E.A. Sports Today

Twig rolls on

Wigington wins Pine Hill Invitational for fifth time in six years, has won at least one Calhoun County Golf Tour event each of the last nine years

Gary Wigington pitches onto the 10th green on his way to the Pine Hill Invitational title. (All photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Gary Wigington 64-67—131
Ty Cole 67-66—133
Brennan Clay 68-67—135
Grant Hockman 65-73—138

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Sundays are Fun Days for Gary Wigington when it comes to the Pine Hill Invitational.

Wigington won the traditional last Calhoun County Golf Tour event before the County Championship for the fifth time in the last six years Sunday and every year he finishes with a flourish.

This year he might have missed his final-round target score by a shot, but he had more than enough cushion to put his name on the trophy again.

Wigington shot a final-round 67 for a two-day total 13-under-par 131 and beat his Sunny King Charity Classic partner Ty Cole by two shots to complete a wire-to-wire win. Wigington and Cole teamed for a third straight SKCC title just one week ago.

The title was his first on the County Tour this year – he’s been second three times –keeping him in the mix for Player of the Year and extending his streak of at least one Tour victory each of the last nine years.

Why are Sundays here so special? In this six-year run, his final-round scoring average here has been 65.3 with 42 total birdies. Included in the run were 63s in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

“I just felt real good about my game,” he said. “Usually this thing falls right after the Sunny King and usually we’ve worked real hard going into the Sunny King, so it kind of bleeds over into the next week or two. I was hitting it good last weekend and it kind of continued on this week.

“I just think it’s a good timing thing. I work harder probably going into the Sunny King than any other tournament and this falls right after it. I hit the driver real good and around the green chipping and pitching and all that was real good, so if you can do that out here you’re going to shoot a good number.”

Wigington basically locked up this one on the front nine. He went into the day with a one-shot lead over Grant Hockman, but knew he’d still have to post a “good number” to complete the deal. He turned in 4-under to push the margin over the field to five and reasonably could have shot 28 he was that close to so many birdies.

The only hole he didn’t give himself a chance at birdie on the side was the par-3 fourth, but he still made par; everything else he either left on the edge or made. From there it was just a matter of how much would he win by.

The only specter of drama came late when Cole cut the margin from four to two going to 18 with a par on 16 and birdie on 17. Then on 18, Wigington’s approach shot ran across the cart path and settled in the collection area for the ninth green, while Cole positioned in front of the green.

Wigington pitched back onto the green and then made his putt in front of Cole’s attempt for the clinching birdie.

“At the end of the day you’re not going to catch him out here,” said Cole, who shot the best round of the day (66). “With the lead he had on fast greens he’ll have to putt defensive and somebody else can charge, but out here on slow greens you’re not going to catch him.

“At the end of the day, I shoot 11-under and don’t sniff (the lead). Eleven under walks any other tournament we play on this Tour, for two or three days. He’s too good a player out here. He’s too good a player, period, but out here you spot him three shots you can’t catch him. It just ain’t gonna happen.”

While Wigington and Cole were pulling away from the field in the final group, Clay was quietly making a move to stay in it in the group ahead of them. He shot 67 and made a big move with an eagle on the par-5 15th after hitting a 5-iron from 195 yards to three feet.

The 3 got him to 8-under for the tournament. He made a birdie on 18 for a 67 to get to 9, but just missed his target with the big prize out of reach most of the day. He finished third.

“I was really trying to come in second,” Clay said. “I said at the turn I’d like to get to minus-10 because I’d never shot double-digits under par in a tournament before; that was my goal. I knew unless I just went nuts and birdied every hole on the back nine I wasn’t going to catch Twig.”

NOTES: The other flight winners were Charlie Smith (Championship B), Caleb Bowen (first), Cameron McCareeth (second), Kenny Fulmer (third), Justin Dopson (fourth), Jerry Irwin (Senior A) and Mike Thompson (Senior B) … Dennis Austin (No. 11) and Josh Hicks (No. 15) also had eagles in the round … The tournament raised more than $650 for school supplies for children who can’t afford them … One of the more interesting groups of the day featured a pairing that included area rival basketball coaches Chris Randall (White Plains) and Jeff Noah (Hokes Bluff). How much more interesting could it have been if Scott Watson and Clay Calkins, basketball officials who played in the tournament, completed the foursome? … The tournament took place opposite the British Open. The Calhoun County Championship at Anniston Municipal Aug. 11-12 takes place opposite the PGA Championship … The Buddy Moore Tournament at The Hill is officially closed with a waiting list, but spots are still available for the County.

Ty Cole shot the best round of the day (66), but it wasn’t enough to catch Gary Wigington.

Grant Hockman started the day one shot off the lead after posting a 65 in the opening round.

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

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