E.A. Sports Today

Eying the next level

Chandler contemplates pulling the trigger on a bid for the next level; shot a final-round 69 Sunday to win the Indian Oaks Championship by 10 shots

Dalton Chandler (L) walks off the 18th green with Caleb McKinney Sunday after putting the finishing touches on his Indian Oaks title.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

At some point this golf season Dalton Chandler is going declare himself a professional. Sunday was “by far not the day,” but he insists it is going to happen.

Not the kind of pro that goes through the PGA program and works in some club’s pro shop, folding shirts and stacking hats, occasionally playing in Section events to keep the competitive juices flowing, but one of those guys who follows the sun and chases the dream.

Of course, it helps to be dominant in your local circles before venturing out in the deep end with the sharks. Chandler took a big first step in that direction Sunday, posting his second straight round in the 60s to win the Indian Oaks Championship by 10 shots. He shot 69 Sunday to finish at 8-under 136 in the first tournament of the Calhoun County Golf Tour season.

The 21-year-old made six birdies in the round and had 14 in the tournament. He had such a sizable lead coming down the stretch that back-to-back bogeys at 16 and 17 and failing to birdie the par-5 18th from just off the green in 2 had hardly an impact. Andrew Brooks (73—146) finished second and Kevin Daugherty (73—147) finished third.

“It’s a good start for Player of the Year,” Chandler said. “I’m trying to turn professional eventually. I’ve been practicing hard. I’m going to play better this year than I’ve ever played, as you can see. Last year I shot 80 the first round or something.”

Chandler did shoot 80 in the opening round here last year, then followed it with 69 to finish T-7. He won the next event at Cider Ridge. His says there’s a “big time difference” in his game since this time last year; more consistent.

The idea of turning pro is very real, encouraged by his father and Sunny King Charity Classic partner Ott Chandler, his Birmingham-based teacher Wayne Flint and several local backers. Chandler said a formal declaration “more than likely” will come after the summer season. The mini-tour circuit would be an inviting start, but, he said, “I don’t want it to stay there.”

Before making the move, he’s got to learn what it takes to hang on the next level. He plans to play in numerous high-profile events to sharpen his skills, among them local qualifying for the U.S. Open at Silver Lakes in May, but he’s not sure if it will be as an amateur or a professional.

He hit fewer fairways and greens Sunday than he did in his opening-round 67, but he had fewer putts.

“I want to be sharp before I go,” he said. “You can’t play like I played coming in and be a professional and make any money. When you’re 5-under-par through 15 holes (for the day), you’ve got to try to get to 7 or 8 instead of getting to 3.”

Brooks pulled into second place after an adventurous finish. He made a double bogey on the par-3 17th and then had an interesting 18th that actually helped him finish second.

He played two balls on the closing hole after hitting his tee shot into the cart barn. He took a drop from the presumed spot it was lost in the barn and made bogey with that ball. But he also – correctly — went back to the tee to play a second ball and hit driver-pitching wedge to a foot for a penalty-stroke par with that.

Since the drop wasn’t permitted, he had to count the better-scored second ball, which left him alone in second.

“Six shots back (to start the day), to be honest with you, I was playing for a top five (finish),” Brooks said. “I played good, had a couple bad holes, but I’m happy with it.”

Final scores
Championship flight
x-Dalton Chandler 67-69—136
x-Andrew Brooks 73-73—146
x-Kevin Daugherty 74-73—147
x-Chad Calvert 74-74—148
x-Jonathan Pate 72-78—150
x-Grant Hockman 74-77—151
x-Jeremy McGatha 73-80—153
x-Caleb McKinney 71-84—155
x-Kenny Wright 73-WD

First flight
x-Matt Rogers 78-74—152
Mike Granado 78-78—156
x-Clinton Ramey 76-80—156
x-Jeremy Willis 77-81—158
x-Gary Wigington 77-81—158
x-Billy Thompson 80-78—158
x-Jason Brinkley 77-84—161
x-Tanner Wells 80-84—164
x-Tim Turner 80-86—166
x-Dan McClellan 78-WD

Second flight
x-Brennan Clay 81-73—154
x-Janson Wilborn 81-77—158
x-Clay Calkins 86-74—160
x-Chris Cox 84-82—166
Don Hill 85-84—169
Kaine Gibson 84-93—177
x-Brad Hardin 94-98—192
x-Kelly Rogers 96-96—192
John Tucker 83-WD
x-Walt Drake NC
Dan Griffin WD
x-player on the Calhoun County Golf Tour

Leaders Final-Round Scorecards
Player 453 443 544 36 344 544 435 36 72

Chandler 543 343 444 34 343 443 545 35 69 (136)
Brooks 363 544 453 37 353 434 455 36 73 (146)
Daugherty 553 333 655 38 344 454 434 35 73 (147)

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