E.A. Sports Today

McGatha grabs ACC lead

[corner-ad id=2]McGatha makes two eagles to open 3-shot lead, but disappointed with finish

Jeremy McGatha contemplates his second shot in the 11th fairway Saturday after making eagle on the par-4 10th hole.

Jeremy McGatha contemplates his second shot in the 11th fairway Saturday after making eagle on the par-4 10th hole.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

What used to come so easy for Jeremy McGatha suddenly is something that has become so difficult.

It used to be common to find McGatha lurking at or near the top of every leaderboard and he was comfortable on Championship Sunday, but it’s not so easy for the 38-year-old former Player of the Year any more.

McGatha made two eagles and shot 4-under-par 66 Saturday to grab the lead after two rounds in the Wilfred Galbraith Invitational at Anniston Country Club.

It should have been reason to celebrate, but McGatha couldn’t fully embrace it because he knew the round and the lead could have been so much deeper if he could only find a way to live with prosperity.

He played well enough to entertain thoughts of the course record and was 6-under for the day through 17. He came to 18 with a five-shot lead that would have made Sunday so much more leisurely, then made a closing double bogey that soured the whole day.

“For me right now … it’s mental,” he said. “My mental game, it’s like a self-destruction waiting to happen. Why do I always have to make it so hard?

“Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night and you can’t go back to sleep because you think about what can I do to make it easier on myself.

“It’s so weird. I’m not going to say it used to be so easy, but it just came easier. … Now I think I put too much unnecessary pressure on myself and I make it so hard.”

Still, he goes into Sunday’s final round with a three-shot lead over Ty Cole and first-round co-leader Freeman Fite at 4-under 136. Dalton Chandler tied McGatha for the best round of the day and pulled into sole possession of fourth place.

Curiously, McGatha was feeling good about the physical shape of his game. He had been working hard to reduce the signature loop at the top of his swing and felt in total control of his ball flight.

Then he got to 18 and blocked his drive off the tee. He punched his second shot under the trees and into the greenside bunker, fatted it out and three-putted from the collar.

“If I just par there I have a better taste,” he said. “Last year I won (King of the Hill) for the first time in two years and I thought it’d come easier and it seems harder. I don’t know why it’s that way. I don’t know if it’s coming with age, what I’m working on with in my swing or what.

“Tomorrow, the way I’m feeling about myself right now … I’ve got to get my mental self-destruction attitude out to have a chance.”

As for his closest pursuers, Fite signed for a 70 that could best be summed up by the way he played 18 in a birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey finish. When he got to the home hole, he hit a good drive and got a bad bounce. He lost his focus on his second shot and hit “the exact wrong shot” that caught a pine and luckily stopped short of the hazard. He wound up making 5.

“These have been the worst two days mentally I can remember,” Fite said. “I’m letting the little stuff bother me, doing stupid stuff. If you’d have told me I’d be 3-under-par on the front nine, I’d have told you I’d have been at least a minimum of 7 (under) for the tournament.”

Cole made back-to-back birdies on 3 and 4 and turned in 1-under, then suffered three straight three-putts from the fringe to open the back nine. He got it back to red numbers with birdies at 13 and 17.

“The way I played for two days I’m tickled to death to be in the last group with a shot,” Cole said. “Watching Jeremy play today, he’s rolling right along. He’s making putt after putt after putt. Even with a couple hiccups he’e still playing good.”

Chandler, meanwhile, credited his rise up the leaderboard to solid ball striking.

“I hit it today better than I have in a long time,” he said. “Four (under) was about the worst I could have shot today. It felt good to play as good as I did after playing so bad yesterday.”

McGatha eagled 3 and 10, driving the green on both par-4s. The tournament committee decided to let the field have some fun and moved tees up on 10, 12 and 16, but it’s not like the players lit it up with the shorter holes.

The par-4 10th was played from the 16th tee box to make players think about challenging the 250-yard carry over the pond to the green. It yielded McGatha’s second eagle and six birdies among the 30 championship flight players and played to a stroke average of 4.03.

“You’re going to layup either way,” said first-round co-leader Cypress Hathorn, who attacked it with driver and found the pond. “It gives you another option.”

Even McGatha debated for a long time hitting 6-iron, then went with the driver. He made the green on the right side and sank a 20-foot putt.

Moving the 10th forward forced the par-3 16th hole to be played at 120 yards. It yielded only two birdies to the championship flight players (for a 3.47 stroke average) and a hole-in-one in the players flights. The par-3 12th also was moved forward, but it yielded only one birdie and a 3.13 stroke average.

The plan Sunday is to return the tees on 10 and 16 to more traditional placements. The tee on 12 will be backed up to the tips for the championship flight and 9 will be played off the No. 5 tee box.

The shot of the day belonged to Janson Wilborn. Playing in a players flight, Wilborn aced the par-3 16th with a pitching wedge. It was his third hole-in-one ever and his second on the Calhoun County Golf Tour this year. He also scored a hole-in-one in the King of the Hill at Anniston Municipal.

“I’ve probably been playing my worst golf and I’ve had two aces,” he said. “Because it was an uphill shot, we couldn’t see it go in. It was tracking. We thought it was either a slam dunk or hit the bottom of the pin and rolled down. I expected it to hit the pin and go off the green I’ve been playing so bad.”

Two months from now, an ace there probably would get him a big discount on a car as a prize in the Sunny King Charity Classic.

“Just a little too early; I should save it,” he said.

That's me! Janson Wilborn points to the sign that recognizes his hole-in-one on 16 Saturday. It was his second ace in a Calhoun County Golf Tour event this season.

That’s me! Janson Wilborn points to the sign that recognizes his hole-in-one on 16 Saturday. It was his second ace in a Calhoun County Golf Tour event this season.

Wilfred Galbraith ACC Invitational

Championship flight A
Jeremy McGatha 70-66—136
Ty Cole 70-69—139
Freeman Fite 69-70—139
Dalton Chandler 74-66—140
Gary Wigington 71-70—141
Seth Bryan 70-71—141
Ott Chandler 71-73—144
Cypress Hathorn 69-75—144
Cole McNeal 77-68—145

Championship flight B
Rob Davie 72-74—146
Adam Sanders 75-72—147
Jonathan Pate 75-73—148
David Sanders 74-74—148
Chad Calvert 78-71—149
Adrian Geeting 74-76—150
Dan McClellan 70-80—150
Lance Evans 75-76—151
Kenneth Patterson 76-75—151
Caleb McKinney 76-75—151
Grant Hockman 78-73—151
Richard Douglas 71-77—WD

Championship flight C
Chandler Wilborn 72-81—153
Brian Woodfin 71-82—153
Ryan Huff 76-77—153
Chad Reavis 76-78—154
Chris Weaver 75-79—154
Jace Gordon 75-80—155
Billy Thompson 77-78—155
Chase Thomas 78-78—156
Dan Griffin 76-83—159

Players Flight A
Timmy Woodard 72
Daniel Black 73
Hunter Brown 73
Chris Cox 75
Jacob Lecroy 76
Matt Rogers 76
Caleb Bowen 76
John Tucker 76
Allen Mangham 76
Michael Wiedmer 77
Ryan Abernathy 78
David Beard 78
Danny Smith 78
Austin Minter 78

Players Flight B
Mike Douglas 79
Brian Howell 79
Michael Marbut 79
Ian Evans 80
Landon Straub 81
Ryan Jones 81
Janson Wilborn 82
Keith Raisanen 83
Jeff Hansek 83
John Lindsey 83
Gordon Stewart 83
Eric Stringer 83

Players Flight C
Dale Burgess 85
Steve Taylor 85
Bob Kennamer 86
Don Whitlow 86
Michael Hudson 87
Kelly Rogers 88
Heath Waldrop 88
Ken Howell 89
Wes Couch 89
Jimmy Jackson 92
Greg Rainey 93
Luke Armstrong WD

Sunday tee times

8:30 a.m. – Greg Rainey, Heath Waldrop, Jimmy Jackson.
8:40 – Wes Couch, Ken Howell, Kelly Rogers, Michael Hudson.
8:50 – Don Whitlow, Bob Kennamer, Steve Taylor, Dale Burgess.
9:20 – Eric Stringer, Gordon Stewart, John Lindsey, Jeff Hansek.
9:30 – Keith Raisanen, Janson Wilborn, Ryan Jones, Landon Straub.
9:40 – Ian Evans, Michael Marbut, Brian Howell, Mike Douglas.
10:10 – Austin Minter, David Beard, Danny Smith,
10:20 – Ryan Abernathy, Michael Wiedmer, Allen Mangham.
10:30 – John Tucker, Caleb Bowen, Matt Rogers, Jacob Lecroy.
10:40 – Chris Cox, Hunter Brown, Daniel Black, Timmy Woodard.
11:30 — Billy Thompson, Chase Thomas, Dan Griffin.
11:40 — Chris Weaver, Chad Reavis, Jace Gordon.
11:50 — Brian Woodfin, Chandler Wilborn, Ryan Huff.
12:20 p.m. — Lance Evans, Kenneth Patterson, Caleb McKinney, Grant Hockman.
12:30 — Jonathan Pate, Chad Calvert, Dan McClellan, Adrian Geeting.
12:40 — Rob Davie, Richard Douglas, Adam Sanders, David Sanders.
1:10 — Cypress Hathorn, Ott Chandler, Cole McNeal.
1:20 — Dalton Chandler, Gary Wigington, Seth Bryan.
1:30 — Freeman Fite, Ty Cole, Jeremy McGatha.

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