E.A. Sports Today

Taking the first step

Wigington plays the back nine in 5-under on the way to a 65 that gives him the first-round lead in elusive ACC Invitational

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Gary Wigington has won almost everything there is to be had on the Calhoun County golf scene, but one of the events that’s escaped him is one of the county’s most prestigious.

Still left to be checked off his career bucket list is the Wilfred Galbraith Invitational at Anniston Country Club, but the winningest players on the County Tour is off to a strong start in getting that done.

Playing the back nine Friday like Rory McIlroy plays the back nine at Sawgrass, Wigington shot a 5-under-par 65 to surge into the first-round lead.

He has a two-shot lead over Chandler Wilborn and a three-shot lead over Dustin Travis. Dalton Chandler and multi-time Invitational champion Freeman Fite are at 69, while Billy Thompson and former ACC pro Kevin Daugherty are at even-par 70.

Wigington has clinched his six Sunny King Charity Classic titles at ACC, and won County Tour events at Stoney Brook, Pine Hill, Anniston Municipal and Cane Creek, but not the Invitational. He did finish second in 2012, the first year of his three straight Player of the Year seasons.

“Somebody asked me the other day how times I’ve won this and I said ‘never,’” he said. “It used to be I never played in it because it always coordinated with a trip we go on to Florida. I got to play it the last five or six years and just hadn’t done any good.”

He did real good Friday on the back nine, making three birdies and an eagle after 10 straight pars.

He broke the string on the par-5 11th, then added a 15-foot birdie on 13, a two-foot birdie on 15 and eagled the par-5 17th after hitting driver-6 iron to two feet.

“The front nine to me is so dang hard to shoot under par because there are no par-5s and then you have all the tricky par-4s and 3s,” Wigington said. “I’m even (par) through the front and I feel like I’ve worked my butt off.

“This course, I typically I haven’t played it well at all, I’ve always had more trouble out here than any course in the county, so to shoot 5-under in pretty tough conditions it felt pretty good.”

Chandler Wilborn was feeling pretty good about the state of his game, too.

He opened the ACC Invitational last year with a 72 that tied his best round on the County Tour, but didn’t back it up very well. He’s been working on becoming a more consistent player and is hopeful that carries through the weekend.

His short game was particularly sharp Friday as he had seven up-and-downs to save par. He birdied three of his last four holes.

“I was pretty pleased with the way I played,” he said. “I’m trying to practice every day now; it’s something that I care about doing now. Before, I could be as good a player as I played today or as bad as anybody who plays the game. I could shoot that score on one day and go out and shoot 85 the next. I don’t think I’m going to do that too much any more.

“I feel like I’m a lot more consistent player now. I’d like to win some of these tournaments. Playing with dad (Gary Wilborn) and playing good with him makes me happy.”

Dalton Chandler comes into the tournament having won the last Calhoun County Tour event at Cider Ridge. His “eventful” 69 featured four birdies, an eagle, three bogeys and a double bogey.

He bogeyed his first two holes of the day, then nearly holed out his drive on the par-4 third and made eagle. He turned in 4-under after birdies at 6 and 7. He chipped in for another birdie on 12.

“It was probably the most eventful 69 I’ve ever had,” he said. “I’d rather have had 17 pars and a birdie.

“I’ve had some eventful 79s, but usually you don’t make crazy swings shooting 69, especially on this golf course. Today, I hit it absolutely perfect or absolutely awful. I had three or four holes where I just hit it terrible, but I recovered good all day.”

Wilfred Galbraith ACC Invitational
Championship flight qualifying

Championship Flight
(Top 30 and ties)
Gary Wigington 65
Chandler Wilborn 67
Dustin Travis 68
Dalton Chandler 69
Freeman Fite 69
Billy Thompson 70
Kevin Daugherty 70
Chad Calvert 71
Ty Cole 72
Jeremy Willis 73
Ott Chandler 73
Jeremy McGatha 73
Lewis Lecroy 73
Dr. Victor Kyatt 73
Caleb McKinney 74
Scott Martin 74
Jacob Lecroy 74
Chad Reavis 75
Janson Wilborn 75
Erich Egui 75
Matt Rogers 76
David Sanders 76
Timmy Woodard 76
Kyle Daugherty 76
Dan Griffin 76
Ryan Huff 76
Hank Smith 77
Jake Goggans 77
Dan McClellan 77
David Lawrence 77
Cypress Hathorn 77

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