E.A. Sports Today

Living the dream

Pre-tournament favorites Cole, Wigington run away with SKCC; set multiple records

Ty Cole and Gary Wigington hold the Sunny King Charity Classic trophy after winning in record fashion.

Ty Cole and Gary Wigington hold the Sunny King Charity Classic trophy after winning in record fashion.

Ty Cole-Gary Wigington 55-59-57–171 (-43)
P.J. Shields-Jaylon Ellison 57-62-60–179 (-35)
Garrett Burgess-Cypress Hathorn 58-60-62–180 (-34)
Dustin Travis-Ryan Howard 62-58-61–181 (-33)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The pre-tournament favorites for the 38th annual Sunny King Charity Classic saved their best for last.

Ty Cole and Gary Wigington, the top two players on the Calhoun County Golf Tour, ran away with the 38th annual Sunny King Charity Classic Sunday, setting final-round and overall tournament scoring records.

The first-time Classic partners shot 13-under-par 57 in the best-ball round at Anniston Country Club to finish at 43-under-par 171 for the tournament. They won by eight shots over P.J. Shields and Jaylon Ellison and nine over 2013 winners and final-group playing partners Garrett Burgess and Cypress Hathorn.

It was the widest margin of victory since 2000 when Wigington and Randy Reaves won by eight over Jerry Irwin and Don Maddox in the first of their five King titles together and tied for the second largest margin in tournament history.

The previous scoring record, 42-under, set by Ott and Dalton Chandler last year. The previous best final round for a winning team was 11-under 59, done twice.

For the longest time 40-under-par was the high bar for tournament excellence, but that has been surpassed each of the last two years. Cole and Wigington hit that plateau after 11 holes Sunday. The last two winners both posted three rounds in the 50s.

The Dream Team, T&T, Ty and Twig, opened with a 17-under-par 55 in the scramble round at Silver Lakes and followed it with a 13-under 59 in the modified scramble at Cider Ridge.

“When we started off, we said if we shot 40-under we thought we’d win,” Wigington said. “You’ve got to play really good to shoot 40-under for three days on these three courses in this format.

“I played really good the first day, he played really good the second day and we both played good the last day. Neither one of us played bad the other days, it was just one of us played better than the other one, but today we just played really good. To shoot that score on this course, you would never think of doing it. I would have never guessed it.

“It was just a perfect day, a perfect weekend. It couldn’t have been any better.”

Wigington sealed the title — his sixth, tying Reaves for the most ever — and the scoring records with birdie putts on 17 and 18. He has won King crowns in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2012 and Sunday.

He thought if they shot 8-under in the format they would win. They hit that number in the first eight holes.

Wigington had two birdies and an eagle on the front, while Cole scored the other four birdies. On the eagle Wigington drove the No. 3 green and made the putt. Wigington called the start “crazy” good.

“Getting to 13 is just unheard of out here,” he said. “We were 3-under after 3 and you just don’t think shooting that score. If you shoot 10 out here you’ve played really good. If you get double digits out here you have played some golf.”

Not even a mid-round shower through the turn could slow them down. Wigington made a long birdie putt on 10 to get them to 9-under for the day and 39-under for the tournament.

They got to 11-under on 13 — where Cole nearly chipped in for eagle (his shot hit the stick) — but they didn’t make another birdie until Wigington tied the record with a tap-in on 17.

After about the sixth hole the only drama became how low could the leaders go and who would win the battle for second place.

“It was kind of frustrating,” Burgess said. “They’d always make a putt and you’re going, ‘We can’t make hardly anything.’ They didn’t hit it far enough to where they were making 30 footers, but they were still making putts. They just never were out of play. We wanted to shoot for the lead, but it was so far out of place we were kind of out of our comfort zone, I guess.”

The confidence the leaders gained during the fast start allowed them to attempt some shots they might not have tried otherwise. Wigington tried to hit a ball out of the ditch on No. 9 and Cole lofted a massively high shot over a big oak tree on 11 after hitting it near the ditch that runs through the property off the tee.

Their run to the record appeared to stall when they parred 14, 15 and 16 – tying their longest stretch without a birdie or eagle in the tournament — but they weren’t worried about history slipping away because they had a par-5 coming up and each had a mulligan in their pocket.

“Once we got to 11 (under) through 13 we were like if we don’t do anything but birdie the par-5 we’re going to tie the record,” Cole said. “We didn’t talk about it … Well, when we got to 8 (under) at the turn we were like let’s just go ahead and blow it out of the water, let’s just go ahead and get it, because you may never have that chance again.”

Getting the outright record all came down to 18. Both players hit the green in two and both had mulligans left. Cole missed his attempts on either side of the hole. Wigington needed one attempt to drain his five-footer to clinch it all.

In a scene reminiscent of the end of Saturday’s round, when the players came off the 18th green a loud clap of thunder exploded over their heads. This time, it was as if the golf gods were expressing their approval.

Lost in the excitement of their early run is the fact they each had trouble off the tee on the first hole and Wigington went back to take a mulligan. And then he lipped out the birdie putt.

“It was just fun,” Cole said. “We said this format would be the one we have the potential to stretch. We just happened to play really good today.”

EXTRA HOLES: Despite some cost increases, the tournament raised $107,000 for its charities, sending its all-time contribution over $2.6 million. “It’s still greater than last year and that’s my goal: Always have it better than the year before,” tournament chairman Braxton Harris said. It actually was a bigger check than the last two years … Wigington is the fifth player to win King titles with more than one partner (Reaves, Ott Chandler Donnie McClellan, Lewis Roberts) … Runner-up Ellison was playing in the 38th Classic on his 38th birthday. It was eighth time since he started playing in it the tournament was played during his birthday weekend and third time Championship Sunday fell on the day … Brian Woodfin returned to the course Sunday after missing Saturday’s round with food poisoning. He and partner Kevin Daugherty shot 64 and finished tied for ninth … Layne Dyar holed a sandie throw on 18 to give her and Kyle Morrow third place in the Toyota Avalon second flight.

Garrett Burgess (R) watches Gary Wigington hit his approach into the par-5 11th that got the eventual champions to 40-under-par in the tournament.

Garrett Burgess (R) watches Gary Wigington hit his approach into the par-5 11th that got the eventual champions to 40-under-par in the tournament.

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