E.A. Sports Today

Chandler beats them all

Dalton wins record fourth Calhoun County Tour event of year, tops entire field in FMCU Pro-Invitational

Dalton Chandler sizes up then models the championship belt he won for low amateur medalist in the Fort McClellan Credit Union Pro-Invitational. He not only was low amateur, he beat everyone in the field.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

It just seemed so appropriate one of the prizes Dalton Chandler got for winning the Fort McClellan Credit Union Pro-Invitational at Cane Creek Sunday was a championship belt the likes of which they give brawlers after winning a big fight.

After all, he and Gary Wigington were locked in one of the greatest heavyweight golf fights they’ve seen in this county in a long time.

The top two county amateurs slugged it out for 18 rounds, er, holes, trading leads and clinches on nearly every hole, before Chandler birdied 18 to close out a one-shot victory over the entire field of amateurs and Emerald Coast Golf Tour pros.

Chandler shot a final-round 69 for a three-day 12-under-par 204 and his record fourth win on the Calhoun County Tour this season, moving closer to clinching top player honors in a year before he himself is expected to turn professional. Wigington, another amateur, finished second after firing 71 for a three-day 205.

It was Chandler’s first win in a pro event and the first time an amateur has won a multi-day Emerald Coast Tour event in at least four years. He won the 36-hole amateur side of this event two years ago for his first Calhoun County Tour victory.

Jared Davis of Tifton, Ga., was the low pro, scoring his first career pro victory by winning on the second hole of a playoff with Alex Tull of Corinth, Miss. Both players shot 207 for 54 holes. Davis shot 67 in the final round, won it with a par on the second playoff hole and collected $2,500 for the effort.

The final round really was a slugfest, and the pros they were going head-to-head with weren’t even a factor. At one point, the lead between Chandler and Wigington was either tied or changed hands on six consecutive holes and eight of nine running through the turn. Chandler took the lead for good with a birdie at 13.

“It was fun,” Chandler said. “It kept going back and forth all day long. I felt like if I had one mishap it would give him momentum and one mishap would have cost me the tournament. I didn’t make any mishaps.”

Chandler broke the first deadlock Sunday with a birdie at 4. Wigington retied it with a birdie at 5 and then went ahead when Chandler bogeyed 6 from the bunker.

Chandler delivered the first knockdown on 7 with a birdie to Wigington’s bogey to move back in front, but then had got get off the ropes on 8 to make a round-saving par to Wigington’s birdie for another share. Chandler’s tee shot ran through the fairway and was fortunate to catch in the high grass of the hazard. Wigington had laid back and hit his second shot up near the green, forcing Chandler to either take a risky shot or take his medicine and hope for the best.

In a testament to his maturing mental approach to the game, Chandler took the medicine – and the penalty stroke. He hit his next shot into the greenside bunker, but got up and down for par. Wigington got a bad result from his good pitch into the green, but made a four-footer coming back for birdie.

“I could’ve made a bad score there in a hurry after not a bad shot, it just went too far,” Chandler said. “The whole day I tried to limit my score. I knew taking a drop there more than likely the worst score I was going to make there was a 6. That’s what I had to do; I couldn’t make a 7 – if I make 7 and he makes a birdie, that’s a big swing.

“That’s the way it was all day long. If I made a birdie and he had a chance to make a bogey, he wouldn’t make one or vice versa. It was fun.”

It continued like that on the back. Wigington birdied 10 to take the lead, then took a body blow on 11 when he three-putted for bogey to fall into another tie. Chandler retook the lead on 13, then the brawlers matched birdies on 14 as they headed home as the only game on the golf course. (That’s how far they had fallen out of position.)

The margin was two when Wigington bogeyed 15, but it went back to one when Wigington was able to get up and down from behind the 16th green for par and Chandler did not. When both players parred 17, Wigington needed an eagle on 18 to win, birdie to tie, but both players birdied.

“When you’re back and forth from hole No. 1 on it’s tough,” Wigington said. “You’re under the gun every hole and it wears you down. You just know a mistake or a three-putt or something like that is going to end up costing you, and that’s what happened today. I had two three-putts, hadn’t had any all weekend. You can’t have those.”

Chandler wants to be player of the year – “that was a goal from the jump,” he said – but despite his season-long dominance, he still hasn’t clinched. He takes a perfect 1,200 points into the Calhoun County Tournament, adjusted to reflect his top four finishes on the year, but he still has some work to do.

If Wigington wins the County, he can steal top player honors if Chandler finishes tied for third or worse. Chandler was eighth last year and the tournament returns to an Anniston Municipal course more suited to allowing more players to contend than him pulling away.

So you’re saying he still has a chance?

“That’s better than what I expected,” Wigington said. “I knew the (County Tournament) was extra points, so I had a chance to make up some. As long as you got a shot going into it, that’s all you can ask for. He’s played great all year long. I started off bad and then played good here recently. Just to have a chance from the way I started off is good.”

NOTES: Chandler also won the net playoff among amateur flight winners with a birdie on the first hole … Chandler is 47-under-par in six CCGT events this season, 40-under in his four wins … Alabama Open champion Forrest Knight of Jemison finished third in the pro division, passing 11 players on the leaderboard with a final-round 63. The three-time Division II All-American is developing something of a reputation for being a closer since turning pro earlier this summer; he shot 61 in the final round of the Alabama Open. If he hadn’t taken a 10 on the par-5 eighth hole during Friday’s opening round – when he was 3-under-par at the time — he would have won his third pro title in three events by a shot.

Dalton Chandler blasts out of the greenside bunker on No. 8 Sunday to set up an unlikely par that kept his championship round shootout with Gary Wigington going.


At Cane Creek GC
Championship flight
Final leaderboard

Dalton Chandler 66-69-69—204
Gary Wigington 68-66-71—205
p-x-Jared Davis, Tifton, Ga. $2,500 72-68-67—207
p-Alex Tull, Corinth, Miss. $1,500 69-69-69—207
p-Forrest Knight, Jemison $750 74-74-63—211
p-Brady Hollenbacher, Fleming Is., Fla. $450 69-73-70—212
p-Kyle Sapp, Gardendale $450 69-68-75—212
Chad Calvert 72-67-75—214
p-Wilson McDonald, Birmingham 71-67-77—215
Jeremy McGatha 75-71-69—215
Brennan Clay 72-75-69—216
Ty Cole 71-72-74—217
Caleb McKinney 70-74-73—217
p-Jared Bettcher, Auburn 68-76-75—219
Tomas Bruchmann 72-78-72—222
Jeremy Willis 75-70-80—225
Matt Rogers 71-76-78—225
Caleb Bowen 74-75-76—225
p-Jordan Anderton, Birmingham 76-75-78—229
p-Alden Fortner, Dothan 76-78-75—229
p-Ethan Roberts, Anniston 76-81-79—236
Layton Bussey 78-83-77—238
Dillon Sartain 76-77-86—239
Frank Brady 77-82-85—244
Luke Armstrong 79-87-83—247
Daily Thomas 79-79-89—247
Clayton Chandler 89-81-NC
p-Glenn Northcutt, Dothan 73-WD
x-won on the second playoff hole

First flight
Bob Eaton 75-74—149
Randy Meeks 76-76—152
Chance Harris 76-82—158
Skip Talbert 78-80—158
Rich Santagata 76-83—159
Don Hill 83-81—164
Dennis Austin 82-84—166
Corey Parker 82-85—167
Danny Stephens 82-88—170

Second flight
Tad Moore 88-81—169
Kevin Dawson 94-76—170
John McKenzie 87-87—174
Kelly Rogers 91-85—176
Jimmy Jackson 87-90—177
Paul Szuch 87-90—177
Rocco D’Gomez 90-88—178
Harrison Szuch 94-90—183
David Muncher 91-97—188
Roger Bennett 96-95—191
Clark Cunningham 88-103—191
Tyler Teneyck 89-WD
Robert McClain 90-DNS
David Gilley 93-DNS



(Not adjusted for County Tournament)
Dalton Chandler 1615
Gary Wigington 1422.5
Jeremy McGatha 1172.5
Chad Calvert 1117.5
Ty Cole 1107.5
Brennan Clay 1000
Matt Rogers 995
Andrew Brooks 957.5
Caleb McKinney 885
Jonathan Pate 677.5
Billy Thompson 660
Caleb Bowen 655
Adrian Geeting 627.5
Jeremy Willis 582.5
Frank Brady 535
Clay Calkins 522.5
Kelly Rogers 512.5
Luke Armstrong 462.5
Grant Hockman 457.5
Layton Bussey 452.5
Tanner Wells 445
Janson Wilborn 437.5
Kevin Daugherty 415
Austin Minter 390
Chance Harris 390
Kenny Wright 380
Jason Brinkley 370
Logan Archer 350
Chad Watson 337.5
Chris Cox 327.5
Scott Martin 310
Chase Hollingsworth 305
Chad Reavis 300
Chip Howell 282.5
Brad Hardin 255
Casey Harmon 227.5
Rob VanGorder 200
Clinton Ramey 160
Casey McGinnis 147.5
Landon Straub 147.5
Tim Turner 117.5
Dan McClellan 95
Walt Drake 95
Chris Maye 87.5
Brandon Roberts 75

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