E.A. Sports Today

‘Twig’ on track at Pine Hill

Ott Chandler watches his putt roll toward the cup on the 16th green Saturday at Pine Hill CC.

Ott Chandler watches his putt roll toward the cup on the 16th green Saturday at Pine Hill CC.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

CHOCCOLOCCO — If Gary Wigington wants to win an unprecedented third straight Calhoun County Player of the Year crown this season, he knows exactly what he must do – and it’s a tall order.

The way he figures, he has win the last two tournaments on the schedule – this week and the County Championship — or at least be the top finisher among all Calhoun County Golf Tour players in the field.

He’s off to a good start. Wigington shot a 7-under-par 65 Saturday and opened a three-shot lead after the opening round of the Pine Hill CC Invitational.

“I was telling somebody today I’ve got to win the last two to have a shot, I think,” he said after signing for one of the lowest rounds in County Tour history. “I worked hard the Sunny King week and worked hard since. I know basically my only shot is if I win the last two, so that’s what my focus has been on and hopefully I’ll be able to play good tomorrow and finish it out.”

Wigington entered the weekend fifth in the Tour points standings, 277.5 points behind leader Ty Cole (207.5 behind adjusted for their top four finishes). The first half of the year was a slow go – a sixth, seventh and T-18 – but in the last two events he finished second at Cane Creek and T-3 at Silver Lakes.

“I’ve been working harder to try to get the game together for the last few tournaments because I hadn’t played any good up to now,” he said. “Your goal when you start is to try to win Player of the Year, but I got myself so far behind I’ve been working real hard trying to get caught back up.”

He took advantage of the short course Saturday, tying his season high with nine fairways and hitting a season-high 15 greens. The 65 tied his best-ever round on the County Tour and was only his second this Tour season in the 60s (69 in second round at Cane Creek). His eight birdies were a season high and his 26 putts marked the third time in his last four rounds he had 26 or fewer putts.

He was so on that at one point in the middle of the round he made four birdies in a row (5, 6, 7, 8) and six in a seven-hole stretch (adding 10 and 11).

“On 12 we were trying to figure a way to get him a 59,” playing partner Adrian Geeting said.

“He was on the fringe on so many (greens),” added Jonathan Pate.

And he could have taken it even deeper. He left three putts short on line, bogeyed No. 13 and lipped out an 18-inch putt trying to take the break out.

“It was going good early, no doubt,” he said. “With it being as short as it is, there are a lot of opportunities out there – more than any other course we play in this Tour. If you hit driver good and straight, which I did today, probably the best in a while, there are opportunities. It was a good number, but it could’ve been a real good number.”

Wigington’s closest pursuers to start Championship Sunday are Jeremy McGatha, Matt Rogers and Jaylon Ellison. Three others – Jeff Bain, Billy Thompson and Ott Chandler – are another shot back after 69s.

McGatha went out in 32 behind four birdies in six holes midway through the front nine. Ellison birdied three of his last four to climb into second. Rogers went out in 33 and birdied 17 and 18 coming home.

“I felt like I had to do that because I figured somebody would at least be 5 (under) or better,” Rogers said. “I was just trying to keep up with Jeremy, but that’s hard sometimes.”

There were six eagles in the round – Ty Cole, Austin Minter, Jonathan Pate, Lewis Lecroy, Eric Cannington and Nick Pollard.

Al Muskewitz is Content Editor/Senior Writer for East Alabama Sports Today. He can be reached at musky@wrightmediacorp.com and followed on Twitter @easportstoday1.

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