E.A. Sports Today

‘Dream Team’ leads County Two-Man

UPDATED: Wigington, Cole lead season’s first event by 2 after opening round

Eric Cannington (L) and Benji Turley (R) share a moment with Cane Creek pro Kenny Szuch before putting on the 18th green Saturday.

Eric Cannington (L) and Benji Turley (R) share a moment with Cane Creek pro Kenny Szuch before putting on the 18th green Saturday.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

As soon as the field started going up in the pro shop for the Calhoun County Two-Man Championship it was easy to spot the favorites.

Gary Wigington and Ty Cole may not have been at their collective best Saturday, but they were still better than the rest.

The Nos. 1 and 2 players on last year’s Calhoun County Golf Tour points list who have a knack for winning at Cane Creek Golf Course made eight straight birdies in the middle of their round and shot 11-under-par 61 to grab the opening-round lead.

Cole’s birdie on No. 9, the team’s final hole of the day, gave the favorites a two-shot lead over Benji Turley and Eric Cannington, with whom they’ll be paired Sunday. Jaylon Ellison and P.J. Shields were another shot back. Four other teams are tied at 66.

It’s not hard to consider Wigington and Cole as a Dream Team. Both hit it long and play sharp irons. Besides leading the County Tour a year ago, Cole won both Cane Creek events in 2013 and Wigington, the three-time reigning County Player of the Year, won four of the last five County Championships there.

“It is a heck of a combination,” Wigington agreed. “If he and I are playing pretty good we’re going to be real tough to beat. We’ll play a lot together in the future.”

Just don’t look for it in the Sunny King Charity Classic. Wigington recently received a text from 2014 partner Freeman Fite asking if they were playing. Cole is committed to Matt Rogers.

Turley knew from the start this team was trouble.

“When we saw they were playing together we looked at each other and said, ‘Well, there’s your winner,'” Turley said. “It’s gonna be hard to beat them, I don’t care who comes in there.”

But it was a streaky day for the leaders.

They started in The Hollow and birdied only one of the four holes over there. They both missed 10-footers on their first two holes before feeling like they stole one on the par-3 12th. They birdied three of the four par-3s.

They came back across the road and birdied eight holes in a row to take the outright lead.

“He hit a bunch of good shots, I hit a bunch of good shots, but they were timely,” Cole said, noting he was playing only his fifth round since last year’s County Championship in August. “It wasn’t Ty and Twig in July or August, it was Ty and Twig scrambling around trying to get it into the house.”

Still, Ty and Twig most any time of the year is better than most.

They didn’t pull away from the field, though, as they had only two birdies over their final six holes. But one of them was Cole’s birdie on No. 9 that doubled their lead.

“The birdie putt on 9 was huge just to not lose the momentum we had carried in,” Cole said. “Any time you can double your lead it’s big. There are just too many good teams down here every year, day in, day out, it doesn’t matter if it’s March or August.”

Wigington and Cole only got together as partners about a month ago. Turley and Cannington aren’t quite that new as a team — they started playing together in last year’s Buddy Moore Tournament in August — but the partnership was so comfortable (they finished second) they’ve decided to stick with it all this season. They plan to partner in the Sunny King Charity Classic.

“We’ve been practicing all winter together for this,” Turley said. “Every weekend we’ve played together.”

On Saturday the partners birdied three of their first four holes and five of their first seven. They were 8-under coming off 18 green with four holes to play, but birdied only their final hole.

“Right now we’re trying to find out where we stand as a team and what we need to do as a team to get better to compete with the guys who are winning,” Cannington said.

Ellison and Shields were coming off their second straight win in the Rattlesnake Roundup in Opp last weekend and got off to a great start Saturday. They birdied each of their first four holes, with Shields making 12-foot putts on all of them.

But they didn’t get the par-5 fifth despite having 235 yards into the green and birdied only one of the next eight holes. They did birdie the par-5 18th to finish.

“We got off to a real good start, hit it well and made a few putts right out of the gate and then kind of hit a wall,” Ellison said. “After 5 we really didn’t hit it any different, we just didn’t make any putts. Not a putt.”

Of the teams that shooting 66, Calkins and Howell birdied five of their last seven holes on the back nine (four of their last five); Chandler and Janson Wilborn bogeyed their first two holes of the day and played the last 16 in 8-under; Jeremy McGatha and last-minute partner Grant Hockman birdied four of their first five holes on the back nine; and Josh Poole and Vernon Marcoullier shot bogey-free 33s on each side.

On the cover: Gary Wigington (L) and Ty Cole pull away from the No. 4 tee where at the time they had a share of the lead.

Calhoun County Two-Man Championship
At Cane Creek GC

Championship flight
Gary Wigington-Ty Cole 31-30—61
Benji Turley-Eric Cannington 32-31—63
Jaylon Ellison-P.J. Shields 31-33—64
Jeremy McGatha-Grant Hockman 34-32—66
Clay Calkins-Chip Howell 35-31—66
Vernon Marcoullier-Josh Poole 33-33—66
Chandler Wilborn-Janson Wilborn 31-35—66

First flight
Nick Pollard-Daniel Black 35-32—67
George Salmon-Lee Waldron 35-32—67
Kenny Wright-Adrian Geeting 35-32—67
Caleb McKinney-Landon Straub 35-33—68
Sam Sanders-Ted Heim 34-34—68
Luke Armstrong-Dane Moore 34-34—68
Dan McClellan-Dan Griffin 35-33—68
Chuck Woodard-Tim Steward 35-34—69
Jake Goggans-Rob Davie 33-36—69

Second flight
Brad Hardin-Richard Hughes 33-37—70
Timmy Woodard-Billy Thompson 36-34—70
Shane Chappell-Matt Miller 35-35—70
Austin Minter-Will Brown 35-35—70
Andrew Brooks-Steve Akers 36-35—71
Jimmy Jackson-Tim Frederick 35-36—71
Sean Hayes-Vince Floyd 35-37—72
Randy Carroll-Jackson Johnson 36-37—73

Third flight
Michael Ray-Terry Cobb 37-37—74
Rick Dickson-John McKenzie 36-40—76
Clay Cunningham-Tyler Teneyck 40-40—80

Sunday’s tee assignments
10 a.m. shotgun start

Hole 1 — Gary Wigington-Ty Cole, Benji Turley-Eric Cannington.
Hole 2 — Jaylon Ellison-P.J. Shields, Jeremy McGatha-Grant Hockman.
Hole 4 — Clay Calkins-Chip Howell, Vernon Marcoullier-Josh Poole.
Hole 5 — Chandler Wilborn-Janson Wilborn, George Salmon-Lee Waldron.
Hole 7 — Kenny Wright-Adrian Geeting, Dan McClellan-Dan Griffin.
Hole 8 — Nick Pollard-Daniel Black, Sam Sanders-Ted Heim.
Hole 10 – Luke Armstrong-Dane Moore, Caleb McKinney-Landon Straub.
Hole 11 — Chuck Woodard-Tim Steward, Jake Goggans-Rob Davie.
Hole 13 — Brad Hardin-Richard Hughes, Timmy Woodard-Billy Thompson.
Hole 14 — Shane Chappell-Matt Miller, Austin Minter-Will Brown.
Hole 16 — Andrew Brooks-Steve Akers, Jimmy Jackson-Tim Frederick.
Hole 17 — Sean Hayes-Vince Floyd, Randy Carroll-Jackson Johnson
Hole 18 — Michael Ray-Terry Cobb, Rick Dickson-John McKenzie, Clay Cunningham-Tyler Teneyck.

Gary Wigington (L) is presented his third straight Calhoun County Player of the Year award by the CCGT's Jeremy McGatha.

Gary Wigington (L) is presented his third straight Calhoun County Player of the Year award by the CCGT’s Jeremy McGatha.

Andrew Brooks (R) displays his Match Play Championship and statistical champion trophies after they were presented  by the CCGT's Jeremy McGatha.

Andrew Brooks (R) displays his Match Play Championship and statistical champion trophies after they were presented by the CCGT’s Jeremy McGatha.

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