E.A. Sports Today

And the winner is …

Wigington wins last year’s Match Play title, Four-peat at Sugarloaf, Tanner had front-row seat to Chandler’s 58, Buddy Moore pairings

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Gary Wigington found the perfect way to take a little bit of the sting out of his finish in last weekend’s Calhoun County Tournament.

He beat the newly crowned Player of the Year to win the 2016 Calhoun County Match Play Championship.

Wigington took down Dalton Chandler 1 up Thursday at Anniston Municipal to win the Match Play and bring a conclusion to an event just a few weeks before the projected start of the 2017 tournament.

He becomes the first multiple winner in the seven-year history of the event. He also won it in 2012 and was runner-up to Andrew Brooks in 2014.

“It was a bad ending to the year for this past weekend, but it does make you feel better to come back and get a win in the Match Play Championship,” Wigington said. “It helps not be quite such a bitter ending to the year.”

Wigington was the only player who could have caught Chandler in the Player of the Year race, but it would have been predicated on him winning the County Championship. Those hopes faded with a pair of double bogeys in Saturday’s opening round that led to a 72 and left him seven shots off Chandler’s overnight lead. He shot 68 the final day and finished 16th to Chandler’s third. Still, he’ll be the No. 2 seed when the 2017 Match Play gets underway later this fall.

Curiously, he shot 60 on the same course the day before the County in his 5&4 Match Play semifinal victory over Jeremy McGatha, who won the County Tournament.

Wigington jumped out front early in the championship match, winning the first two holes with a birdie and a par, and never lost the lead. Chandler, a four-time winner on the County Tour this year, made birdie on 17 to cut his deficit to 1 down, but the players halved 18 to close out the match.

“He had played good all year and it does make you feel good that you beat him head-to-head in a tournament like that or in that format, knowing that you can,” Wigington said. “It was satisfying to win and to beat the person who won the overall championship for the year.”

THE BEAT GOES ON: The day after the County Tournament, Wigington was part of a Calhoun County team that won the Oakley AMG Scramble at TPC-Sugarloaf for the fourth year in a row.

The team, which also included county champion McGatha, Matt Rogers and Cane Creek pro Kenny Szuch, shot 59 and won by four. Wigington and McGatha hit two of the biggest shots of the day. McGatha holed a ridiculously difficult 61-yard semi-flop shot for an eagle that jump-started their run to another title and Wigington knocked a 3-iron from 220 yards over water to a tight pin to within a foot to seal it.

“We get a lot of verbal abuse going up to that podium every year,” Szuch said. “You can bring your own foursome, so we bring four guys who want to play, have fun, and we’ve done it every year for six years.”

FRONT-ROW SEAT: Tanner Wells was playing alongside Dalton Chandler the day Chandler tied the Anniston Municipal course record with his 58 in a practice round for the County Tournament. Chandler called it a “freak of nature” type round. Wells had never seen anything like it.

“It was like watching some on TV almost,” Wells recalls. “He didn’t miss very much besides that one bogey and he made a par on 18. It was one of those situations where I knew I was watching something that just doesn’t happen very often.

“To know he was doing it made me happy for him and I cheered him on. We have been best friends since elementary school and we have always been competitive in whatever we do. I’m glad to see all his hard work he puts in to golf starting to pay off.”

LEADERS OF THE PACK: How strong a year did Dalton Chandler have on the Calhoun County Golf Tour. He played only one round over par and shot only three rounds in the 70s. Little wonder he set the Tour single-season scoring record, posting a 68.25 stroke average. Only three times in the 10-year history of the Tour has the Player of the Year not been the scoring leader.

Here are the other statistical champions from the Tour this season: Fairways – Clay Calkins (11.40); Greens – Ty Cole (14.00); Putts – Brennan Clay (28.33); Birdies – Dalton Chandler (86); Eagles – Ty Cole, Grant Hockman (4); Putts/GIR – Brennan Clay (1.709); 3-Putt Pct. – Brennan Clay, Chad Calvert (0.028); Scrambling – Gary Wigington (.635); Par-3s – Brennan Clay (3.093); Par-4s – Dalton Chandler (3.886); Par-5s – Dalton Chandler (4.375).

The statistical leaders will be recognized at the Tour’s awards banquet later this winter.

BUDDY MOORE TOURNAMENT: Here are Saturday’s first-round tee assignments for the Buddy Moore Tournament at Anniston Municipal:

8 a.m. Shotgun
1A: Daniel Clonts-Brett Key, Warren Askew-Bruce Collins
1B: Tom Mullins-Henry Higginbotham, Ron Dulaney-Donnie McGinnis
2: Jimmy Jackson-Gordon Stewart, Nick Pope-Tommy Pope
3: Kelly Rogers-Elbert Rogers, Danny Whitaker-Cary Thomas
4: Mike Zinn-Brian Whitley, Mark Gaines-Andy Jenkins
5: Lynn Oswalt-Charles Carden, Jerry Dingler-David Wray
6: Cory Etter-Caleb Bowen, Lynn Coffee-Nick Pollard
7: Tim Davis-Grady Sapp, Chris Randall-James Randall
8: Frank Brady-Landon Winfrey, Steve Akers-John Harpe
9: T.J. McGatha-Rick Dickson, Tony Strickland-Michael Herndon

1 p.m. Shotgun
1A: Scotty Moore-Will Prickett, David Hill-David Fitzgerald
1B: Mike Braxton-Tim Mullendore, Steve Mullendore-Will Mullendore
2: Dallas Snow-Sage Snow, Shane Chappell-Matt Miller
3: Matt Rogers-Jeremy McGatha, Andrew Brooks-Brennan Clay
4: Clay Calkins-Chris Hubbard, George Salmon-Jason Johnson
5: Keith Gann-Jeff Shaddix, Steve McClellan-Ron Wheeler
6: Tom Sawyer-Trey Sawyer, Andy Solemin-Henry Donald
7: Chris Maye-Allen Mangham, Ted Heim-Garrett Heim
8: Ken Renfroe-Kenner Renfroe, Carter Gable-John Roe
9: Andrew Tyson-Guy Bradley, Adrian Geeting-Austin Minter

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