairman of the tournament. “This is our Super Bowl, our chief fundraiser. The money we raise from this tournament each year, we turn it around and give it all to Robeson County children’s charities. We’re trying to help the children in this county, that’s our only mission.”
The Kiwanis are on pace to raise more than $40,000 for this year’s tournament.
“At the charter meeting of the club in 1978 is when they planned the first annual All-American golf tournament,” Britt said. “The first year, the group raised $1,800. Since that first year, our Kiwanis club has donated over $600,000 for Robeson County charities. All our money has stayed in Robeson County, I can’t stress how important that is to us.”