E.A. Sports Today

A winner again

Wigington makes a dramatic birdie on 17th hole to take control of Oxford City Championship, his first outright win on the Calhoun County Tour win since 2015

Sunny King Charity Classic partners Gary Wigington (L) and Ty Cole were battling it out for the Oxford City Championship Sunday. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Final leaderboard
Gary Wigington 68-70—138 (-6)
Dalton Chandler 70-69—139 (-5)
Ty Cole 67-73—140 (-4)
Rob VanGorder 70-72—142 (-2)
Brennan Clay 70-73—143 (-1)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Gary Wigington’s first start of the Calhoun County Golf Tour season was truly an eye-opening experience. The way he bounced back from it and closed Sunday was eye-popping.

Wigington made his 2017 Tour debut last month at Indian Oaks — the course he grew up playing — with a truly forgettable T-12 after rounds of 77 and 81. The trouble was he couldn’t forget about it.

His worst Tour finish in six years moved him to get better. After having it come together only a few days earlier, he went out this weekend and shot rounds of 68-70 and made a 30-foot birdie putt on the next to last hole Sunday to win the Oxford City Championship.

Wigington’s two-day total of 6-under-par 138 was a shot better than Indian Oaks winner and defending champion Dalton Chandler and two ahead of first-round leader Ty Cole, his Sunny King Charity Classic partner and reigning Tour Player of the Year.

The 81 he shot that last day at Indian Oaks was his highest round in a Calhoun County Golf Tour event since an 82 in the second round of the 2011 Cider Ridge Invitational. His T-12 was his worst finish since a T-18 in the 2014 King of the Hill. Both were early-season events before hitting his typical stride in the second half of the season.

“It kind of opened my eyes that I needed a hell of a lot of work,” Wigington said. “I hadn’t been playing much and hadn’t been practicing much. The last couple weeks I’ve been able to practice a good bit and started hitting it good about two days ago; just all of a sudden it come around. It was good timing.

“You don’t think you’re that far behind and when you play like … it’s much worse than I was expecting to be. It felt really good to finally come back and win one.”

It all came down to the final five holes of the day. To that point it looked as if Chandler was going to win his second Tour event in a row. He had the lead and two par-5s to play.

The final group wasn’t aware Chandler double bogeyed 16 to fall back to 4-under as they stood over eagle putts on the 15th green. Cole was on the same level as the hole and his putt stopped on the edge of the cup. Wigington two-putted from the lower level for his birdie and the lead.

Chandler sculled his second shot on 16 from a tight lie into the hazard and then failed to get up and down. From there he figured he had to go birdie-birdie to recover. He did birdie 18, but when he missed an eight-footer on 17 it just wasn’t enough.

“I played good all tournament, I just didn’t score well; I had difficulty scoring,” he said. “I hit the ball better than the scores I shot, but I’m sure everybody says that. (The double at) 16 hurt today because of where it was at, but I missed three-footers, four-footers all weekend.”

Both Cole and Wigington hit irons off the 16th tee to the middle of the fairway. The wind kept the players guessing on their second shots and both found the hazard. Cole smoked an iron from 230 yards out he thought was going to be a 2 that instead found the high stuff behind the green. Wigington was made 15 yards closer, but his approach bounced off the hill and into the hazard left of the green.

Both players made bogey, but Wigington kept the lead with Cole one shot behind.

The clincher came on 17. Wigington’s ball off the tee looked to be headed way right of the front pin location, but it caught on the green about 30 feet from the hole. Cole’s shot finished between the green and bunker. When Wigington’s putt hit the hole and dropped for birdie you had the sense it was over.

“I hadn’t really made any putts outside eight feet all day and I had a bunch of them,” Wigington said. “It’s hard to try to make one of those, you just try to get it up as close as you can. You kind of know when you hit a good one and that one felt solid. I thought it had a chance … It’s always fun to see those (go in).”

Chandler birdied 18 to finish at 5-under, so the final group still had to play the last hole cleanly. Wigington laid up and then watched his chip roll to the back of the green. Cole’s second shot stopped just short of the green, meaning he had to make his eagle chip to put pressure on Wigington to par.

When Cole’s shot rolled past the hole, all Wigington had to do was two-putt for par and his first outright individual win on the County Tour since the 2015 Pine Hill Invitational. He was the highest finisher among County Tour players in last year’s Wilfred Galbraith Invitational at Anniston Country Club, but finished second overall.

“It’s a big relief to get back in the winner’s circle,” Wigington said. “It’s been a while.”

Dalton Chandler had the lead on the back nine Sunday until an unfortunate double bogey on 16.

On the cover: Gary Wigington is congratulated by Jake Goggans and his playing partners after winning the Oxford City Championship at Cider Ridge. To see more B.J. Franklin photos from the tournament go to www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

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