E.A. Sports Today

Clay-McGatha lead SKCC

Leaders hold one-shot edge going into Championship Sunday at ACC; with revised Sunday pairings

Here are the revised Sunday pairings for Anniston Country Club. Changes are highlighted in yellow. Click picture to enlarge.

Here are the revised Sunday pairings for Anniston Country Club. Changes are highlighted in yellow. Click picture to enlarge.

McGatha-Clay 56-56—112 (-32)
Wigington-Fite 56-57—113 (-31)
Chandler-Chandler 56-57—113 (-31)
Burgess-Hathorn 59-57—116 (-28)
Reavis-Calvert 56-60—116 (-28)
Ellison-Shields 58-59—117 (-27)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — It was some three hours after the fact and Brennan Clay’s left hand was still shaking at the thought of what happened on the last two holes on the front side Saturday afternoon.

Clay and partner Jeremy McGatha go into Championship Sunday of the 37th Sunny King Charity Classic with a one-shot lead over Ott and Dalton Chandler and 2014 runner-ups Gary Wigington and Freeman Fite. And it all came about with the help of two clutch putts on 8 and 9.

The leaders shot 16-under-par 56 in the scamble format at Cider Ridge Golf Club for a two-day total 32-under 112 – the all-time Sunny King 36-hole tournament record. Their two closest challengers both shot 15-under and are at 113.

The modern-era tournament scoring record – set by McGatha and Jaylon Ellison in 2011 — is 39-under 175. The all-time record, set when handicaps helped players make birdies, is 41-under by Jimmy and Charles Singleton in 1987, the first year the tournament carried the Sunny King name. Both records appear in reach.

To break all the records, the leaders at least would have to shoot 10-under in Sunday’s demanding best-ball round at par-70 Anniston Country Club. Three of the last four champions have hit that mark. Two of the last three winners trailed entering the final round.

“Man, we’d just like to win the Sunny King,” McGatha said when asked if the record was in their sights. “We could go out there tomorrow and play your own ball and shoot 4-under and get lapped and only be 36 and not win. You know our motto: Nothing for granted. Let’s just try to play golf tomorrow and see what happens. We know the Country Club; anything can happen.”

Even though it’s expected to be a hot day, the three contenders aren’t likely to wilt under the pressure of the final round. Wigington has five SKCC titles to his credit, while McGatha and Ott Chandler have four each.

The other team in the four-way tie at the top after the first round, Chad Reavis and Chad Calvert, shot 12-under at a course they lost substantial ground last year and are tied for fourth with 2013 champions Garrett Burgess and Cypress Hathorn. Calvert made two eagles in a 28 on his own ball on the back nine.

The reason Clay was still shaking as he left the property was what happened on “the most nerve-wracking and craziest holes” of the round at 8 and 9. Clay missed a slippery 15-foot birdie putt on 8 that McGatha came behind to make dead center and then he made an equally testy 20-foot left-to-right swinger on 9 for eagle.

They were shots the team knew they needed to make in order to catch the Chandlers, whose 15-under for the day/31-under for the tournament was already posted atop the leaderboard.

“We knew at that time it was to get ahead of Ott and Dalton,” McGatha said. “We knew they posted 31 and that was for 32.”

“That’s all I was thinking about,” added Clay. “The only thought in my mind was make this putt and go bananas when you make it. We went crazy. I wish they had a video of that.”

The Chandlers’ round was highlighted by two eagles on the front nine that extended their eagle streak on the tournament par-5s to six in a row. Starting on the back, Ott hit it to three feet on 15 and Dalton hit it to eight feet on 18. They had looks at it on 5 and 9.

“That’s unheard of in a two-man,” Ott Chandler said.

No father-son tandem has ever won a Sunny King crown, but Ott admits he’s thought about it and likes his team’s chances to deliver.

“It would be awesome to do that,” he said. “I don’t know of any old man who plays well enough to play with the kids. Either the old man’s a good player and the kid’s not or the kid’s a good player and the old man’s not. Very seldom do you see an old man who can still play good enough to help the kid and Dalton’s grown up now where there isn’t anybody who’ll overlook him any more … and if I can help we’ll be all right.

“I’ve won four of these things so far and if there’s some way we could pull this thing off there would be no comparison to the other four. This would be hands down the best one.”

Wigington and Fite could have gone even deeper in their round, but parred the tight 16th – exhausting both of Fite’s mulligans — and 17 before closing with a birdie on 18. Despite the finish, Wigington called it a “steady” round, with the only real lightning his chip-in eagle on No. 9 that allowed them to turn in 9-under for the second day in a row.

Last year as a first-year time pairing they led by two going into the final round before losing Sunday in a playoff. If they can pull it off this year, Wigington would tie former partner Randy Reaves for the most individual titles in SKCC history (six).

“I don’t feel like it’s redemption,” Fite said. “I certainly didn’t play well last year on Sunday and it’s my home course, so I’d like to play well and I feel like I’m on the cusp of really, really playing well. It’s just slightly off. Even though (they had) 11-12 birdies today, it just still felt a little bit off but I know it’s close and hopefully I’ll do something special tomorrow.”

Full scores can be found at the tournament website (www.kingclassic.com).

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