E.A. Sports Today

On familiar turf

Former ACC pro Kevin Daugherty is playing in the Invitational he ran for 13 years for the first time since winning it in 1994

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Jeremy McGatha has waited 362 days to be able to defend his title in the Wilfred Galbraith Anniston Country Club Invitational this weekend.

Kevin Daugherty has waited more than 20 years and hopes McGatha would be OK with sharing the distinction of being a defending champion.

Daugherty was playing his first AGA-sanctioned individual stroke-play tournament on the course where he used to be the pro since getting his amateur status back last fall. He shot an even-par 70 Friday and trails first round leader Gary Wigington by five shots.

“I’m almost kind of the defending champion, it’s just, what, 22 years later,” he said. “I never got a chance. I think Jeremy would be all right sharing it with me this week.”

Daugherty won the ACC Invitational in 1994, but never got the chance to defend his title. He gave up his amateur status two weeks later to play in the Alabama Open as a professional and remained one until getting his amateur status back last October.

He was ACC’s pro for 13 years. He didn’t play in the Invitational last year because he hadn’t been fully restored an amateur, although organizers of the Calhoun County Golf Tour allowed him to play in their other events while he waited for his notification from the USGA.

His reinstatement became official shortly before he played in the Calhoun County Match Play title match.

Before that, however, he play there in a tournament setting during the final round of the Sunny King Charity Classic with Brian Woodfin.

“I’ve been looking forward to this one,” he said. “I was the pro here for 13 1/2 years and this place has been really, really good to me. Then, on top of that, all the guys out here are still really good friends I do golf trips with and play with all the time, so it’s just fun to be able to participate and play with them and hang out with them all week. It’s a lot of fun.”

And it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Freeman Fite played with Daugherty many times when he was the club pro. They were in the same foursome Friday and even as they battled for the early lead Fite could feel something different in the pairing.

“I’d say he’s having fun,” he said. “It’s a lot more fun to play with him now because he’s enjoying it. I think he really likes amateur golf and I can tell he’s been working at it a little bit because the last few years he was here he didn’t really want to be playing, I don’t think.

“I was telling Brian on 18 this is fun watching him play and enjoy it again, because he’s a good player … when he’s not hating it.”

Now 46, Daugherty is a formidable addition to the Calhoun County Golf Tour. He finished in the top eight in five of his six County Tour starts last year. He was third at the County Championship and runner-up in the Match Play.

In his only other Tour start this year he was second in the Oxford City Championship at Cider Ridge. He currently leads the Tour in stroke average, fairways hit, putting average and putts per greens in regulation.

“Stepping away from it for a while and playing a lot of golf with my dad at Cane Creek, that helped a lot,” he said. “One thing that helped me a ton is I got to the point where I like to practice again. I don’t think I really practiced for 10 years and now I’m enjoying practicing and spending time on the golf course again.”

The year he won the Invitational Daugherty remembers taking a slight lead into the final round. He bogeyed two early holes to fall back into a tie, but surged back into the lead with a late birdie run that eased the pressure as he struggled to make pars bringing it home.

Two weeks later he was playing as a professional for the first time and cashing a modest check for a top-10 finish.

“What I remember about that is we were standing there looking at the scoreboard, and my dad looked at me and said ‘Well, you could’ve been low amateur,’” he recalled. “And I said yeah, but you don’t get a thousand bucks for that.

“Then he stopped for a minutes and said, ‘You’ve got a point.’”

But now he’s back playing for the fun of it and having the time of his life.

On the cover: Former Anniston Country Club head pro Kevin Daugherty (R) takes a final look at his target as he drives off the 17th tee in the opening round of the Wilfred Galbraith ACC Invitational.



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