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Selma Country Club prepares for invitational

Will Swift hasn’t played on his hometown Selma Country Club golf course in a year. But then, he was winning his third Selma CC Invitational Tournament.

“I haven’t been able to play with as much rain as we’ve had,” said Swift, who now lives in Birmingham and won the event in 2003, 2006 and 2008. “I was able to play in the Alabama State Four-Ball last weekend.”

The 81st annual invitational tees off May 15 and runs through May 17. Shotgun starts will be at 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. each day.

Another distraction to this year’s golf schedule has been 5-month-old daughter Grace Ann. Swift said, however, he still has had time to work on his game about 30 minutes each day after work then play tournaments on Saturdays.

“I’d rather play than practice,” he said. “It’s the only time of the year that I get to see the close friends I have made through playing in these tournaments.”

Naturally for Swift, next weekend’s event will be a welcome return home.

Playing golf isn’t always his reason to return, but he said Selma brings good golfers.

“Absolutely, Selma is a good golf town,” he said. “In this day and age with as many golf tournament that there are, it’s the quality of the players in each tournament that determines the success of the tournament.”

Selma CC golf pro Tommy Burns said he expects 125 entrants in the three-day event. Any more players, the pace would be too slow on the 6,400-yard par-71 course.

“That keeps the speed of play at the right pace,” Burns said.

“If it takes four hours to play a round, then the players get upset and that’s not good for anybody.”

Among the tournament’s winners will be the senior division champion, who must be at least 50 years old and in the championship flight.

The Selma Country Club course will test most golfers, especially on the signature No. 17 hole — the 497-yard par 5 with water guarding the front of the green.

“You have to hit a good drive, keep the ball in play,” Swift said. “Then you have to decide whether to go for the green on the second shot.

“It’s not the toughest hole on the course, but it’s the one that the requires a good drive all the time.”