E.A. Sports Today

Back from the brink

Wigington birdies his way out of a corner in the semifinals, then defeats defending champ for ‘improbable’ third Match Play title

Gary Wigington blasts out of a buried lie in the greenside bunker on the third hole of his championship match with Chad Calvert. Wigington lost the hole to go 1 down, but eventually won the match.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

It was a very tired Gary Wigington who sat on the couch in the clubhouse Sunday at the end of another 36-hole day, but otherwise he looked pretty good for a guy who just stared golf death in the face and live to tell the tale.

Wigington came back from the brink of elimination in the semifinals and then all the way to the final hole to win his third Calhoun County Match Play Championship title and second in three years.

He came from three down with three to play in the semifinals against Chip Howell to make five straight birdies and win in 20 holes, then went right back out and took down defending champion Chad Calvert 1 up for the title, taking the lead on the next to last hole.

Calvert reached the finals by defeating 2014 champion Andrew Brooks, 4 and 3.

The title match was a rematch of last year’s final, in which Calvert took the lead on 17 and won 2 up. Wigington, who also won the Match Play in 2012 and 2016, has been in the title match the last three years and four of the last five, but this one was “improbable” to say the least.

“Very improbable,” Wigington said. “No. 1, to come back and tie that (semifinal) match and go into a playoff and birdie No. 2 (to win) – to birdie No. 2 is pretty damned improbable – and typically when something like that happens and you go right behind it you’ve kind of spent all your (energy). I told Chad on 18 I am so tired right now I hope this is the last hole.

“It feels good, though. Just to get a win playing in this kind of format is great and doing it in that fashion … makes you feel proud, knowing you can every now and then slide in on one and get one.”

Wigington was on the ropes in the semifinals. Howell, a three-time county champion, was 3-up through 13, but missed a chance to widen the gap when he “got a little anxious” on a short birdie putt on 14 to halve and they halved 15 to make the match dormie.

That’s when Wigington’s putter came to life. He made a 20-foot birdie putt on 16 shrinking the hole on Howell’s 10-footer birdie attempt, made a three-footer on 17 and then drained another 20-footer on 18 to force sudden death.

“It was one of those things I felt like I hit some really good putts during that round and got nothing out of it,” Wigington said. “I didn’t feel l was playing bad, I just wasn’t getting anything out of how I was playing. There were a few birdies here and there, but when I had the five in a row I had to have to get to the next stage it felt good knowing you still could do it.”

Both players birdied the first playoff hole, with Howell nearly jarring his greenside bunker shot to a tight pin for a winning eagle. On 2, the hardest par-3 in the county, Wigington landed his tee shot about three feet behind the hole on the green’s lower tier. Howell’s shot took a hop to the edge of the middle tier and stopped, leaving a nearly impossible putt in a crucial situation.

Howell’s putt predictably slid past the hole. Wigington made his putt to decide the match.

“It certainly is disappointing, but I played well, hung in there and had a great shot,” Howell said. “I was the beneficiary of that (type of birdie run) the first two rounds. Doesn’t feel good, but I had the opportunity. I hit the shots, I just didn’t make the putts that I had made up to that point, and match play can do that do you.”

Calvert had Wigington down in the final, too – twice, after winning the third hole with a birdie and winning 11 and 12 to retake the lead.

Wigington squared the match with a birdie on 13 and it stayed that way until 17. Wigington parred the penultimate hole to Calvert’s three-putt bogey to take the lead, but Calvert still could have extended the match with a win at 18.

The defending champ hooked his drive towards Johnston Drive and was left with 154 yards to the hole; Wigington had 190, but a better line to the green. Calvert lifted a 9-iron over the trees that hit the top tier of the green and settled about 20 feet from the hole. Wigington’s 7-iron drew into the hole to about 10 feet. Calvert putted down and his birdie putt was conceded. Wigington two-putted for the win.

“When I three-putted 17 I knew it was over, then he hits a heck of a shot on 18 for his second shot,” Calvert said. “It was a good weekend. I was pleased the way I played the whole weekend.”

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
Calvert def. Brooks, 4&3

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
Wigington def. Howell, 20 holes
Championship match
Wigington def. Calvert, 1 up

CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Wigington def. Calvert, 1 up
PAR  535 344 344 35 434 444 345 35 70
GW    435 334 344 33 444 334 344 33 66
CC     434 444 344 34 433 434 354 33 67

COUNTY MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONS
2010 – Ott Chandler
2011 – Matt Rogers
2012 – Gary Wigington
2013 – Gary Wilborn
2014 – Andrew Brooks
2015 – Caleb McKinney
2016 – Gary Wigington
2017 – Chad Calvert
2018 – Gary Wigington

Chad Calvert chips to a tight pin on the fourth hole. Gary Wigington won the hole with a long two-putt par to square the match.

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