E.A. Sports Today

Ty & Twig move to top

Two-time reigning champions open a two-shot lead going into Championship Sunday of the 40th SKCC

Cole-Wigington 58-57–115
Robinson-Viehe 58-59–117
Etter-Bowen 61-57–118
Poole-Archer 60-59–119
Howard-Reavis 59-60–119

To view a photo gallery from Saturday’s round visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – It was Separation Saturday in the 40th Sunny King Charity Classic and Gary Wigington and Ty Cole came out of a second-day standings shakeup sitting in good shape for a third straight title after a 15-under-par 57 in Saturday’s scamble round at Cider Ridge Golf Club.

The round, the best they’ve played in the format since teaming together in the Classic in 2016, left them at 29-under 115 for the first 36 holes and with a two-shot lead over teams with an individual pro capable of going low on his own ball. They shot 61 here last year on the way to Wigington’s record seventh SKCC title and 59 when the partners won for the first time together in 2016.

When the day began 10 teams were within two shots of the lead, making this one of the tightest SKCC openings in recent years. But by the end of the day only two teams emerged to offer the defending champions the best challenge – a team of first-time Classic partners and a perennial challenger.

First-time partners Cody Robinson and Dustin Viehe, the team tied with Ty & Twig for the lead starting the day, shot 13-under 59 and is two shots back. They will play in the final group of the day in today’s Championship Sunday best ball round at Anniston Country Club.

“It’s exciting,” Viehe said. “I’ve wanted to play well in this tournament for a long time, so it’s nice to come out and do something good.”

Classic veterans Cory Etter and Caleb Bowen shot a “necessary” 57 in the first game of the day off No. 10 tee to pull into contention, three shots off the lead. They will play in the penultimate group.

Last year Ty & Twig trailed by two going into the final round before shooting 13-under 57 for the second year in a row to win by four. So, going into the final round this year with a lead coming off their best showing in their weakest format bodes well for their chances.

“Just to have a lead going into tomorrow, if we do have a lead, is always a plus,” Wigington said as he sat on the tailgate of his truck before all the scores were posted. “Because you’re playing best ball, which is the hardest format to shoot a good score in or make up a lot of shots, so to have any kind of lead at all is a big advantage.

“As opposed to last year when we were two down going into it, having a stroke or two lead is a big difference; it’s huge. Instead of having to be aggressive every hole, you don’t have to. We’re still going to play aggressive and play our game, but you don’t have to take some chances you might have to take if you were down two or three like we were. We can play our game and see how it turns out.”

Their game Saturday was as sharp as it could be in the format. One of them – or both – were in the hole every hole. The only four holes they didn’t get were three par-3s (12, 3 and 8) and the tee-drop par-4 16th that gives players a shot at the green from 125 yards for a donation to the cause. Other than that, it was 13 birdies and Cole’s 6-foot eagle on 15.

They turned in 8-under 28 and shot 7-under 29 coming home on the front nine, with Cole nearly holing out from the fairway for eagle on No. 2 and Wigington coming within inches of chipping in for another eagle from just off the green on their closing par-5 ninth.

“We hadn’t really played this great in this format until this year; you’d think it was set up better for us,” Wigington said. “Today, with the tees all the way back and the par-5s playing longer, it did set up more for how we play, but we both just hit it really good all day.

“We didn’t really leave anything out there today like we did yesterday. Fifteen under in this format … that’s a heluva score, a heluva round, for us. That’s playing some golf there.”

As good as it was on the scorecard, Cole says it will take a little more Sunday to complete the three-peat.

If they can pull it off, Wigington will become the first player in SKCC history to win the Classic three years in a row twice (and with two different partners). He won in 2000, 2001 and 2002 – and two other years – with Randy Reaves, and has won each of the last two years with Cole.

“We scored really good today, but I don’t think either one of us played really, really good,” Cole said. “It was one of those things if one of us hit it out of play, the other hit it down the middle; if somebody hit it to 30 feet, somebody hit it to three feet.

“I don’t think either one of us had our A game even though we scored well. There was a lot of ham-and-egging, picking each other up. We’re going to have to play better individually tomorrow to post a good number.”

Robinson, a 23-year-old aspiring pro from Tallapoosa, Ga., played a big part in his team’s share of the opening-round lead, shooting 61 on his own ball at Silver Lakes, but both players had a more balanced hand in keeping them in it Saturday.

The team made 13 birdies. They closed out the round with six straight birdies – five by Viehe – which would’ve made eight in a row (and 11 over 12 holes) if you put their two nines together.

“We definitely both played better today, even though the result was a little bit worse,” Robinson said, comparing Saturday’s 59 to Friday’s 58. “We played really well on the back. A lot of teamwork today, for sure.”

And now they head over to Anniston Country Club for all the marbles. Viehe worked there as an assistant a decade ago and has seen the way excitement builds during the final round. Robinson has seen the course only once – during his SKCC practice round Thursday – and had five birdies and two eagles.

“There are a lot of people who can go low tomorrow,” Viehe said. “It’s just like a normal Classic. It’ll come down to Sunday and whoever puts up the best number Sunday is going to take it.”

Etter had the kind of round Saturday Robinson had Friday. The Pine Hill pro shot 59 on his own ball, not forgetting he played some of his partner’s drives. He had one stretch in the middle of the round where he went 11-under over 11 holes.

“Once you get in that system of making putts and making birdies, the flow just keeps you going,” Etter said. We hit the ball as well yesterday (in a 11-under 61 at Silver Lakes) as we did today, we just didn’t make any putts. They were lipping out; today we were making them.”

“For us to have a chance in the tournament it was necessary for us to go out and have our best round today,” Bowen said. “When putts didn’t fall yesterday we had to make a lot of birdies today. It was necessary. A lot can still happen, but it put us in a much better position than we had been.”

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