E.A. Sports Today

Familiar faces lead King of the Hill

FINAL: Wigington, Cole shoot 69, share one-shot opening-round lead

Andrew Brooks rechecks the line for his par putt on his 14th hole in the opening round of the King of the Hill at Anniston Municipal GC.

Andrew Brooks rechecks the line for his par putt on his 14th hole in the opening round of the King of the Hill at Anniston Municipal GC.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The bar for players on the Calhoun County Golf Tour once again is set high.

The top two players in last year’s Tour points standings are the top two players on the leaderboard after the first round of the first event of this season.

Gary Wigington and Ty Cole both shot 1-under-par 69s Saturday and shared a one-shot lead after the opening round of the King of the Hill tournament at Anniston Municipal Golf Course.

Caleb McKinney and Lance Evans both shot even-par 70 on the chilly day that impacted everyone’s game. Adrian Geeting and Andrew Brooks are another shot back after posting 71s.

“Here we go again,” Cole said. “If you’re going to play in this little Tour deal, the Tour deal runs through Twig.

“If you don’t beat Twig you’re not going to win, for the last few years anyway. … There’s a bunch of good players, but for the last few years if you don’t beat Twig you don’t win.

“I love playing with him. That’s one of the reasons I come down here, to play against good players. You gotta beat him.”

Cole played his first 15 holes even par, but made a long birdie putt on 18 after hitting a poor chip into the green, then followed it with a birdie on No. 1 to get into red numbers. With his length, birdies on the two par-5s were almost a given.

“Actually early in the round I hit really good,” Cole said. “I hit it close and couldn’t make any putts, then as the day went on I hit it worse but putted better. It was just one of those days. … To be where I’m at without making a bunch of birdies, I’m tickled to death.”

Wigington, meanwhile, described his day as “pretty solid,” but the round as “pretty nonchalant.” He had three birdies, including one on 18 — his next-to-last hole of the day — that got him under par, but also made what he called “bad bogeys” on 9 and 10 and failed to birdie the par-5 No. 1 to finish.

“It was a pretty solid day, other than that, just didn’t ever do anything good,” he said. “Just made some birdies on holes you should make birdies on. It was just a pretty nonchalant round.”

The shot of the day belonged to Janson Wilborn. He aced the par-3 second hole — and followed it with an eagle on No. 3.

He used a 6-iron on the 157-yard ace and figured the ball ran past the pin and rolled back into the front-tiered cup. It was his second career hole-in-one, and he followed it with a 30-foot eagle on the next hole.

“It was just a good shot,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever gone eagle-eagle before.”

It was the fourth ace recorded in a CCGT event and first since Dalton Chandler aced The Hill’s second hole in the second round of this tournament in 2011. Wilborn was in the group as a witness.

McKINNEY ON TRACK: Caleb McKinney might not be eligible yet for the Miles College golf team, but he’s keeping his game sharp for when he does get to play.

McKinney shot an even-par 70 Saturday to sit one shot behind the co-leaders. It’s all part of his plan to be ready next fall.

“I just want to stay in competitive golf,” he said. “I’ve got a little schedule drawn up this summer that involves some tournaments in Birmingham with some college players and some other things.

“It’s really important (to stay sharp). The guys are getting to play those courses I’m not getting to play and they’re getting out there and playing a lot. I need to do the same thing so I can keep up with them so I’m still on the same pace I was on or even better. I know coach has some good players coming in; I just want to hold my spot. I’ve got to keep up.”

The 19-year-old freshman said he struck the ball “OK,” but was really pleased with his putting. He made a 30-footer for par on his first hole of the day to indicate the flat stick was going to be sharp. It let him down on a three-putt late in the round, but beyond that, he said, “I putted my eyes off.”

“That was the big thing,” he said. “I didn’t hit the ball as well as I wanted to; I hit my driver well in spots, but other spots I missed it. I feel like if I hit my driver a little more consistent (Sunday) and get my wedges going a little better it could be a good day.”

PATE POSITIVE: Jonathan Pate doesn’t get to play every Calhoun County Golf Tour event, but when he does, he tries to make the most of it.

Pate went out in the early wave Saturday and shot 2-over-par 72. He would’ve been even-par and the clubhouse leader if his putter hadn’t failed him late in the round.

Pate’s opportunities to play on the County Tour are limited by his responsibilities preaching at two campuses of the Life Worship Center. He hopes to play “three or four” events this year.

“Golf is a big-time stress reliever for me; I love it,” he said. “Most of my golf I walk early in the mornings; I usually pray and worship and walk. … I just enjoy it. It’s fun.”

Pastor Pate played in three CCGT events a year ago posting two Top-15 finishes. If he had played enough rounds to qualify he would’ve ranked in the top 20 in stroke average, eighth in greens and sixth in par-5 scoring.

He was even par with three holes to play Saturday and was laying just off the third green in two shots, but left the hole with a bogey and then bogeyed the par-3 fourth. His five birdies on the day tied for the most in the first round.

“I still played OK,” he said. “I didn’t hit many greens, but I made some putts. I just fell apart at the end.”

Brooks, meanwhile, made his only birdie of the day on 18 to lead the morning wave. He hit 12 greens, but had 31 putts.

“I couldn’t throw it in the ocean from the beach,” he said. “I hit the ball good enough to play really well, just didn’t putt it well. Maybe there was a little more pressure (coming in as Match Play champion), but I just tried to play my game. Like I said, I hit it good; I just couldn’t get it in the hole.”

Landon Straub didn’t have that problem. Playing with Pate – and sometimes in short sleeves on this cold morning – Straub had one of the best putting rounds in Tour history. He had 22, one off the record shared by Jaylon Ellison (2012 County) and Billy Thompson (2014 Pine Hill). Straub had 11 putts on each side.

“I wish I was hitting greens,” he said. “If it was a par putt (the stroke) was on; if it was a birdie it wasn’t.”

Caleb McKinney watches his drive fly down the fairway at Anniston Municipal Saturday.

Caleb McKinney watches his drive fly down the fairway at Anniston Municipal Saturday.

Anniston Municipal GC
First-round scores

Championship A
Gary Wigington 34-35—69
Ty Cole 34-35—69
Caleb McKinney 36-34—70
Lance Evans 35-35—70
Adrian Geeting 35-36—71
Andrew Brooks 36-35—71
Jonathan Pate 38-34—72
Jeremy McGatha 37-35—72
Billy Thompson 36-37—73
Rob Davie 38-35—73

Championship B
George Salmon 36-38—74
Landon Straub 40-34—74
TJ McGatha 39-35—74
Scott Eaton 35-39—74
Tim Steward 37-37—74
Jake Goggans 38-36—74
Eric Cannington 38-36—74
Nick Pollard 37-37—74
Austin Minter 37-37—74
Cole McNeal 38-36—74

First flight
Benji Turley 39-36—75
Jacob Lecroy 41-34—75
Daniel Black 38-37—75
Ott Chandler 37-38—75
Janson Wilborn 37-39—76
Chandler Wilborn 37-39—76
Dan Griffin 41-35—76
Matt Rogers 41-35—76
Jeff Borrelli 38-38—76

Second flight
Jimbo Phillips 39-38—77
Dalton Chandler 39-39—78
Brandon Roberts 45-33—78
Josh Poole 39-39—78
Ted Heim 39-39—78
Bruce Collins 38-42—80
Jamie Strickland 43-37—80
Dan McClellan 40-40—80

Third flight
Kelly Rogers 42-39—81
Brad Hardin 44-38—82
Lynn Oswalt 41-41—82
Keith Raisanen 44-39—83
Davis Glass 41-44—85

Sunday’s 1 p.m. shotgun

Hole 1A: Geeting, Brooks, Pate, J. McGatha
Hole 1B: Wigington, Cole, McKinney, Evans
Hole 2: Thompson, Davie, Steward, Cannington
Hole 3: Salmon, Straub, T.J. McGatha, Eaton
Hole 4: Goggans, Pollard, Minter, McNeal
Hole 5: Turley, Lecroy, Black, O. Chandler
Hole 6: J. Wilborn, C. Wilborn, Griffin, M. Rogers, Borrelli
Hole 7: Phillips, D. Chandler, Roberts, Poole
Hole 8: Heim, Collins, Strickland, McClellan
Hole 9: K. Rogers, Hardin, Oswalt, Raisanen, Glass

Landon Straub braves the early-morning cold in short sleeves. On the cover, Jonathan Pate prepares to pull a club on the fourth tee.

Landon Straub braves the early-morning cold in short sleeves. On the cover, Jonathan Pate prepares to pull a club on the fourth tee.

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