GOLF / THE 81st ENERGY WELDFAB MEADOWBROOK CLASSIC

Defending champ McMillan is among 81st Energy Weldfab Classic lineup

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This weekend, Kilgore is the site for arguably the most tradition-rich golf tournament in East Texas.

The Energy Weldfab Meadowbrook Classic, which dates back to the 1930’s, will be played for the 81st time at Meadowbrook Golf and Event Center, with another strong championship flight field.

As usual, Thursday will be the practice round for anyone signed up; tournament play – 18 holes per golfer, just like a PGA tournament – will begin Friday, and will continue on Saturday and Sunday. Barring any delays due to inclement weather, the tournament should be wrapping up early Sunday evening.

By the time the leaders reach the final few holes on Sunday, a large gallery on carts will be pursuing them, and then looking on at 18 for the finish.

Meadowbrook pro David Cline said the course is in great shape, and the tournament’s championship flight should provide some Sunday afternoon excitement.

Returning to try and defend his 2017 title is former Stephen F. Austin University golf standout Stetson McMillan. The Lindale native, who had only two bogeys the entire weekend last year, held off multi-time champion Bryan Baker by four strokes – McMillan’s three-day 169 topped Baker’s 173. Baker is one of just three men (Rick Maxey and Seane Richardson are the other two) to win the tournament in back-to-back years, claiming the titles in 2014 and 2015.

Baker is back to challenge McMillan again this year, as is Maxey, one of the two most decorated champions in Classic history (along with the late Raleigh Selby).

Also on the championship flight this year are young Kilgore-area golfers like Jacob Mobbs, Blaine Weiterman, Patrick Palmer and Ryan Oden. All three were fantastic golf-team golfers, and Weiterman has two Classic titles to his credit: 2010 and 2012.

Others competing on the championship flight: Brent Akins, Bryce Alley, J.R. Ault, Andrew Bloch, Ken Burnham, Alan Clark, Kirk Hale, Chapman Herwood, Watson Hill, Kent Lambeth, Adam McClain, Adam Renfroe, Patrick Rhodes, Mason Terry, Clay Vance, B.J. Waters, and William Wilder.

In addition, there will be at least 79 other golfers on the course, all hoping to secure championships of their own on flights named after famed courses or tournaments, such as the Masters flight, the Colonial flight or the Pebble Beach flight. The team competition – individual scores combined for the lowest four-man team score – is back this year.

The tournament was first played in 1937, and its first champion was Bill Clark. It has been played every year since, except in 1955, when the course’s clubhouse was being remodeled. In its earliest days, it was called the East Texas Invitational, then a variety of names: the Meadowbrook Invitational, the Kilgore Invitational, and the Laird Invitational. In 2000, the tournament committee settled on the new name: the Meadowbrook Classic, making it a homecoming tournament of sorts, and that was also when the team concept. Energy Weldfab, led by the Clements family, became the tournament's lead sponsor a few years ago.

The tournament has been played in July since the 1940s. Maxey, who is still very much a threat to win another title, has four to his credit already (1974, 1975, 2000 and 2008).

Selby claimed four, as well (’41, ’45, 50, and ’64). Mike Mayo, a champion in 1978, ’81, and ’87, is the only golfer with three Classic titles, although Baker has a chance to tie that mark this year. And a host of golfers have claimed two.

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