Greensboro — Nick Saban didn’t finish anywhere near the top of the leaderboard in the Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge at the Oconee Course at Reynolds Plantation. But the Alabama football coach was fairly distracted.
Saban briefly considered not making his annual appearance in this ACC versus SEC golf event on Lake Oconee due to the post-tornado relief efforts in Tuscaloosa. But the Chick-fil-A folks made it worth his while.
The bowl presented the “Nick’s Kids Foundation” with a check for $70,000, all of which Saban said would go to tornado victims in Alabama.
“We really appreciate all the support we’ve gotten from the Chick-fil-A Bowl and all the people who are doing what they can to help,” Saban said. “The devastation in Tuscaloosa is more than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. So we’ve all pitched in to help everywhere we can.”
Saban got it twice by the tornado epidemic that swept across the U.S. last week. His home on Lake Burton in North Georgia sustained minor storm damage.
But that was nothing compared to what happened in and around the University of Alabama. Snapper Carson Tinker was seriously injured and Tinker’s girlfriend was killed when a twister hit the apartment they were in.
“A lot of our kids have been affected,” Saban said. “Some of them have been affected just by what they saw, with people injured and displaced. I mean, you see the devastation on TV, but when a guy has lost his home and all his possessions or someone has lost his business or someone has lost loved ones like Carson did, you really feel personally how devastating all this is.
“I told the players, we can’t just be a team on Saturdays; we need to be a team in the worst of times as well.”
Saban’s teamed with former Bama player Chris Mohr to birdie the final two holes of the day and finish 3-under-par in the tournament. But that was far behind Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson and Jon Barry, who ran away with this year’s title at 11-under-par.
“We made some putts today and that’s always a pretty good plan,” said Johnson, who ran in a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole. “We didn’t make them all but we made a few and that was fun. We’ve been second here a couple of times and that was kind of frustrating. We managed to get it done this time so it was good to get that monkey off our back.”
With the tournament victory and Johnson’s win in the closes-to-the-pin contest on Monday, Georgia Tech also came away with some loot. Johnson will take back to The Institute a check for $125,000 earmarked for scholarships.
“That’s great,” Johnson said. “I’m sure there are some deserving students that can take advantage of that.”
Lending financial assistance is the point of this five-year-old event, according to Chick-fil-A Bowl president Gary Stokan.
“We raised $632,000 for scholarships and charity this year,” he said. “That’s $2.5 million over five years. That’s our mission, to beat all bowls in charitable donations.”
Not every ACC and SEC football coach competes in this tournament. Georgia coach Mark Richt played with Buck Belue a few years ago but hasn’t recently. Not being much of a golfer, he stopped participating.
This year’s participants included Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer, N.C. State’s Tom O’Brien, Tennessee’s Derek Dooley, Maryland’s Randy Edsall, Mississippi’s Houston Nutt, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe and Miami’s Al Golden.
FINAL RESULTS (scholarship money):
By Chip Towers, The UGA Blog