E.A. Sports Today

Major accomplishment

UPDATED: Chandler wins ACC for second County Tour victory in three starts; Wigington, McGatha tie for second

Dalton Chandler (L) and Gary Wigington were locked in a tight battle on the back nine Sunday until they came to No. 14. (All photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Dalton Chandler came into the season with an eye on winning the Calhoun County Player of the Year. He’s off to a pretty good start.

The 21-year-old aspiring pro won for the second time in three County Tour starts this year when he shot 1-under-par 69 Sunday to complete a wire-to-wire win in the Wilfred Galbraith ACC Invitational at Anniston Country Club.

Chandler posted a three-day 7-under 203 and won the first major of the season by four shots over Gary Wigington and 2015 champion Jeremy McGatha. He won the season-opening Indian Oaks Championship and finished second in the Oxford City Championship at Cider Ridge.

Only one County Tour Player of the Year has had as good a start. Jeremy McGatha won the first two events (Silver Lakes, Indian Oaks) and finished second at the third (Cider Ridge) when he won the award in 2009. Only Garrett Burgess (2008) has won the the ACC Invitational and County Tour points championship.

“If I’m trying to think about turning professional, I’m supposed to win this Player of the Year by a landslide if I even want to think about having a future playing professional golf,” said Chandler, who’s likely to make that decision shortly after the County Championship. “I hadn’t ever really been close to winning it. I won a tournament each of the past two years before this year (2015 Cane Creek, 2016 Cider Ridge) and was close after that tournament but after that (not really).

“To get two out of the three so far and come in second the other one, I don’t know how the points stand, but I’ve got to have a pretty good lead.”

The win left him with 850 points in the County Tour standings, 165 ahead of Wigington. The next Tour event is at Silver Lakes June 24-25, followed by Pine Hill, Cane Creek and the County Championship.

Chandler never lost the ACC lead in the final round, but he and Wigington were tied through 13 holes Sunday. The turning point came on 14 when Wigington hit trees twice and double bogeyed while Chandler made one of his five birdies in the round.

Wigington’s drive on the hole caught trees and kicked way left away from the hole. His recovery shot also caught trees and caromed across the culvert into some ground under repair. His next shot was short of the green and he didn’t get up and down for bogey. Chandler, meanwhile, was on the green in 2 and made the putt.

“After I saw Twig struggling on 14 I really was trying to make a birdie on that hole,” Chandler said. “I was telling myself if I could make a 3 here it would make it a hell of a lot easier coming in and that’s exactly what happened. It couldn’t have worked out any better than I had it in my head.”

The lead moved to four with three holes to play when Wigington three-putted from four feet for bogey on 15. Another three-putt at 18 dropped him into a tie for second with McGatha.

“Fourteen killed me,” Wigington said. “That’s the worst drive I’ve hit; I hadn’t even been close to hitting one like that. Then I hit it in there close on 15 and three-putt; I was putting OK up to that point. Fourteen’s the one that killed me, though; it threw me for a loop. That’s two years in a row one hole (did him in).”

McGatha charged hard to earn his best finish of the Tour season. He started the day five back of Wigington, but shot the best round of the day (3-under 67) and capped it with a testy putt on 18 for par that proved to be a big play when Wigington bogeyed.

“I was very fortunate to back door into a tie for second,” McGatha said. “And Dalton played good. Whenever he needed to do it, he did it.”

Players 444 334 444 34 453 444 354 36 70

Chandler 334 433 445 33 463 434 345 36 69 (203)
McGatha 534 333 344 32 443 544 344 35 67 (207)
Wigington 543 334 344 33 453 465 345 39 72 (207)

Top 16 Player Points
(Through Wilfred Galbraith ACC Invitational)

Dalton Chandler 850
Gary Wigington 685
Andrew Brooks 605
Jeremy McGatha 585
Chad Calvert 530
Caleb McKinney 515
Jonathan Pate 502.5
Matt Rogers 490
Ty Cole 425
Kevin Daugherty 415
Jeremy Willis 412.5
Billy Thompson 390
Jason Brinkley 370
Brennan Clay 360
Clay Calkins 355
Chris Cox 327.5

Jeremy McGatha watches his birdie putt on 13 just stay outside the hole. McGatha saved par from the trees on 18 to finish tied for second.

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