E.A. Sports Today

No turning back now

McGatha, Rogers preparing to play in the biggest tournaments of their careers — the USGA Four-Ball Championship

ADDITIONAL CONTENT: First person from Winged Foot

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Jeremy McGatha and Matt Rogers were about hallway to Willow Point to try their hand at qualifying for the newest USGA championship when realized what they were about to do and asked almost in unison “what have we gotten ourselves into.”

As they drove back home having secured a spot in the USGA Four-Ball Championship and a trip to famed Winged Foot they looked at each other and again asked – this time incredulously – “what have we gotten ourselves into.”

The two Calhoun County golfers have been in New York the last two days preparing to play in the biggest event of their careers and they’re as much in awe with the accomplishment as they are the venue.

“For me it’s pretty big,” McGatha said. “I played in two national championships when I was in junior college and in the TAAC (conference championship) when I was at JSU, but I’ve never qualified for a USGA national championship. I still can’t believe it. I’m still kind of in shock.

“I’m proud of my two (Calhoun County championships), my ACC (Invitational) last year, my two (Calhoun County) Player of the Years, but this ranks up there with some of the biggest things I’ve ever done. I can’t wait. This is like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Indeed, but they earned it with one of the best rounds of brother-in-lawing and clutch putting they’ve ever played together, a skill that will suit them well here. They shot 7-under-par 65 at Willow Point and birdied three of their final four holes to get in on the number.

“We just want to go out there and play well,” Rogers said. “It’s going to be a big course for me, but Willow Point was, too. If we get in a good frame of mind, we can brother-in-law real well together.

“If I can get him going, I can ride his coattails. If I can get him off to a good start, then I can try to hold in and make a birdie when I have to because he can play. It’s just giving him the confidence to do it.”

They practiced on the East Course today and the West Course that hosts the U.S. Open Friday. Then it’s two days of stroke play qualifying starting Saturday. Of all the teams they could have been paired with, they’re playing the two days with last year’s runner-ups Sherrill Britt and Greg Earnhardt of North Carolina.

It had been a while since either had walked in a competitive round before the Willow Point qualifier, but that’s the way it’s going to be at Winged Foot. McGatha will carry his own bag the two practice rounds, but Rogers will opt for a caddy the four rounds they’re guaranteed to play to help his sore back.

“We don’t want to embarrass ourselves,” McGatha said. “We’d love to make (the 32-team) match play. We’ve got to play great to make match play.

“When we were on the way to Willow Point this seemed like a great idea, we were kind of asking why we did it and then we made it, so let’s get up there and have fun and see what happens. We’re two working-class guys who love to play golf and we’ll see what happens.”

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