E.A. Sports Today

‘Really neat Final Four’

Semifinals in Calhoun County Match Play Championship a matchmaker’s dream – 3 past champions and a Hall of Famer

Chip Howell put together two late rallies to earn his spot in the County Match Play semifinals. On the cover: defending champion Chad Calvert. (All photos by B.J. Franklin)

By East Alabama Sports Today

The semifinals for the Calhoun County Match Play Championship at Anniston Municipal Sunday are set and the group is a matchmakers dream. It’s three of the last four champions and a Hall of Famer.

Defending champion Chad Calvert takes on 2014 winner Andrew Brooks at 8 a.m. and 2016 winner Gary Wigington faces Calhoun County Sports Hall of Famer Chip Howell at 8:10. The championship match will follow the completion of the semifinals after a short break.

“That is a neat Final Four there,” said Wigington, a title match participant three of the last four years. “It’s fun. I’d love to try to get in there again, but you’ve got to play good.”

“Wow,” Calvert said. “I’m glad I’m just in this position. The way I’ve been playing all year was a little tough, but the last couple tournaments I’ve played in it’s been a big improvement. To be here and being the defending champ, it feels good.”

Calvert, the No. 5 seed, won a shootout with last-minute substitute Dalton Chandler to earn his place in the semifinals. The players were a combined 19-under-par in a match that ended on the 16th hole; Calvert was 10-under on his ball.

“I was 2 (under) maybe this morning (in beating Matt Rogers),” Calvert said. “When I found out I was playing Dalton, it was a different attitude; I knew I had to play. I know what type of golfer he is, what he’s capable of shooting. I had to match him shot for shot. I came out on top.”

Chandler was 7-under rallying from a 4-down spot to win his morning match with fourth-seeded Jeremy McGatha 3 and 1. He made his only bogey of the day on the hole Calvert closed him out.

Howell, the 14th seed, staged two of the day’s biggest rallies to reach the semifinals. He rallied from 4 down against No. 3 seed Brennan Clay to win 1 up in his opening match. Then in the Round of 8 against Lamar Carter, one of four last-minute replacements in the field, he was 2 down through 11 holes and birdied five of his last six to win 3 and 1.

“It’s exciting,” said Howell. “I’ve been playing pretty well but had some health issues as age will bring us to have, but The Hill kind of equalizes things … I just kept grinding back.”

Wigington, runnerup to Calvert last year and Brooks in 2014, also came from behind in both his matches. The No. 2 seed was down early against No. 15 Jake Goggans, drew even at the turn and “played better” on the back en route to a 3-up win. He was 2-down after three holes against Jonathan Pate, but was 2-up at the turn and never trailed on the back.

Brooks, the eighth seed, reached the semifinals by knocking off Daniel Black, the player who took out top-seeded Player of the Year Ty Cole in a front-nine concession. Brooks held a 2-up lead through 14 holes, Black cut the margin to one on 15, then Brooks closed it out with birdies on 16 and 17.

“I think this is the first time I’ve made it to the final day since I won it, so to be in that position to possibly be in that final match means a lot,” Brooks said. “But there’s still a lot of golf left and lot of good players in the field.”

MEET THE FINALISTS
ANDREW BROOKS, 33:
The No. 8 seed … Defeated Gary Wigington in the 2014 finals … Best 2018 CCGT finish: T-5 Pine Hill Invitational … 2018 CCGT season averages: Scoring 74.19 (11th), fairways 6.57 (16th), greens 11.14 (6th), putts 31.00 (T-13), scrambling 39.6 (14th) … Tied for third in par-3 scoring.

CHAD CALVERT, 47: The No. 5 seed … Defeated Gary Wigington to win last year’s Match Play title … Best 2018 CCGT finish: T-4 Calhoun County Championship … 2018 CCGT season averages: Scoring 72.50 (8th), fairways 7.71 (13th), greens 11.57 (4th), putts 30.57 (10th), scrambling 49.5 (8th)

CHIP HOWELL, 63: The No. 14 seed … The only player in the semifinals who hasn’t won the event, but his lifetime body of work is impeccable … Member of the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame … Best 2018 CCGT finish: T-12 FMCU Cane Creek Invitational … 2018 CCGT season averages: Scoring 73.67 (9th), fairways 9.5 (T-4), greens 10.38 (10th), putts 31.00 (T-13). scrambling 50.8 (5th).

GARY WIGINGTON, 49: The No. 2 seed … Won the 2012 and 2016 Match Play titles … Reached the championship match the previous two years and three of the last four … Best 2018 CCGT finish: Won Pine Hill Invitational … 2018 CCGT season averages: Scoring 68.75 (2nd), fairways 9.5 (T-4), greens 13.83 (2nd), putts 29.17 (T-5), scrambling 50.0 (7th) … Led the Tour in putts per GIR. Led the Tour in eagles (6) and was second in birdies (80).

Andrew Brooks reached the Match Play semifinals for the first time since winning the event in 2014. He faces defending champion Chad Calvert Sunday morning.

COUNTY MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP
At Anniston Municipal GC
Buddy Moore Bracket

(16) Daniel Black def. (1) Ty Cole, 4 up
(8) Andrew Brooks def. (9) Randy Lipscomb, 5&4
(5) Chad Calvert def. (12) Matt Rogers, 2&1
Dalton Chandler def. (4) Jeremy McGatha, 3&1
Second round
Brooks def. Black, 3&1
Calvert def. Chandler, 3&2
Semifinals
Brooks vs. Calvert, 8 a.m.
Chris Banister Bracket
(14) Chip Howell def. (3) Brennan Clay, 1 up
Lamar Carter def. Kaine Gibson, 3&2
Jonathan Pate def. (10) Clay Calkins, 1 up
(2) Gary Wigington def. (15) Jake Goggans, 3 up
Second round
Howell def. Carter, 3&1
Wigington def. Pate, 2&1
Semifinals
Howell vs. Wigington, 8:10 a.m.

Two-time champion Gary Wigington is looking to reach the Match Play finals for the third year in a row and fourth time in the last five years.

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