E.A. Sports Today

Bring it on

Cole, Wigington go after a fourth straight Sunny King Classic victory against the largest field in tournament history

The Sunny King Charity Classic raised a record $140,000 for its charities last year. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
As easy as it might have looked for Ty Cole and Gary Wigington to win the Sunny King Charity Classic the last three years given their scores and margins of victory they’ll tell you it’s actually getting harder and harder to defend their title.
The field is getting bigger – a record this year – the teams are getting stronger and, let’s face it, they aren’t getting any younger.
The SKCC dream team will be chasing an unprecedented fourth consecutive King crown when the 41st Classic gets underway Friday at Anniston Country Club, Cider Ridge Golf Club and Silver Lakes, and this may be the biggest challenge to their dynasty yet.
A record 211 teams are in the field this year, among them two new tandems built apparently exclusively to challenge the juggernaut. 

“It really gets tougher every year because the scores get lower, the players get younger and every year you win it’s just tougher than it used to be,” said Wigington, who turns 50 on Aug. 4. “When I started playing there were two or three teams that had a legitimate chance of winning. Now you’ve got a bunch of teams that can get hot on a three-day weekend. It’s just tough.”
The two new challengers bring a lot of firepower.

Two-time Donoho high school state champion and South Alabama-bound Jacob LeCroy is teaming with 2018 Alabama Open champion Jacob Harper, a mini-tour player from Valley with a big upside to his game. Harper won back-to-back events on the Emerald Coast Tour last year and has finished as high as T-3 this season.
The other is a pair of Georgia mini-tour players, Cody Robinson and Barrett Waters. Robinson played in the Classic last year and finished T-6 with Dustin Viehe after sharing the opening-round lead with Cole and Wigington. Waters has won his last four Open Golf Atlanta starts with a combined 22-under-par and made one career start on the Korn Ferry (formerly Web.com) Tour.
If the currently listed Sunday final groups are a projection, other teams to watch are perennial contenders Jeremy McGatha-Brennan Clay, Cory Etter-Caleb Bowen and Ryan Howard and new partner Richard Poole of Nashville. Of course, former champion teams of Garrett Burgess-Cypress Hathorn and Ott-Dalton Chandler also are in the field.
“It’s that way every year,” Wigington said. “There’s a new team or two that comes with credentials that look great on paper and you’ve got to respect that. We’re going to go out and try to give it our best and let the chips fall, and they’ve fallen good the last couple years.
“We can’t worry about who’s playing and all that. There are always one of two teams that look good on paper. It’s a different format. It’s a different mindset, not individual play. You’ve really got to think team-wise what’s the best way to attack this. When we started playing (Cole) wasn’t used to that and there have been things we’ve done. It’s a different format and if you’re not used to playing it, it’s not as easy as it looks.”
The best two players on the Calhoun County Golf Tour certainly have found the secret to folding their individual games into the team concept.
Individually, they both have won 16 times on the Tour; one or the other has won 29 of the 55 tournaments since 2012, including 10 of the last 12. They’ve gone 1-2 on the leaderboard 11 times and been runner-up to somebody not named Cole or Wigington another 10 times. They’ve been the Tour’s Player of the Year six of the last seven seasons.
In their three straight King victories, they have shot a combined 122-under par and won by a combined 18 shots. It’s the most prolific three-year run in tournament history and there’s been two other three-peats, one involving Wigington, who has won a record eight times overall.
Unlike the new gunslingers they know these courses. Over the last four years on the three courses that host the Classic, they have won six individual wins, 16 top-three finishes and 224 total birdies. Cole shot 64-62 in winning at Cider Ridge earlier this season. He led the Tour last year with a 67.81 stroke average and leads it this year with a 69.25 average.
“I’m like Doc Holliday (in “Tombstone”): I’m just in my prime,” said Cole, who turns 44 Thursday. “I’m as good or better now than I was when I was playing the mini-tour. My game management is better. I hit my driver straight and with the technology hit it farther. I’ve figured out how to make putts. I’ve always had a pretty decent wedge game and that’s all the Sunny King is. If you hit the driver long and straight and manage your wedge game and make putts, you shoot 40-under.”
That aspect of team play may be just the thing to dissipate the dark cloud that threatens to derail the defending champions’ bid to four-repeat.
The last two Sunday rounds on the County Tour, Wigington has faltered on the way to likely victories, and it admittedly concerns him. 
He took a four-shot lead into the final round at Anniston CC, but two bad tee shots on the front produced a pair of double bogeys – he hit only four fairways in the round – he didn’t make anything on the back and finished third. Cole came from seven back at the start of the day to win his third straight Tour event, shooting 31 on the back nine.
Two weeks ago at Silver Lakes, Wigington went into the final round with a share of the lead and was in the mix coming down the stretch when an unplayable lie in the greenside bunker on 16 (Heartbreaker 7) cost him a bogey and a well-out-of-character shank on 17 led to a double. He played the final 27 holes of the event in 5-over-par. Come to discover, he was bitten by a spider during the final round that started to affect him right before that critical stretch of final holes.
Both turnabouts came after brilliant runs of birdie-making the day before. He ran off seven in a row on the front nine of Round 2 at ACC and was 7-under on the front Saturday at Silver Lakes (8-under through 11).
“My game has been very inconsistent, which it used to not be,” he said. “I might hit one really bad shot in a round; now, it’s two or three. It’s been very inconsistent. It’s been frustrating.
“In the past it was a short game issue, now it’s a hitting issue, which I never had trouble with. You kind of sit back and look at the last couple tournament thinking it should have been wins on both of them and let them slide through hitting some terrible shots. 
“I’ll hit it good for 14-15 holes and then it’s off the map. I’m sure it’s a little adjustment, not a big thing. Just looking at the swing it doesn’t look bad at all, but there’s something that’s creeping in either causing it to go a mile right or snap-hooking it left. It bothers me to be hitting it like that and losing leads like that; just not good.”
Fortunately, this week is a two-man event, so there’s a partner – and a very good one, at that – to help pick him up. Still, it hasn’t stopped him from worrying about it.
“It helps having a partner there so it’s not all simply up to the individual,” Wigington said, “but you get into a tight two-, three-team race and you can’t leave your man one-legged, even though it’s a strong leg. For a team to win it’s got to be a great partnership.” 
And that’s why Cole isn’t worried. He knows how much the Sunny King Classic means to his partner and if something goes sideways he’s there to help make the suggestion or adjustment that gets them back on track.
“There’s something about that Sunny King tournament that gets Twig (excited) and I love it because when I see how motivated he gets it gets me excited,” Cole said. “When we show up Friday morning and he’s been on the Short Course at Silver Lakes for two hours before our tee time it’s go time now.
“We’ve played usually in the last group of all these invitationals together trying to beat each other’s brains out, but when it comes to that Friday in the Sunny King it’s go time and he and I are both all-in. We’ve got that trust factor. You don’t have to hit every single shot on the button because you know you have a partner you can trust who’s going to pull off the shot for the team.
“I can promise you this: By the time the Sunny King gets there if he’s got any swing issues they’ll be ironed out. The only person in the world who ain’t worried about his swing issue is me, because I know how he is. Even if he still may have them, he’s not too proud to ask what do you think and I’ll tell him.”
And that’s how easy it is to win the Sunny King three times in a row. 

(Best ball format/full handicap)
7:30 AM — Al Muskewitz-Grady Sapp, Mike Shook-Nick Pope
7:40 AM — Brian Howell-Ken Howell, Danny Smith-Brad Williams
7:50 AM — Ty Johnson-Keith Howell, Nick Jenkins-Denny Besser
8:00 AM — Chad Young-Rob Jones, Rod Harris-Jerry Schreiner
8:10 AM — Greg Smith-Greg Stroud, Steve Johnson-Andy Carden
8:20 AM — Tommy Stevens, Jr.-Tommy Stevens, Sr., Daily Thomas-Rus Harper
8:30 AM — Jordan Evans-Tim Evans, Terry Reese-Antonio Langham
8:40 AM — Michael Herndon-Tim Coffey, Dr. Ron Wheeler-Steve Taylor
8:50 AM — Jason Copus-Arlin McCauley, Jeff Hansek-Scott Knighton
9:00 AM — Christopher Messer-Brandon Ray, Chuck Morris-Andrew Morris
9:10 AM — Cal Newman-Kevin Gibson, Will Coker-Tripp Johnson
9:20 AM — Dustin Wilkins-Cale Wright, Jeff Watkins-Mike Sims
9:30 AM — Brandon Whitman-Chris Baker, John McKenzie-Rick Dickson
9:40 AM — Brad Flack-Seth Williams, Jon Clements-Josh Hoyle
9:50 AM — Craig Dunn-Jeff Williams, Brad Thelen-Kent Crouch
10:00 AM — Nate Pearce-Chad Moore, Al Johnson-Tyler Teneyck
10:10 AM — Kyle Turner-Justin Foster, Duke Lindsay-Chris New
10:20 AM — Josh Reynolds-Bart Smith, Morgan Cunningham-Kevin Third
10:30 AM — Ted Gregerson-Aaron Gregerson, Todd Good-Bill Osborne
10:40 AM — Terry Cobb-Michael Ray, Adam Johnson-Brad Angel
10:50 AM — Randy Liles-Tom Liles, Connor Giesie-Kai Martin
11:00 AM — Taylor Williams-Michael Darden, Josh Petty-Blake Lowry
11:10 AM — Josh Gardner-Alan Mange, Clay Jones-Danny Owens
11:20 AM — Trae Williams-Matthew Peters, Robert Daniel-Myrick Morriss
11:30 AM — Tommy Woodward-Trey Pilkington, Danny Shears-Jarred Waits
11:40 AM — Daryl Thomas-Grant Gilmer, Brandon Cassady-Dan Pfaff
11:50 AM — Joel Brown-David Brown, Derek Raulerson-Jeff Shelton
NOON — Mark Spurlock-Craig Graves, Cal Lambert-Craig Gardner
12:10 PM — Chris Monroe-CJ Burdette, JT Wright-Evan Jackson
12:20 PM — Jonathan Chandler-Daniel Crumley, Lamar Carter-Bruce Collins
12:30 PM — Jason Payne-Tyler Rich, Jimmy Ray-Bobby Graham
12:40 PM — Chad Watson-Josh Gaines, Michael Downey-Haden Downey
12:50 PM — Austin Burnham-Randy Burnham, Graham Morrow-Caleb Morrow
1:00 PM — Tim Steward-Dennis Austin, Cody Grammer-Chris Bruce
1:10 PM — Conway Shirey-Roger Shirey, Jason Black-Tracy Smith
(Scamble format/partial handicap)
7:30 AM — Brian Clifton-David McFarland, Wayne Tillman-Billy Grizzard 
7:40 AM — Andy McQuagge-Jay Williamson, Don Whitlow-Mike Whitlow 
7:50 AM — Sean Perry-Evan Rogers, Allen Varner-Allen Stokes 
8:00 AM — Johnathan Whitlow-Daniel Jackson, Allen Mitchell-Dale Castleberry 
8:10 AM — Jeff Barnwell-TJ McGatha, Jamie Lewis-Levi Lewis 
8:20 AM — Steve Harris-Jonathan Everly, Craig Kiker-Ben Phillips 
8:30 AM — Steven Floyd-Mason Floyd, Steve Gendron-Mark Sanders 
8:40 AM — Matt Kenneway-James Penland, James Lett-Daniel Simmons 
11:30 AM — Landon Holley-Lee Edge, Nicklaus Ledbetter-Mike Ledbetter 
11:40 AM — Eric Williams-Jonathan Mosley, Josh Wright-Jeremy Wright 
11:50 AM — Nic Stephens-Chris Law, Carter Gable-John Roe 
NOON — Cory McGuffie-Matt Sweatman Justin Brown-Jeremy Waters 
12:10 PM — Jake Durham-Jonathan Roberts, Brandon Slick-Jim Slick 
12:20 PM — Bill Fobbus-Jerry Mills, Mike Jones-Trey Stone 
12:30 PM — Blake Drummond-Frank Wyville, Tim Arnold-Dan Kestermann 
12:40 PM — Houston Black-Adam Benefiel, Bryan Lipham-Pete Mackey 
12:50 PM — Tim Kurecka-Chad Cabeen, Thomas Clutter-David Martin 
1:00 PM — Micah Dorroh-Josh Ray, Mark Cotton-Bubba Willingham
1:10 PM — Eric Land-Wayne Reid 
7:31 AM — Pete Morrison-Patrick Adams, Chris Loveless-Donnie Willingham
7:41 AM — Bobby Yarbrough-Jeremy Wolf, Santi Hechart-Jackson Veasey 
7:51 AM — Mike Roberts-Jonathan Jones, Don Hill-Sean Hayes
8:01 AM — Andy Jenkins-Mark Gaines, Nathan Franklin-Trenton Ray 
8:11 AM — David Holt-Shannon Russell, Alan Mangum-Gene Hicks 
8:21 AM — Will Johnson-Nate Parker, Greg Harrelson-Ladon Rogers 
8:31 AM — Joey Thompson-Matt Brown, Andy Moore-Will Hollingsworth 
11:31 AM — Chris Martin-Mitch Mittelmark, Ricardo Medina-Howard Munger 
11:41 AM — Kyle Price-Derrick Kirby, Doug White-Diana White 
11:51 AM — Brandon Davis-Lance Brown, Greg Thrower-Joshua Johnsey 
12:01 PM — Nathan Williams-Daniel Ricks, Matthew Hartegen-Tommy Snyder 
12:11 PM — Hunter Newton-Johnathan Butler, Terry Sumner-David Daugherty 
12:21 PM — Kenton Sprayberry-Tiffany Sprayberry, Morgan Mayfield-Olivia Parsons 
12:31 PM — Zack Poss-Clark Jinks, Dale Findley-Zachary Moody 
12:41 PM — Larry Reaves-Noel Johnson, Brady Carter-Brady Shelton 
12:51 PM — Creston Davis-Brandon Butler, Mack Huckaby-Keith Bentley 
1:01 PM — Eric Ray-Michael Green, Don Killingsworth-David Lyon  
(Scramble format/no handicap)
7:00 AM — Jeremy McGatha-Brennan Clay, Matt Rogers-Andrew Brooks
7:10 AM — Cory Etter-Caleb Bowen, Tee Brown-Lenn Coffey
7:20 AM — Kenny Fulmer-Tim Fulmer, Aaron Jackson-Joseph Hedgepeth
7:30 AM — Randy Reaves-Will Reaves, Chris Maye-Kenneth Patterson
7:40 AM — Billy Thompson-Steve Akers, Will Brown-Chad Robinson
7:50 AM — Cain Hollingsworth-Taylor O’Connor, Ted Towns-Drue Snow
8:00 AM — Tyler Dopson-Josh Hicks, Nick Pollard-Ryan Pollard
8:10 AM — Rob Riddle-Chris Siverson, Boe Sheeley-Steve Huber
8:20 AM — Jacob Harper-Jacob LeCroy, Adrian Geeting-Benji Turley
11:30 AM — Jason Alderman-Christopher Alderman Matt Hunter-Brett Key
11:40 AM — Wes Couch-Matt Clonts, Daniel Guthrie-Daniel Clonts
11:50 AM — Michael Lewis-Michael, Lee Ryan Howard-Richard Poole
NOON — Tyler Romine-Jason Romine, Chase Hollingsworth-Tanner Wells
12:10 PM — Kory Oliver-Kody Olive, Dalton Chandler-Ott Chandler
12:20 PM — Jack Billups-Charlie Smith, Harrison Hughston-Mike Hughston
12:30 PM — Patrick Cushman-Hank Smith, Rob Svensen-Bill Wakefield
12:40 PM — Christopher Hubbard-Nick Hubbard, Landon Straub-Jason Johnson
12:50 PM — Josh Leow-Scott Jackson, Logan Archer-Randy Archer
1:00 PM — Jackson King-Tyler Huckaby, Matthew Overton-Marshall Ghee
7:01 AM — Clay Calkins-George Calkins, Richard Gibson-Richard Gibson Jr.
7:11 AM — Blake Mozley-Clint Compton, Nathan Russell-Doug Gardner
7:21 AM — Timmy Woodard-Chase Thomas, Ryan Huff-John Lindsay
7:31 AM — Frank Brady-Landon Winfrey, Cameron McCareeth-John Grubbs
7:41 AM — Tony Hicks-Josh Poole, Cody Robinson-Barrett Waters
7:51 AM — Shane Lilly-Dallas Dunn, Jared Cook-Jake Brown
8:01 AM — Jake Munroe-Cal Munroe, Lance Evans-Chandler Wilborn
8:11 AM — Charlie Robinson-Chase Robinson, Jeff Bain-Daniel Black
11:31 AM — Warren Askew-Will Broome, Grant Jackson-Jackson Bonner
11:41 AM — Kevin Daughtery-Brian Woodfin, Garrett Burgess-Cypress Hathorn
11:51 AM — Josh Ashley-Alan Smedley, Gary Wigington-Ty Cole
12:01 PM — Derek Sewell-Matt Miller, Scott Shultz-Greg Shultz
12:11 PM — Scott Martin-Brett Rothwell, Bobby Dillon-Rusty Whitlow
12:21 PM — Rob Davie-Jake Goggans, Michael Bell-Andrew Tyson
12:31 PM — Jeff Borrelli-Keaton Borrelli, Ross Svensen-Jack Svensen
12:41 PM — Blake Boozer-Phil Boozer Tyler Putnam-Mike Putnam

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