E.A. Sports Today

Gr8 three-peat

Cole, Wigington win third straight SKCC title, for Wigington it was his eighth King crown and second three-peat

Ty Cole and Gary Wigington (R) line up the birdie putt on 18 Sunday that could have taken them to 40-under par. (All photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Cole-Wigington 58-57-60–175 (-39)
Burgess-Hathorn 60-60-61–181 (-33)
Howard-Reavis 59-60-62–181 (-33)
Etter-Bowen 61-57-63–181 (-33)
Archer-Archer 64-60-59–183 (-31)

To see a photo gallery of the day’s round visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Winning a third straight Sunny King Charity Classic together turned a little personal for Ty Cole and Gary Wigington on the back nine Sunday.

The partners completed the third three-peat in the Classic’s 40-year history when they shot a final-round 10-under-par 60 at Anniston Country Club for a three-day total of 39-under 175 – bogey free – and a six-shot victory over three teams.

What became what Cole called “a personal deal for us” was a run at a third-straight winning score of 40-under or better. They won their first title together in 2016 with an all-time record 43-under and last year hit 40 on the nose. Cole gave them a shot at it with a 15-foot mulligan eagle on the par-5 17th after an impressive approach, but the partners parred 18 to miss their magic mark by one.

How important was it to get to 40? When Cole made the eagle on 17 he let the world in on the goal, saying excitedly “we can’t get to 40 if that putt doesn’t go in.”

“Once we figured out were four or five clear we didn’t want to just mail it in,” Cole said. “So I told (Wigington) making the turn look I know your coming – he was struggling a little bit on the front – but we need 7 on the back to get to 40. I want 40. I don’t want to be in the 30s. I want it to always be in the 40s. It was something to play for, motivation, whatever you want to call it. It was kind of a goal within the goal.”

Cole admitted it was a “little bit disappointing” not to reach their benchmark, but there was just so much risk he was willing to take on the last hole.

“I wasn’t going play stupid enough to really try to bomb (the putt on 18) in there and end up having a 10-footer and have a bogey on the last hole when we didn’t have a bogey the whole tournament,” he said. “The 40 was the goals and was important, but it wasn’t worth shooting 38 over.”

The idea of keeping the score in the 40s was important to Wigington as well. It would have been an impressive get given he considered the courses this year playing three total shots harder this year because of conditions and setup.

“The way it should be the whole tournament you’re playing to shoot a number, you’re playing for a number, and that was the number we wanted to get to,” he said. “If you shoot that, your chances of winning if you look back in history, it’s pretty good.

“After we made the turn we said we had to shoot 7-under to get to 40 and that’s what we wanted to do. And that’s kind of the way it’s supposed to be. You’re not playing against so-and-so or so-and-so. It’s nice to know where they’re at, but at that point for us, it’s we wanted to get to that number and if we to that number we felt pretty danged good about it.”

They won by six shots over Ryan Howard-Chad Reavis, Cory Etter-Caleb Bowen and 2013 champions Garrett Burgess-Cypress Hathorn. Burgess and Hathorn were declared second-place winners by virtue of their final-round 61. Dustin Viehe and Cody Robinson, the team sharing the lead with T&T after the first day and the closest to them starting Sunday, never got anything going and finished in a four-way tie for sixth.

As much as the challengers try to put up a fight, Howard, for one, figured they were all playing for second place anyway considering who was leading the pack.

“If there was anybody else besides Ty and Twig we felt like we would have a chance,” Howard said, “but honestly there wasn’t. If I was going to be brutally honest, I was playing for second today. There’s no gray, it’s pretty much cut and dried.”

“Twig and Ty probably would’ve been untouchable after two days of getting behind,” Hathorn said. “You can’t get behind on those guys, not in this (final day best ball) format.”

The winners never lost the lead after grabbing a share of it with a mulligan eagle on Heartbreaker 7, their 16th hole at Silver Lakes Friday afternoon, and added to it with what Wigington called “their best round of the tournament” in their best scamble round together at Cider Ridge. They took ultimate control of the tournament Sunday when Wigington finally came to life after making the turn.

He started the back nine with his first birdie on 10, which he promptly celebrated by raising his arms in mock triumph, an eagle on 11 and a five-foot birdie on 13.

“I was beginning to wonder if I was going to make one,” he said. “I told Ty going up 9 I am going to make a birdie on this back nine somewhere along the way. I did it on 10.”

The eagle came after a mulligan 7-iron from 180 yards to six feet and after Etter had eagled the hole in the group of ahead of them to pull within two of the lead.

“The first time I pulled it left and it was short of the green,” Wigington said. “I hadn’t used any (mulligans) and I just felt like I had the right club to where I was so I just went ahead and hit another one. I just felt like I really needed to look at a putt at eagle, whether we made it or not.”

Etter figured “that was it pretty much” when Wigington made his eagle. He and Bowen kept pace with the leaders through the front and thought they had a chance when Etter hit to a foot on 11, but Wigington’s eagle combined with their pars on 12 and 13 basically sealed their fate.

For Wigington it was his eighth SKCC title in 20 starts, extending his record for all-time victories, and made him the first player to win three consecutive King Classics twice. Both milestones are something he’ll probably look back upon fondly at some much later date, but for now his complete focus is full-speed ahead.

He won in 2000, 2001 and 2002 – and two other years – with Randy Reaves. In his eight titles, Wigington’s teams have posted a cumulative total of 291-under-par. He is 122-under in the three wins with Cole. His cumulative margin of victory is 35 shots, 18 with Cole. Eric Hamilton and Patrick Cushman posted the first Classic three-peat, 1994-96, and had a chance to do it again when Wigington and Reaves ruined it for them in 2000.

“I don’t ever think about the past, I’m always thinking about what we got to do to win it this year,” he said. “At some point I’ll look back and say that was pretty good, but now its just we won it this year and that’s the only thing that really matters at this point.”

The teams of Ryan Howard-Chad Reavis (dark shirts) and Cory Etter-Caleb Bowen look over putts that could have broken them out of a three-way finish for second.

Dustin Viehe gets down to ground level to get a read of the green.

Garrett Burgess takes a swing at the 16th green Sunday. Burgess and partner Cypress Hathorn made a charge on the front nine well ahead of the leaders and climbed into contention, but finished in a three-way tie for second.

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