E.A. Sports Today

That winning feeling

McGatha wins Calhoun County championship, Chandler locks up Player of the Year award

Jeremy McGatha won for the first time in 27 months on the Calhoun County Golf Tour Sunday when he took the Calhoun County Championship for the third time. (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

When you get to be Jeremy McGatha’s age – not that 40 is golf-old by any means – sometimes those demons creep up on your shoulder and get you to wondering if you’ll ever win again.

Then when you do win, it makes you feel so young.

McGatha ended a 27-month drought on the Calhoun County Golf Tour Sunday by winning the oldest tournament of them all.

He won the 81st Calhoun County Championship by one shot over defending champion Ott Chandler Sunday at Anniston Municipal Golf Course.

McGatha birdied three of his last five holes to shoot a final-round bogey-free 4-under-par 66 and finish at 7-under 133. Ott Chandler birdied his last three holes to shoot 68 and finished second at 134.

It was McGatha’s third County title, ninth career win on the County Tour and first since winning the Wilfred Galbraith ACC Invitational in May 2015. He won his first County in 2002 at The Hill and his second in 2007 at Cane Creek.

First-round leader Dalton Chandler finished third, two shots back, but clinched the Calhoun County Tour Player of the Year.

Of all the individual stroke-play tournaments played in Calhoun County, the county championship is the one McGatha wants to win most. He’s been runner-up in it eight times, including each of the last three years.

“I guess it’s the history,” he said. “It’s the oldest tournament in the area; this was our 81st. Fortunately I won it in ’02 and Buddy Moore gave me the trophy, so I was one of the fortunate ones to win it when Buddy was still alive up here. Then I won in 2007.

“Then, you know how golf is, you hit a drought and you think you’re never gonna win again and last year I played my butt off. After I won (at ACC) I thought I’m gonna win some golf, I really did, and I haven’t won anything since. Thank God I got one.”

McGatha went through a similar cold spell earlier this decade when he went 20 events between County Tour points-counting wins. He won the King of the Hill in 2011 and didn’t win again until that event in 2014.

It didn’t take quite that long for his next win, but it has been 18 events since that ACC victory.

“It’s one of those things that’s hard to describe,” he said. “You think I’m never going to win again, especially after ’15 ACC and last year’s county; that shot I hit in the playoff was pure. Ernie Els used to talk about those demons on your shoulder.”

The final round was a classic shootout, with the gallery bouncing between the final two groups to keep up with the scoreboard. It started with six players one shot off the pace and eight players within two of the lead. At one point on the back nine there were six players tied for the lead – McGatha, both Chandlers, Chandler Wilborn, Brennan Clay and Grant Hockman.

The first separation came on 14 when Ott Chandler missed a short par putt while Clay and McGatha both made birdie to go to 5-under made birdie. Dalton Chandler joined the leaders moments later.

McGatha took sole possession of the lead with birdie at 16 and kept it to the finish. Ott Chandler birdied 17 to close within one, but McGatha and Chandler both birdied 18 to close it out.

Chandler beat McGatha in a playoff in last year’s county tournament.

“Today was kind of sweet for me, bittersweet for Ott,” McGatha said. “We kind of winked at each other; he knew it.

“When I made that 12-footer on 18 to put me 7 (under) and he had his 3-4-footer to go 6, I think we kind of looked at each other and he knew I had him at least. It’s kind of weird Ott’s first, I’m second last year now I’m first and Ott’s second this year.”

“I just didn’t play well enough to win,” Chandler said. “Yesterday I sort of scraped it around and shot 4 (under); today I scraped it around and shot 2 (under) and still had a chance. But I miss from two feet on 14 and Jeremy makes a 25-30 footer; that’s a two-shot swing and that’s what cost me. A couple holes stood out, but as a whole I just didn’t play well enough.”

The eighth and 17th ruined Dalton Chandler’s bid for a fifth County Tour victory this year to wrap up Player of the Year honors on a winning note. He was 2-under after breaking through with birdies on 6 and 7 and then drove it out of bounds on 8 and made double bogey. When they came back around he bogeyed the hole from in front of the green to end his bid for the win.

“Three shots on one hole,” Dalton said shaking his head. “Even when I was making the turn and was even with everybody I was like this is gift. I figured I was three or four back. It was lucky (to be in the hunt).

“I gave it away. I shot even par. On a normal day when I come up here I’m never going to shoot even par and I do it in a tournament. I didn’t hit it that bad, one bad tee ball, really.”

NOTES: Daniel Black edged Dalton Chandler in the afternoon putt-off for the Dennis Gable Duffer Award for low putts in Saturday’s round. Chandler dropped a long putt on top of Black’s in the first round then Black got his putt inside Chandler’s attempt in the second round for the win … Sunday closest to the pin prizes went to Andrew Miller and Ott Chandler (No. 7), Sean Hayes and Dan Griffin (No. 4). Long drive prizes went to Cal Lambert (AM) and Tanner Wells (PM) … Many of these players return to The Hill next week for the Buddy Moore Tournament. … The top 16 finishers in the Tour points standings will play here in the County Match Play Championship. The date is to be determined, but it’s expected to take place over the course of one weekend.

Defending champion and 2017 runnerup Ott Chandler follows a short putt on the ninth green Sunday.

at Anniston Municipal Golf Course
Final scores

Championship A
Jeremy McGatha 67-66—133
Ott Chandler 66-68—134
Dalton Chandler 65-70—135
Grant Hockman 66-70—136
Chandler Wilborn 66-70—136
Brennan Clay 66-70—136
Andrew Brooks 67-70—137
Adrian Geeting 66-71—137
Caleb McKinney 68-71—139
Tanner Wells 66-76—142
Sawyer Stice 69-73—142
Caleb Bowen 69-74—143
Kenny Wright 69-75—144

Championship B
Landon Straub 70-67—137
Scott Martin 71-68—139
Gary Wigington 72-68—140
Chip Howell 72-73—145
Austin Minter 70-75—145
Layton Bussey 72-74—146
Clay Calkins 72-74—146
Frank Brady 70-77—147
Ted Heim 72-75—147
Chase Hollingsworth 70-79—149
Dennis Austin 70-80—150
George Salmon 72-78—150
Danny Whittaker 72-82—154

First flight
Billy Thompson 73-73—146
Scott Eaton 74-73—147
Daniel Black 73-74—147
Nate Griffin 74-73—147
Matt Rogers 76-72—148
Dan Griffin 77-73—150
Kenny Fulmer 77-79—156
Gage Miller 77-80—157
Tim Steward 77-81—158
Al Johnson 77-81—158
Casey Harmon 75-85—160
John McKenzie 77-87—164
John Tucker 76-WD

Second flight
Tony Hicks 78-75—153
Don Hill 79-81—160
Andrew Miller 82-79—161
Paul Wade 82-80—162
Brad Hardin 85-77—162
Jimbo Phillips 81-82—163
Johnny Barnes 82-81—163
Vince Floyd 81-84—165
Drue Snow 83-83—166
Rick Dickson 80-88—168

Third flight
Tyler Teneyck 85-78—163
Cal Lambert 84-81—165
Nick Hubbard 84-82—166
Kelly Rogers 86-82—168
Landon Holley 84-85—169
Zack Mangum 84-85—169
Jerry Dingler 86-86—172
David Gattis 85-94—179

Fourth flight
T.J. McGatha 88-78—166
Mark Cotton 88-99—187
Austin Roberts 96-90—186
Clayton Chandler 89-WD
Sean Hayes 93-WD

PLAYERS 535 344 344 35 434 444 345 35 70

McGatha 535 334 344 34 434 434 244 32 66 (133)
O.Chandler 633 344 344 34 435 454 234 34 68 (134)
D.Chandler 535 343 264 35 444 434 354 35 70 (135)

Al Johnson reacts to a putt on the ninth green in the Calhoun County Tournament at Anniston Municipal on Sunday.

Dalton Chandler 1575
Gary Wigington 1335
Jeremy McGatha 1275
Brennan Clay 1149
Ty Cole 1107.5
Andrew Brooks 1082.5
Caleb McKinney 979
Chad Calvert 970
Adrian Geeting 905
Caleb Bowen 887.5
Matt Rogers 858
Grant Hockman 777
Billy Thompson 740
Clay Calkins 718
Frank Brady 715
Tanner Wells 685
Jonathan Pate 677.5
Layton Bussey 647.5
Kenny Wright 605
Austin Minter 604
Kelly Rogers 595
Jeremy Willis 582.5
Scott Martin 569
Chip Howell 496.5
Chase Hollingsworth 470
Luke Armstrong 462.5
Janson Wilborn 437.5
Landon Straub 425
Kevin Daugherty 415
Brad Hardin 405
Chance Harris 390
Casey Harmon 385
Jason Brinkley 370
Logan Archer 350
Chad Watson 337.5
Chris Cox 327.5
Chad Reavis 300

First-round pairings
Buddy Moore bracket

(1) Dalton Chandler vs. (16) Tanner Wells
(8) Chad Calvert vs. (9) Adrian Geeting
(5) Ty Cole vs. (12) Grant Hockman
(4) Brennan Clay vs. (13) Billy Thompson
Chris Banister bracket
(3) Jeremy McGatha vs. (14) Clay Calkins
(6) Andrew Brooks vs. (11) Matt Rogers
(7) Caleb McKinney vs. (10) Caleb Bowen
(2) Gary Wigington vs. (15) Frank Brady

With his T-4 in the Calhoun County Tournament, Grant Hockman finished 12th in the County Tour points standings and will play fifth-seeded Ty Cole in the opening round of the Calhoun County Match Play Championship.

On the cover: Tournament champion Jeremy McGatha is embraced by defending champion Ott Chandler after winning the Calhoun County Championship. To see a gallery of photos from the final round, visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com and click on the golf file.

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