Chipping in for the Warhorses

Tradition of the Warhorse Classic continues

Fred McCormick

There will be an auction, some sunburn and delicious barbecue with plenty of Warhorse pride on display Friday, July 15, at the Black Mountain Golf Course.

Super Bowl champion quarterback, and former Owen star, Brad Johnson grabs some barbecue near the clubhouse during the 2014 Warhorse Classic.

And as it has for the last 30 years, the Warhorse Classic, hosted by the Black Mountain Men's Golf Association, will bring generations of former Owen High School football players together.

"You've got a lot of older Warhorses that have been playing in that thing for 20-plus years," said Nathan Padgett, entering his second year as head coach of the Owen team. "You even have guys that played coming in from out of town, and this will be the only tournament they play in. We're really fortunate to have the association support our program like this."

The tournament dates back to the end of former Warhorse coach Kenny Ford's first season on the sidelines. And Padgett wants Ford to be involved "as long as he's willing to do it for us."

Kenny Ford will focus his attention on organizing the Warhorse Classic this year.

Ford is proud to keep the tradition alive.

"You don't see a lot of golf tournaments go for 30 years," Ford said. "But this one is still popular."

Ford's goal is to have around 25 teams signed up this year. And many of those people will be familiar to one another.

"This tournament is really a good way to catch up with your buddies," he said. "A lot of former players and a lot of people that have always contributed to the program, like working on the chain gang, and former athletes from other sports, show up."

Lunch is provided with the entry fee ($100 per person or $400 per team) and play begins at noon with a shotgun start. And then golf balls and memories start to fly.

"It's a lot of people that have grown up together," Ford said. "There are a lot of folks playing in the tournament that are kids that I've coached or guys that I played with, and there are guys playing that I grew up watching and admiring."

One of those guys that played for Ford is Padgett, who holds a unique perspective as a former player and current head coach.

"It was a little overwhelming last year because I got to see so many people that I hadn't seen in a long time," Padgett said. "It is a little surreal when you think about it. Sometimes I still feel like I'm living in a dream world. You hear that saying 'Once a Warhorse, always a Warhorse,' and there's a lot of truth to that. There's a special bond between us."

And the nostalgia that results from getting together for the tournament is fueled by barbecue when play ends.

"That cookout on the 10th hole is one of the most special things about the tournament," Ford said. "I know that's a treat to a lot of the people."

Mayor Mike Sobol and Mike Raines typically run the grill throughout the day, preparing for dinner for those in attendance.

"Mike Sobol won't be able to make it this year," Ford said. "But Mike Raines and the guys will be there."

After dinner, winners are announced and cash prizes are awarded. Last year, Greg Parker played with a team from Appalachian Tool, and he "won it by himself," according to Ford.

"He just qualified for the U.S. Senior Open," Ford said. "I was his golf coach at McDowell. Him qualifying for the Senior Open is a big thing."

And what Padgett recalls the winning group donating their earnings right back to the Warhorses, a gracious gesture in the spirit of the tournament.

An auction will be held following dinner to help raise additional funds for the team, another tradition that will remain unchanged.

"There will be some great stuff there," Padgett said. "A lot of people are helping support the team."