ForestPAC Endorsement- House of Representatives District 27- Will Ainsworth

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The Board of Directors of the Alabama Forestry Association’s political action committee, ForestPAC, has endorsed Will Ainsworth for the General Election in House of Representatives District 27 which is located in primarily in Marshall County and a small part of Blount County.

Born and raised in Boaz, he is a graduate of Westbrook Christian School (1999) and received a B.S. in Marketing from Auburn University (2004). He and his wife (Kendall) have three children, twin boys Hunter and Hays (4) and daughter Addie (2).

Will is best known as the owner of Dream Ranch, a beautiful hunting and fishing preserve located on Lake Guntersville. He also is a partner in the Tennessee Valley Hunting and Fishing Expo since 2011. Held annually in July at the Huntsville Civic Center, the Expo is a weekend entertainment experience that attracts over 30,000 outdoor hunting and fishing enthusiasts as well as outdoor retailers and organizations.

This is the first political race for Ainsworth. He faces former House member, Democrat Jeff McLaughlin in a highly contested race. McLaughlin represented the area from 2001-2010 before being beaten by current Representative Wes Long. Long is not seeking reelection. McLaughlin is probably best known for his close ties with his former Harvard law school classmate, Barak Obama.

Economic development for the Tennessee Valley region of Northeast Alabama is the number one priority for Ainsworth. His business career is centered on job creation and marketing the area. “I have often said that my top three priorities as a state representative would be jobs, jobs, and jobs. Attracting jobs to our area, however, requires that we provide our children with a well-rounded, quality public education so they are prepared to fill the well-paying, long-lasting, 21st Century jobs that I plan to attract.”

Prior to building Dream Ranch, Will served as youth pastor at Grace Fellowship Church. “As a former youth pastor, I possess the values and morals that most who live in our area share, and I plan to bring those deeply held beliefs to Montgomery with me. As a father, I want my children to succeed in life, which brings a commitment to improve public education and create jobs in the Lake Guntersville area.”

“I’m running for the Alabama House because I feel it is important to give back to a community that has given so much to my family and me. I am also running because I believe our country’s moral values are eroding and we need strong Christian leaders to fight back against liberal policies. Government regulations are destroying small business and we need to stop these horrible regulations and government mandates.”

“It’s no secret that our area has suffered economically over the past several years. If we are going to turn that trend around, we must elect a state representative who has a deep commitment to creating jobs and economic opportunity, and that’s exactly why I am seeking this job. I am also passionate about improving public education by providing our children with needed classroom tools and by ensuring teachers are fairly compensated for the work they do. And as a Republican, I believe in the conservative values that citizens in our area want to see instilled in their state government.”

ForestPAC Endorsement- Senate District 10- Phil Williams

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The Board of Directors of the Alabama Forestry Association’s political action committee, ForestPAC, has endorsed current Senator Phil Williams for the General Election in Senate District 10, which is composed of all of Etowah and parts of DeKalb, St. Clair and Cherokee counties.

Senator Williams was first elected to public office in 2010 defeating long-time incumbent Democrat Larry Means. Means is his opponent once again in the 2014 General Election. Supported heavily by the Alabama Education Association and currently serving as mayor of Attalla, Means is making this one of the closest of all the Alabama Senate election contests.

Senator Williams is a proven and tested conservative and needs our support.

With his election in 2010, he was part of a wave of new Republican leadership that wrested control of the Statehouse from the Democrats for the first time in 136 years. With Williams’ assistance the new leadership has focused on fiscal responsibility and limited government. Over $1 billion in savings from state government have been enacted and there has been no proration in the state’s education funding under his watch.

Phil is an attorney with his own firm of Williams & Associates, LLC in Gadsden, Alabama. His legal focus is largely in the areas of insurance, municipal and corporate defense. Phil has also served as the Chief Operations Officer and General Counsel for TaxBreak, which has its corporate offices in Gadsden, Alabama. TaxBreak is one of only a handful of Alabama based Inc-500 companies and has clients in all 50 States. His legal experience covers all levels including appellate, and he is admitted to practice in all State and Federal Courts in Alabama.

Prior to practicing law Phil was in full time ministry for seven years with the international youth outreach organization YoungLife. With YoungLife Phil served as an Area Director which involved direct ministry and counseling with teens, recruiting and training volunteers, public speaking, public relations, fund raising and close work with the members of the YoungLife Committee.

He is currently the Chairman for the Alabama Senate Committee on Fiscal Accountability and Responsibility, and the Vice Chair for the Committee on Ethics, Campaign Finance, and the Constitution. He also serves as member of the Committees for Judiciary, Agriculture, Veterans and Military Affairs, Taxation and General Fund Budgeting.

Aside from his civilian experience Phil also comes from a family with a strong military tradition. He is an Airborne Ranger and currently holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve and has served for 24 years in various reserve component Special Operations and Airborne units. Since 9/11 he has served two combat tours in the Global War on Terror, one each in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as one tour in the Pentagon on the Army Staff’s Special Operations Division.

Phil’s education includes a BS from the University of South Alabama and a Juris Doctorate from the Birmingham School of Law. He is also a graduate of the US Army’s Combined Arms and Services Staff School and the US Army Command and General Staff College.
His military awards include two Bronze Star Medals, three Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals, the Humanitarian Service Medal, both the Afghan and Iraq Campaign Medals with 3 campaign stars, The Army Staff Badge, The Ranger Tab, Senior Parachutist Wings, German Parachutist Wings and the Combat Action Badge.

Phil and his family have lived in Etowah County for nineteen years. He has been married for 25 years to his wife Charlene – they have two children, Josh and Caitlin. Josh recently received his Regular Army Commission as a Second Lieutenant (Armor) in the United States Army, and Caitlin is on full academic scholarship at Auburn University.

ForestPAC Endorsement- Senate District 8- Steve Livingston

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The Board of Directors of the Alabama Forestry Association’s political action committee, ForestPAC, has endorsed Steve Livingston for the General Election in Senate District 8, located in Jackson and parts of DeKalb counties.  This is an open seat that was formerly represented by Republican Shad McGill.

This is the first political venture for Steve.

He prevailed in a tough Republican primary election where he defeated a four time member of the Alabama House of Representatives that was supported by Governor Bentley and the powerful Alabama Education Association.

In spite of this opposition, Livingston stated, “we maintained our campaign as we had been doing and stayed on course talking about the things that are important to the district; jobs, education, shrinking government and making sure we have infrastructure in place for business.”

Steve now faces Democrat challenger Horace Clemmons, a former member of the Jackson County Commission, in the general election.

Livingston is the owner and manager of The Fuel Center, Inc.(formerly Discus Oil), a distributor of Chevron gasoline and lubricants in Jackson County.He is a 1974 graduate of Scottsboro High School and the University of Alabama (1978).  He is a member and Past President of the Scottsboro Rotary Club and is the Past President of the Scottsboro-Jackson Chamber of Commerce. He is a founding member of Leadership Jackson County and is a graduate of Leadership Alabama. Today he serves on the Scottsboro Industrial Development Board and is a director of the FNB Bank of Scottsboro.

He was married to the late Sandra Steele Livingston and has 4 children and 7 grandchildren

ForestPAC Endorsement- Senate District 32- Trip Pittman

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The Board of Directors of the Alabama Forestry Association’s political action committee, ForestPAC, has endorsed current Senator Trip Pittman for the General Election in Senate District 32, located in south Baldwin County.

Senator Pittman has distinguished himself as one of the most fiscally conservative members of the Alabama Senate. As powerful chairman of the Education Appropriations committee, Senator Pittman is able to provide leadership and thoughtful, intelligent insight to Alabama’s budget issues.

He was a principal advocate for passage of the Rolling Reserve Act and will support an AFA promoted initiative to have this fiscally responsible budget planning tool protected within our constitution.

Prior to his becoming chairman of the education appropriations committee, proration of education spending was a yearly occurrence. Since 2010, when he became chairman, it has not happened once.

A strong proponent of private property rights and limited government, he supports Alabama’s timber industry and has been helpful to AFA on enacting legislation limiting liability to landowners that lease their land for hunting and fishing and strengthening our trespass laws. He also supports the ongoing effort to limit the use of government dollars for green building standards that discriminate against Alabama timber.

Senator Pittman has been a resident of Baldwin County for 42 years and currently resides in Montrose where he runs Pittman Tractor Company that he started in 1988. He is a graduate of Bayside Academy and holds a BS in Commerce and Business Administration from the University of Alabama. He is married to Lindsey Kittrell and they have three children, Reynolds, Virginia and Lee.

Senator Pittman was first elected to the State Senate in 2007 in a special election to replace Bradley Byrne.

ForestPAC Endorsement- Senate District 35- Bill Hightower

hightowerThe Board of Directors of the Alabama Forestry Association’s political action committee, ForestPAC, has endorsed Bill Hightower for the General Election in Senate District 35, located in southwest Mobile County.

Bill was first elected Senator in a special election in April 2013 to fill the vacancy created when then Senator Ben Brooks was elected circuit judge in Mobile County in 2012. During his short time in the Senate, Senator Hightower served as Vice Chairman of the Banking and Insurance Committee and also served on the Commerce, Transportation and Utilities and Job Creation and Economic Development committees.

Bill attended the University of South Alabama and graduated with his B.S. in Commercial Banking/Finance, with studies in economics from the London School of Economics & Political Science, London, England. He later went on to receive his M.B.A. at the Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University, graduating in 1990.

Upon graduation, Bill worked with Fortune 100 corporations including Emerson Electric, AlliedSignal, Eaton, and a British company, Balfour-Beatty. He was away from Mobile for 15 years, but visited frequently to see family here, and intended to return to Mobile after gaining experience in business. During his time away from Mobile he worked in the USA, Europe, and Asia.

He currently owns and manages a private practice which focuses on corporate strategic consulting. He works with clients in the U.S., Europe, and China in defining their growth strategy and implementing it through acquisitions and alliances.

His past experience in the decision-making machinery of global corporate offices makes him uniquely qualified to contribute to legislative pro-growth, pro-business strategies for the region.

Bill originally moved to Mobile in 1968, with his mom and dad, when his father, Billy M. Hightower M.D., established one of the first Open Heart Surgery Centers on the gulf coast at Mobile General Hospital (Now University of South Alabama Medical Center).
Bill attended E.R. Dickson Elementary School, Sydney Phillips Middle School, and Murphy High School, and was active in sports, and played the trumpet; still a hobby today.

After graduating high school, he married his high school sweetheart, Susan Binegar, from Grand Bay. Susan is also a small business owner in Mobile owning one of the largest children’s consignment businesses in Mobile, Wee-Exchange. She also operates a clothing store in Bel-Air Mall called, Little Monkey Toes, and is a realtor with Roberts Brothers Realty. He and Susan have three children; Will (wife: Jeanette (Brabston), Haven, and Ben, and one grandchild, William III.

The Hen is Comin’ Home to Roost

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Seven Days.  The 2014 Fiscal Year ends in seven days, and guess what?  Alabama’s economy is not booming.  In fact, surprise…it’s stagnant.

In June, we posted that the State was not experiencing the dynamic growth in tax revenue anticipated by some of our public policy leaders.  At that time, we praised Senator Pittman for his foresight (even though he was on the losing end of the battle) in taking the prudently fiscally responsible approach towards the education appropriations process and paying back the ETF debt to the Alabama Trust Fund.  (See:  http://www.alaforestrygovtaffairs.org/senator-pittman-was-correct-stagnant-economic-growth-will-challenge-repayment-of-etf-rainy-day-fund/).

He suspected then what we now know to be the case.  The mainstream media is also now beginning to take note.  (see:  Mike Cason’s article on al.com).

According to Cason’s report, the state’s education related receipts are up 1.6% or $83 million over last year.  Though the article doesn’t provide much depth, it does raise the question of how the legislature will repay the remaining $162 million due the Alabama Trust Fund (the amount still owed from the $437 million borrowed in 2009) in June 2015.  Even though receipts are up over last year, where are they in comparison to what the legislature used to prepare their budget?

With the institution of the Rolling Reserve Act, most year’s appropriation level will be limited by the cap imposed by the Act.  For FY14, however, the legislature did not think revenues would reach the cap, so they limited themselves to an estimate of what those actual revenues would be.  So what was that number?  Cason reports that the receipts to the ETF were “about what the Legislature projected when it passed the budget in 2013.”

If that’s the case, then there is no excess receipts over expenditures.  Right?

The FY14 ETF appropriation includes a $35 million absolute appropriation and a $65 million conditional appropriation for repayment to the Alabama Trust Fund.  A conditional appropriation only kicks in when there are receipts in excess of revenues.  So, it looks like only $35 million will be paid towards the debt at the expiration of the fiscal year in seven days.

That will then leave $127.6 million to pay by June 2015.  FY15’s ETF appropriations bill includes another $35 million, so when that is paid, it will still leave $92.6 million to be paid.

As noted in previous posts, the June 2015 repayment date is the challenge.  The legislature will convene in March next year and one of the first items they need to focus on will be the passage of a supplemental appropriations bill to address this repayment requirement.  This will be money that will come out of the “cap” imposed by the Rolling Reserve Act and thus not available for FY16 educational expenditures.

Get ready for the usual suspects to scream bloody murder about this payment, the “cap” and the Rolling Reserve Act itself.  There will be enormous pressure to ignore the Act’s requirements.

All the more reason to pass a bill to make the Rolling Reserve Act a part of our constitution.  AFA will be advocating just that in the coming legislative session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ForestPAC Endorsement- Senate District 1- Tim Melson

melsonThe Board of Directors of the Alabama Forestry Association’s political action committee, ForestPAC, has endorsed Tim Melson for the General Election in Senate District 1. This is a newly redrawn district, based on the 2010 census, that includes parts of Lauderdale, Limestone and Madison counties.

The district was formerly represented by Democrat Tammy Irons and represents one of the best opportunities for the Republicans to pick up a seat in the 2014 elections. Melson’s opponent is former Democrat member of the House of Representatives, Mike Curtis (2006-2009). Mike was beaten in 2010, as he ran for re-election to his House seat, by Republican Lynn Greer.

Tim Melson was born and raised in North Alabama. Growing up, Tim learned the values of hard work and perseverance — values that guided him through a career as an anesthesiologist for over 20 years.

After graduating from the University of North Alabama, Tim received his medical degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. After finishing school, Melson moved back to Florence where he began practicing as an anesthesiologist at Helen Keller Hospital.

Melson served as Chief of Anesthesia at Helen Keller Hospital from 1993-2008. Melson also served on the Board of Directors for the Florence Surgery Center from 1995-2008. In addition to his duties as owner of Shoals Medical Trials, Melson owns and operates a crop farm, owns 70 acres of timber, and is a hobbyist cattleman.

Tim believes strongly in personal property rights and limited government. His goals are to make sure that state government lives within its means, that entitlement spending is reformed, and that waste and duplication are minimized. By creating a pro-growth atmosphere and a quality education system, Tim believes that Alabama will be able to grow economically and recruit more jobs to North Alabama.

Tim and his wife Lynn have been married thirty-three years. They have three children and three grandchildren. The Melsons attend Wood Avenue Church of Christ.

Tim is a member of the Medical Association of Alabama, the American Society of Anesthesiology, and the National Rifle Association (NRA).

ForestPAC Endorsement- Senate District 22- Greg Albritton

albrittonThe Board of Directors of the Alabama Forestry Association’s political action committee, ForestPAC, has endorsed Greg Albritton for the General Election in Senate District 22. This is a huge district encompassing parts of Baldwin, Escambia, Monroe, Choctaw, Conecuh, Clarke and Washington Counties. Without question, this district is the epicenter of the timber industry in Alabama.

Thankfully, Greg gets it, and he knows the value of timber to his district.

Historically this has been a democratically controlled district having been previously represented by Marc Keahey (Grove Hill) and before him, Pat Lindsey (Butler). Greg, a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives, is running as a Republican and has opposition from Atmore city councilwoman, Susan Smith.

Greg was born and raised near Atmore and comes from a large family that includes five siblings, graduating high school in 1970. Greg has had a long history of service and support of the U.S. military. His father and four brothers all served honorably, as well as his son, daughter, and two of his son in laws. His own interest in serving began with participation in the Naval Junior ROTC in high school and enlistment in the Air Force, serving from 1973-77.

After his discharge, he served in the National Guard and Naval reserve, earning his commission as a Naval Officer in 1982. Lieutenant Albritton served as a Surface Warfare Officer aboard the USS Elmer Montgomery and the USS Wainwright. In 1987, Greg became one of the few Lieutenants (O-3) to serve as the commanding officer of the Mobile Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center from 1987 until 1990. He completed his military service as an active member of the Naval Reserves in 2005; retiring with over 30 years’ service to his country.

He also found time to further his education while in the military, earning his Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management from Weber State in 1981 and law degree from Jones Law School after his active duty service in 1995. After receiving his juris doctorate, he established a private law practice in Evergreen that is still providing legal services to the community.

He has served as the City of Evergreen Municipal Judge and as the attorney for the cities of Evergreen, Castleberry, Repton, and Excel. He also serves on the Range Fire Department Board. Beginning in late 2006 and lasting for most of the next 7 years, he played a major role in the defeat of a local area landfill proposed by a group of New York investors, which would have had a negative impact on the region and watershed.

He was Representative Albritton for District 64 from 2002-2006. Uncommon for a new legislator, Greg sponsored 35 bills and co-sponsored 181 bills, many of which resulted in acts passed.

Most importantly, Greg was one of the few legislators with the courage to vote against Bob Riley’s Amendment One.

AFA will be hosting a reception for Greg in Jackson, Alabama on next Tuesday, September 23rd beginning with refreshments at 6:00 pm and dinner to follow at 7:00 pm. This is a great opportunity for our folks to meet Greg and get to know him better. Contributions to his campaign are encouraged. Please click here for further information.

Please come and join us to welcome Greg and show him how important this district is to timberland owners.

The Big Bad Wolf is Lickin His Chops waiting for November 4th

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The Alabama Trust Fund is under attack….again.

SB260, passed during the 2013 Regular Legislative Session, has the best of motives. The legislation sets forth a constitutional amendment allowing the issuance of $50 million in bonds to rehabilitate the National Guard armories around the state. This $50 million will go directly to the Armory Commission of Alabama for its sole discretion on how it is doled out.

The additional debt will be issued through the Bond Commission set up with the passage of Amendment 666 (and later Amendments 796, 856 and 880) which currently has a bonded authority of $750 million (which is mostly tapped out already in the name of economic development- more on this at a later date). So the authorized debt limit will now increase to $800 million with the passage of this constitutional amendment.

Let’s have a quick history lesson regarding the Alabama Trust Fund….

In the beginning, in 1978, Governor Fob James instituted one of the three most important fiscally responsible measures in this state’s history. Natural gas was discovered in off-shore Alabama waters and the state was due a windfall of lease proceeds and royalty payments on the production of the natural gas.

Governor James, rather than allowing the legislature to spend it like drunken sailors (note- see Louisiana- their money is all gone), instead formed the Heritage Trust Fund which later became the Alabama Trust Fund to protect this money in perpetuity. The plan was for 100% of the natural gas lease and royalty payments (revenue) to go into the Alabama Trust Fund and 90% of the income off the Fund went to support the General Fund (10% of the income went back into the corpus (as revenue) of the Fund to promote additional savings).

But whoa Nellie! This was way too much money and the temptation to spend it became too much. Soon, we adopted the Forever Wild program. That took the 10% of the revenue going back to the Trust Fund. Next came the cities and counties (10% each) and then another 1% went to Senior Services. Now, the general fund was only getting 69% of the income from the Trust Fund.

Next, the legislature noticed they were getting less in the general fund (Hmmm….). So they tried to increase the income coming out of the Fund…by changing the definition. They wanted to include capital gains in the definition of income, thus being allowed to suck more out of the Trust Fund.

Then Attorney General Charlie Graddick nipped that effort in the bud. He issued an opinion that said trust law was well settled and that capital gains inure to the benefit of the corpus (or the principal beneficiary as opposed to the income beneficiary).

So the legislature said “Dang, what do we do now?”

Then, in 2001, along comes Don Siegleman and his gang. They duped us into the passage of Amendment 666 that, frankly, began the desecration of the Trust Fund and all of Governor James’ best efforts.

Amendment 666 set forth authority to pass $250 million in new bonds for road construction, capital projects and economic development. The payment for the bonds would come from diverting 28% of the oil and gas payments (revenue) from the Trust Fund. Bad enough…but Amendment 666 also provided a new definition of income (the amount that can be drawn from the Fund annually) to include ordinary income, capital gains and unrealized capital gains.

At this point, only 72% of the oil and gas payments (revenue) were now going as originally intended.

In 2007, Amendment 796 expanded the debt limit from $250 million to $750 million. Wow!

In 2010, we passed Amendment 856 that allowed for another raid of the Alabama Trust Fund to the tune of $145.8 million per year for a period of 3 years ($437.4 total) with no payback provision. After we screamed bloody murder, they did pass a statute during the next legislative session to payback the Trust over a period of 12 years.

Not necessarily on point with this discussion, but just so you know, the first installment on repayment is $5 million and is due on September 30th of this year. The second installment of $15 million is due on September 30th, 2015. The second installment was included in the FY15 appropriation bill as a “conditional” appropriation. (We will address more on that issue at a later date).

Perhaps far worse than the 2010 raid (because we might get that paid back), Amendment 856 also once again provided a new definition of “income” out of the Fund which now provided a formula that is the sum of 33% of the oil and gas payments (used to be revenue) plus 5% of the average value of the assets in the Trust. Because this is now diverting money from going into the Trust corpus, the cities and counties insisted on getting 7% of the oil and gas payments (further diverting revenue) because the Trust wouldn’t be as large as it would have been and their 10% cuts on the back end (out of the income) would have been diminished.

Are you following all this? At this point, only 32% of the oil and gas payments (revenue) are going into the Trust as originally intended and we have a leak the size of the Mississippi River on what’s coming out (income). Poor Governor James…he must be going nuts…..

In 2012, we passed yet another constitutional amendment (Amendment 880) which allows the bond debt of $750 million to survive in perpetuity!

So what happens if the bond payment stream exceeds the 28% oil and gas payment stream? You guessed it, the General Fund has to pay the difference (and we are already seeing that).

So, fast forward to November 4th. Another constitutional amendment (which will be on the ballot as Amendment Two). Another raid on the Trust Fund.

This time, if the additional $50 million (added to the existing bond authority of $750 million) does not have adequate debt service from the 28% of the oil and gas payments (and we don’t already), then who pays for it?

The General Fund? Nope.

The constitutional amendment allows them to take even more oil and gas payment money to make up the difference. These are set up to be 20 year bonds, which are estimated to require $3.7 million to repay annually. In FY13, we only received $83 million total in oil and gas payments, so the amount actually going into the Trust corpus is now down to approximately $26.5 million. The proposed debt service of $3.7 million is going to remove another 15% of all that we have left going in (revenue).

If this passes, we would have over time reduced the amount going in from 100% down to approximately 27% of the oil and gas payments (revenue).

So there you have it. Notwithstanding the best of intentions, we certainly support our Guardsmen, we are well on our way to putting the final touches on killing the goose that is laying the golden egg and protecting our future…..The Big Bad Wolf can’t wait until November 4th.

Stay tuned….

 

Sunburn Classic Update- Why is it called Golf?

Because all the other four letter expletives were already taken….

2014 golf logo qith words

Well, we are five short days until the start of the Sunburn Classic.  This year’s tournament is set for Monday, September 8th with a 1:00 pm  CST shotgun start.  This year, we will be at the Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club in Gulf Shores (see- www.peninsulagolfclub.com).

There are still spots available to join in the competition.  Let’s see….spending an afternoon in the office or spending the afternoon on the golf course at the beach?  Hmmm…..

Where else, or should I ask, what other tournament have you played in that has the opportunity to win a $140,000 Kenworth Tractor for a hole-in-one?  What tournament has a second chance to win a Nissan Titan Pickup?  None…but the Sunburn Classic.

There are also great prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd low net teams, 1st gross team, long drive and closest to the pin.

Box lunches are provided at the clubhouse and refreshments will be available all over the course.  This year, the Fairhope Brewing Company will be providing their craft beers at one of the holes so that should be entertaining.  Rumor has it that some specialty sausages will be grillin at another location.

Fellowship is the word of the day when the Sunburn Classic rolls into town.  Culminating with our unique trophy award ceremony, the reputation for a good time at this event is spreading each year.  “Come join us….you can be a winner too”