E.A. Sports Today

McGatha’s big round

McGatha shoots 61, sets County Tour records for low round, most birdies; leads County Championship by 4

Ty Cole (L) and Gary Wigington, the top two players in the Calhoun County Golf Tour points standings, survey similar-length putts from the fringe on No. 11 Saturday. On the cover, Jeremy McGatha tees off at 11 on his way to a 61.

Ty Cole (L) and Gary Wigington, the top two players in the Calhoun County Golf Tour points standings, survey similar-length putts from the fringe on No. 11 Saturday. On the cover, Jeremy McGatha tees off at 11 on his way to a 61.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Jeremy McGatha has been compared to PGA Tour star Jim Furyk for as long as he can remember because of the looping swing both players possess. Now there’s another reason to do it.

Just as Furyk shot the lowest round in PGA Tour history last week at the Travelers Championship, McGatha set the standard on the Calhoun County Golf Tour Saturday when he shot 9-under-par 61 (30-31) at Anniston Municipal to grab the opening-round lead of the 80th Calhoun County Championship.

Gary Wigington and Matt Rogers both shot 61 on The Hill in the County Championship in 1999, but that was eight years before the formation of the County Tour.

In addition to the record round, McGatha also set single-round Tour marks for birdies (11) and tied the fewest putts (21). Incredibly, just as some could say Furyk could have gone lower in his 58 with a little more luck, McGatha could have taken his round even deeper, but had two bogeys.

“It’s the same thing Furyk went through,” McGatha said. “It’s funny to say it because I’ve been working on my swing – I really have – and I finally got it on a better plane; I’m not as loopy as I was. Everybody used to compare me to Furyk and the funny thing is Jim Furyk shot 59 and 58.

“Arnold Palmer always said ‘swing your swing,’ and I’ve got my swing to where I like it; it’s on a better plane. When I won ACC last year I thought I got this, I’m doing better, I can do this, and I haven’t won anything since. And I’m far from winning this tournament, but I needed this round. I’ve played good all year and I have not scored, and finally I scored.”

The Tour’s previous low round was 10-under 62 by Marcus Harrell in the opening round of the 2012 Pine Hill Invitational with a then-record 10 birdies. Jaylon Ellison needed just 21 putts to get through the final round of the 2012 County Championship at Cane Creek.

Usually when a player has a premium number of putts, it means he’s recovered from not hitting many greens. McGatha hit 12 greens in the round and got up-and-down for par or better on four of the ones he missed. He had 14 holes with one putt or fewer.

“That was a great round, it’s going to be real hard to catch,” Wigington said. “You’ve got to have a mistake-free round to shoot that and he did.”

McGatha leads by four over four players – Ott Chandler, Dalton Chandler, Gary Wigington and Lewis Lecroy. County Tour points leader Ty Cole is another shot back at 66, tied with Matt Rogers.

For Lecroy, the 65 was his best round in competition by three shots. It featured a career best seven birdies (in his first 14 holes) and several up-and-downs for par “that just saved my day.” He, too, left a few out there, like missing irons shots on his last two holes and missing two short putts on par-3s.

“I came up here this week and shot 67 with six birdies and a double,” Lecroy said. “I hit some at the Country Club before coming here today and was hitting it good. I thought if I could just keep this up …”

Cole, the tour points leader, has won the last three County Tour events and his last six individual starts. He can win the tour’s Player of the Year award by finishing in the top two or as low as fourth if Wigington doesn’t win his record seventh County title Sunday.

Ott Chandler climbed into contention with birdies on three of his last four holes. His son, Dalton, joined him with a birdie-eagle finish to offset a mid-round double bogey.

McGatha, meanwhile, birdied his first three holes. He was 4-under for the day through 14 – his 11th hole – then birdied five of his last seven holes missing only 2 and 4.

“I feel like I’m a grinder like Furyk, I’m a worker,” McGatha said. “This year, honestly, I’ve been ready for the season to be over. Ive played a lot of golf, I’ve gotten close and I haven’t scored well. I made a lot of birdies at ACC and could’ve defended and I didn’t, but to bring the County back up here for the first time since (2004) and to shoot a 61, I’m happy. I just hope tomorrow I can hold on.

“I’m going to try to have fun. I told my wife, I don’t do this for a living; I’m tired of putting so much pressure on myself and I’m going to try to have fun. Tomorrow I’m going to do the same thing. If I win, great; if I don’t I’m still going to try to have fun and that’s hard for me to say.”

At Anniston Municipal GC
First-round scores

Championship A
Jeremy McGatha 30-31—61
Ott Chandler 32-33—65
Dalton Chandler 31-34—65
Gary Wigington 33-32—65
Lewis LeCroy 35-30—65
Matt Rogers 33-33—66
Ty Cole 34-32—66
Caleb McKinney 34-33—67
Kevin Daugherty 35-33—68
Cypress Hathorn 34-34—68
Gary Wilborn 34-35—69

Players 535 344 344 35 434 444 345 35 70

McGatha 434 333 235 30 424 334 343 31 61
O. Chandler 534 243 254 32 334 344 345 33 65
D. Chandler 445 332 334 31 434 463 334 34 65
Wigington 434 344 344 33 334 533 344 32 65
Lecroy 535 433 354 35 334 343 334 30 65

Championship B
Brennan Clay 35-35—70
Eric Howell 35-35—70
Janson Wilborn 35-35—70
Jeff Borrelli 34-36—70
David Sanders 35-35—70
Lynn Oswalt 35-35—70
Randy Reaves 36-34—70
Landon Straub 37-34—71
Nick Pollard 35-36—71
Dustin Travis 38-33—71

First flight
Ted Heim 36-36—72
Mark Durden 37-35—72
Bob Eaton 34-38—72
Jake Goggans 36-36—72
Layton Bussey 37-35—72
Adrian Geeting 35-38—73
Kenny Wright 36-37—73
Jonathan Pate 36-37—73
Tim Steward 38-35—73
Dan Griffin 36-37—73
John Tucker 35-38—73

Second flight
Billy Thompson 38-36—74
George Salmon 39-35—74
Jason Johnson 40-34—74
Robin Wood 37-37—74
Allen Mangham 38-36—74
Josh Poole 40-34—74
Scott Eaton 33-41—74
David Coffey 37-38—75

Third flight
Benji Turley 39-36—75
Al Johnson 38-37—75
Andrew Brooks 39-36—75
Austin Minter 36-40—76
David Martin 39-37—76
Mickey Travis 40-37—77
Rob Davie 40-37—77
Jimbo Phillips 36-41—77
Dennis Austin 39-39—78
Chase Hollingsworth 39-39–78
Dustin Veihe 41-38—79
Jeff Barnwell 38-41—79
Danny Whitaker 41-38—79

Fourth flight
Rick Dickson 40-40—80
Keaton Borrelli 40-40—80
Andrew Miller 42-38—80
Al Muskewitz 43-38—81
Gage Miller 38-43—81
T.J. McGatha 45-36—81
Tanner Wells 41-40—81
Don Hill 43-38—81
Bruce Collins 41-40—81
Nate Griffin 40-42—82
David Wray 42-40—82
Cal Lambert 47-35—82

Fifth flight
Kelly Rogers 40-43—83
Brad Hardin 40-43—83
Jerre Dingler 41-43—84
Paul Wade 44-40—84
Drue Snow 41-44—85
Cain Hollingsworth 46-39—85
Chance Harris 44-41—85
Roger Fair 42-44—86

Sixth flight
David Gilley 45-42—87
Jimmy Jackson 46-42—88
John MacKenzie 40-48—88
Bill Teneck 46-42—88
Zach Mangum 41-48—89
David Gattis 50-45—95
Craig Gardner 49-47—96
Chip Howell WD

Sunday’s tee assignments
8 a.m. Shotgun

1A – David Martin, Rob Davie, Jimbo Phillips, Mickey Travis
1B – Andrew Brooks, Al Johnson, Benji Turley, Austin Minter
2 – Dennis Austin, Chase Hollingsworth, Dustin Veihe, Jeff Barnwell
3 – Danny Whitkaer, Rick Dickson, Keaton Borrelli, Andrew Miller
4 – Tanner Wells, Don Hill, Gage Miller, T.J. McGatha
5 – Al Muskewitz, Bruce Collins, Cal Lambert, Nate Griffin
6 – David Wray, Brad Hardin, Kelly Rogers, Jerre Dingler
7 – Paul Wade, Cain Hollingsworth, Drue Snow, Chance Harris
8 – Roger Fair, John MacKenzie, David Gilley, Jimmy Jackson
9 – Bill Teneyck, Zach Mangum, David Gattis, Craig Gardener

1 p.m. Shotgun
1A – Lewis Lecroy, Matt Rogers, Ty Cole, Caleb McKinney
1B – Jeremy McGatha, Ott Chandler, Dalton Chandler, Gary Wigington
2 – Kevin Daugherty, Cypress Hathorn, Gary Wilborn, Brennan Clay
3 – Eric Howell, Janson Wilborn, Jeff Borrelli, Lynn Oswalt
4 – David Sanders, Randy Reaves, Landon Straub, Nick Pollard
5 – Dustin Travis, Jake Goggans, Layton Bussey, Bob Eaton
6 – Mark Durden, Ted Heim, Adrian Geeting, Kenny Wright
7 – Dan Griffin, Jonathan Pate, Tim Steward, John Tucker
8 – George Salmon, Jason Johnson, Scott Eaton, Robin Wood
9 – Billy Thompson, Allen Mangham, Josh Poole, David Coffey


If the Calhoun County Golf Tour season ended after Saturday’s round of the Calhoun County Championship, this would be the top 16:

Ty Cole
Gary Wigington
Jeremy McGatha
Dalton Chandler
Kevin Daugherty
Caleb McKinney
Chad Calvert
Ott Chandler
Lewis Lecroy
Matt Rogers
Janson Wilborn
Brennan Clay
Jeff Borrelli
Andrew Brooks
Adrian Geeting
Cypress Hathorn
Billy Thompson (-36)
Scott Martin (-36)
Caleb Bowen (-76)

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