E.A. Sports Today

Something’s gotta give

Wigington, Cole share points lead in Player of the Year race heading into this weekend’s County Championship

GARY WIGINGTON ... 1,100 points

GARY WIGINGTON … 1,100 points

TY COLE ... 1,100 points

TY COLE … 1,100 points

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The race for Calhoun County Player of the Year is pretty clear. If either Gary Wigington or Ty Cole wins this weekend’s 79th Calhoun County Championship, they’re the man.

But the amount of prep the co-leaders in the Calhoun County Tour standings have been able to devote to their game in the run-up to the biggest tournament of the season is a bit different.

Wigington, the Player of the Year each of the last three, has been practicing hard to sharpen his skills for what would be an unprecedented seventh County crown. Cole, meanwhile, has played hardly any golf in recent weeks as he focuses on a new job.

Ready or not, it all comes down to this weekend at Cane Creek Golf Course, where the tournament gets underway Friday.

“It basically all boils down to this,” Wigington said. “I’m trying to practice a lot this week to get ready and want to try to make it four in a row if possible. I’m just trying to practice as much as possible and makes sure I’m ready when the weekend rolls around.”

Wigington already has more POY hardware in his trophy case than anyone on the Tour and more Tour wins (10). If he wins this weekend he also will have more County titles, breaking a tie he currently shares with Chris Banister and Eric Hamilton.

There are scenarios where No. 3 Jeremy McGatha or No. 4 Dalton Chandler could sneak up and win Player of the Year, but for the most part it’s a battle royal between the most consistent players on the tour the last two years. Wigington and Cole would have to finish in positions they haven’t seen on this course in a long time; in addition to previous wins here, they were second and third in the Fort McClellan Credit Union Pro-Invitational there earlier this season.

Both players go into the County with 1,100 player points, adjusted for their best four Tour finishes going into the event. In six Tour starts, Wigington has two wins (King of the Hill, Pine Hill), three seconds and a T-3, while Cole has two wins (Cider Ridge, Silver Lakes), two seconds, a third and a fifth.

They are ranked 1-2 this season in scoring average and birdies, 2-3 in greens in regulation, and 6-8 in scrambling. They have combined to win the last five County Championships.

“The last couple years we’ve both been right there at the end and whoever won the County won Player of the Year,” Wigington said. “It’s kind of neat it ends up that way. We’ve played the most consistent throughout the year and now it boils down to this tournament.

“My whole goal is to win the County and everything else falls how it falls. … To be able to have a shot to do it is always great. I’m glad to have an opportunity.”

Cole has won a County Tournament, interrupting Wigington’s string of three in a row in 2013 (Wigington was second), but has never been Player of the Year. He was second last year after going into the County with a 7.5-point lead in the standings. If he wins this weekend he will have both, but the start of a new job has gotten him out of golf mode in recent weeks.

He returned to teaching high school history in Asbury, where he taught in 2011 and 2012. He’ll also coach the golf team and probably will have other sports responsibilities after his first year. It’s a job he landed essentially the day after he finished fifth in the Pine Hill Invitational and he has spent most of his available time since preparing those plans. The students returned Thursday.

It couldn’t be a more perfect fit. The school is only about two miles from his house, meaning he’ll literally be buying a tank of gas for the new 4-door charcoal grey Honda Civic he won for his hole-in-one in the Sunny King Charity Classic every two months.

“Maybe by Saturday the whole golf frame of mind will kick in,” he said. “I’ll probably be into the golf late Friday and all day Saturday. If I’m not playing good and Twig is running away with it, I’m sure teaching will start creeping back in my head Sunday afternoon.

“By the time tournament is over for sure I won’t think about golf again. It’ll be all teaching, all the time.”

To that end, this weekend might be his last bit of full-time hurrah on the Calhoun County Golf Tour. He didn’t play in the Calhoun County Match Play Championship last year and likely won’t this year even if he won this weekend and was the No. 1 seed.

He’ll probably play some of Tour events next year if the schedule permits but he didn’t expect to make the same type commitment he has the last two seasons.

“To be honest, I’ve played golf once in the last two weeks I’ve been so busy for this,” he said. “I’m playing in the tournament but I’ve got no expectation of playing good. It’s just a different frame of mind now getting school going and getting everything ready for that.

“I won’t think of the tournament or any Player of the Year stuff until Friday.”

JEREMY McGATHA ... 975 points

JEREMY McGATHA … 975 points

DALTON CHANDLER ... 925 points

DALTON CHANDLER … 925 points

(On the cover: Gary Wigington gets a celebratory hug from his son Peyton after winning last year’s Calhoun County Championship for a record-tying sixth time)

(x-reset to reflect a player’s top four finishes before County Championship)

Name Total
Ty Cole 1100
Gary Wigington 1100
Jeremy McGatha 975
Dalton Chandler 925
Ott Chandler 756.7
Caleb McKinney 717.5
Adrian Geeting 670
Kevin Daugherty 667.5
Billy Thompson 659.2
Janson Wilborn 645
Clay Calkins 637.5
Matt Rogers 615
Chandler Wilborn 600
Dan Griffin 592.5
Daniel Black 592.5
Cole McNeal 577.5
Lance Evans 571.7
Jake Goggans 565
Andrew Brooks 562.5
Jacob Lecroy 537.5
Jonathan Pate 507.5
Eric Cannington 497.5
Caleb Bowen 467.5
Nick Pollard 462.5
Dustin Travis 455
Chip Howell 442.5
Benji Turley 432.5
Austin Minter 422.5
Tim Steward 417.5
Dan McClellan 402.5
Landon Straub 390
Scott Martin 385
Kenny Wright 307.5
Keith Raisanen 307.5
Luke Armstrong 282.5
Josh Poole 280
Kelly Rogers 275
Ted Heim 232.5
Brad Hardin 230
Scott Eaton 200
Layton Bussey 155
Brandon Roberts 147.5
Jeff Borrelli 122.5
T.J. McGatha 122.5
Al Muskewitz 115
Jimbo Phillips 105
Jackson Johnson 105
Ted Saylors 87.5
George Salmon 85
Davis Glass 50

Multiple winners
6 – Chris Banister (1955, 1961, 1969-71, 1973)
6 – Eric Hamilton (1981-84, 1994, 1996)
6 – Gary Wigington (1999, 2004, 2010-12, 2014)
4 – Milton Wigley (1949, 1965-67)
3 – Wilfred Galbraith (1939-41)
3 – Oscar Bagley (1943-45)
3 – Jack Vardaman (1958-60)
3 – Billy Shelton (1954, 1956-57)
3 – Ray Burgess (1962-64)
3 – Scott Eaton (1993, 1995, 1997)
3 – Chip Howell (1979, 1985, 1998)
3 – Gary Wilborn (1990-91, 2003)
3 – Ott Chandler (2000, 2005-06)
2 – Marvin Hester (1951, 1953)
2 – Everett King (1986-87)
2 – Scott Townsend (1988-89)
2 – Jeremy McGatha (2002, 2007)

(Year – Winner, score. Margin (runnersup))
2005 – Ott Chandler, 1-under-par 215 (74-70-71). Won by 3 (Jaylon Ellison, Jeremy McGatha, Marcus Harrell)
2006 – Ott Chandler, 8-under-par 208 (67-69-72). Won by 5 (Chris Maye)
2007 – Jeremy McGatha, 2-under-par 214 (71-70-73). Won by 2 (Ott Chandler)
2008 – Garrett Burgess, 5-under-par 211 (71-68-72). Won by 2 (Grant Hockman)
2009 – Jaylon Ellison, 5-under-par 211 (72-66-73). Won by 1 (Garrett Burgess)
2010 – Gary Wigington, 10-under-par 206 (66-70-70). Won on fourth playoff hole (Jeremy McGatha)
2011 – Gary Wigington, 8-under-par 208 (66-70-72). Won by 4 (Jaylon Ellison)
2012 – Gary Wigington, 10-under-par 206 (69-65-72). Won by 2 (Gonzalo Berlin)
2013 – Ty Cole, 6-under-par 210 (67-72-71). Won by 4 (Gary Wigington)
2014 – Gary Wigington, 5-under-par 211 (66-69-66). Won by 11 (Jeremy McGatha)

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