E.A. Sports Today

Hockman in the hunt

Gary Wigington leads Pine Hill Invitational after 8-under 64, but Hockman looms one shot back

Clay Calkins had six birdies and a chip-in eagle, but three bogeys left him in a tie for third after the opening round. (All photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

With all he has going on his life anymore, Grant Hockman doesn’t have as much time for golf as he used to. So, when he does get the chance to play it’s like falling in love all over again.

And when he shoots a good round in the first round of a tournament setting, it brings out a set of nerves just like the first time.

Hockman shot a bogey-free 7-under-par 65 in one of the early groups Saturday and for a good part of the day held the early lead in the Pine Hill Invitational. He dropped to second after Gary Wigington came home with a 64 a few hours later, but he’ll still in the final group of the day Sunday.

“It makes me nervous as heck to play Sunday,” he said. “It really does. I watch Twig and Ty and all them. I know tomorrow playing the blue tees I’m behind the 8-ball, but you know what, I can go out there and see what happens.

“But I’ll definitely be nervous tomorrow.”

Hockman had been a regular on the Calhoun County Golf, winning twice, but has played in only one Tour event this season – the Wilfred Galbraith ACC Invitational, finishing 10th – and just recently in a two-man scramble with Jeremy McGatha in Pell City. Most of his time when he isn’t on the job as the Calhoun County juvenile probation chief has been taken up by traversing the country coaching the Birmingham Bolts ’09 travel softball team.

He’s taken the team to 10 tournaments throughout the South and it has won three times and finished second in three others. Not a lot of time to work on wedges and putts.

“I just don’t get to play as much,” he said. “We do a lot of traveling with softball, so I get to play maybe three tournaments a year. That doesn’t mean I don’t think I can compete. There are some shots I just don’t have as much touch as I used to have.”

Playing in a round with Jonathan Pate where he “had the most fun I’ve had in a long time” he birdied 5 and 6 to turn in 2-under, then played the back in 5-under with birdies at 10, 12, 16, 17 and 18.

“I played well,” he said. “I kind of got off to a slow start, but made a good putt on 5 and just kind of kept truckin’ along.

“I was joking with Jonathan. He played really good on the front and made a putt on 10 and then a really long one on 11 (to get to 5-under) and I said to him you’re really going to be hard to walk down if you keep making 40-footers all day. And then all of I sudden I make a long one 12 and then birdied the holes you’re supposed to birdie.”

Wigington had eight birdies. He had five in a seven-hole stretch in the middle of the round, including three in a row (10, 11, 12).

Calkins had six birdies and a chip-in eagle (No. 17) and would have had a share of the lead without three bogeys, including one on 18 that dropped him into a tie for third. Cole had seven birdies and two bogeys and played his last 12 holes in 5-under.

NOTES: Hockman has won two Tour events (2008 Silver Lakes, 2014 Cane Creek) … Wigington has won four of the last five Pine Hill titles … Nick Pollard was 5-under through eight holes Saturday, took a triple-bogey 7 on No. 9 and still finished at 69 … Glenn Heathcock (No. 6), Will Brown (No. 15), Dennis Reaves (No. 15), Robbie Robertson (No. 6), Graham Morrow (No. 11), Clay Calkins (No. 17) had eagles in the round.

2016 champion Ty Cole (L) chips onto the green under the watchful eye of Daily Thomas.

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

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