E.A. Sports Today

Fore for 4

Calhoun County Match Play Championship gets down to the Final Four, winner to be determined Sunday

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The top two seeds and two past champions will be squaring off Sunday in the Final Four of the Calhoun County Match Play Championship.

Top-seeded Jeremy McGatha, No. 2 Brennan Clay and former champs Andrew Brooks (2014) and Chad Calvert (2017) all won a pair of matches Saturday at Anniston Municipal GC to reach the tournament’s Final Four.

McGatha, playing in his 100th consecutive County Tour event, may have played in every event since the Tour’s inception but has never played in the Match Play finals. Clay has never gotten to the Sunday semifinals. The only time Brooks recalls ever playing McGatha, his semifinal opponent, in the Match Play before was the year he won it. Calvert is playing in the Match Play for the third year in a row; he has reached the championship match each of the previous two years.
McGatha waltzed into the semifinals with wins over Chris Cox and Matt Rogers in matches that never reached the 16th hole. He was bogey-free in both matches and was 6-under-par when he closed each out. He trailed only once all day, when Cox chipped in for birdie on 2 for a 1-up lead, but McGatha got all square on the next hole and steadily pulled away.
“I hope I can continue that tomorrow,” McGatha said. “It’s going to be hard on me tomorrow to keep that going, but we’ll see.”
There will be an emotional tug as well. McGatha, who Brooks called “the hottest player in the field right now,” played his Buddy Moore Tournament and USGA Four-Ball partner (Rogers) in his second match Saturday and faces the possibility of meeting his Sunny King partner (Clay) if both get through their first match Sunday. Even Brooks is a close friend.
“It’s hard playing your friends,” McGatha said. “It’s not Phil vs. Tiger, blood in the water. We all want to win, but it’s different playing your buddies.”
Calvert had two similarly easy wins over Frank Brady and third-seeded Adrian Geeting; he made eight birdies in the win over Brady. He certainly knows the way to the finals. He beat Gary Wigington in the title match of his Match Play debut two years ago and lost to Wigington in the finals last year.
“This is the redemption year,” he said.
While McGatha and Calvert had smooth sailing, Brooks and Clay were tested on their way to the semifinals.

Brooks was taken to the 18th hole before closing out Randy Lipscomb with a two-putt birdie after a second shot he called “one of the best I’ve ever hit.”
The match was all square going to 18 tee. Brooks’ drive settled into a bare lie along the right-side tree line some 215 yards from the green. Knowing Lipscomb had a clear shot to the green and a good recovery was necessary, he got a 5-iron over the trees and on the green 30 feet from the hole.
“I had to play it like a long bunker shot,” Brooks said. “The difficulty of the shot was pretty high.”
Brooks was 2-down through eight holes, but won 9, 11 and 12 to go 1-up. Lipscomb, a winner on the 18th hole in his opening match, won 16 to square to get all square.
Clay was a bogey-free 5-under in his opening-round win over Landon Straub, but second-round foe Gage Miller’s short game “kept me on my toes, for sure.” The match was all square at the turn, Clay parred 11 to go 1-up, then chipped in for eagle on 13 to go 2-up. It was 1-up going to 18 and when Miller missed a six-foot birdie he conceded Clay’s two-foot birdie to call it a day.

Here are the first day results and Sunday pairings for the Calhoun County Match Play Championship:

At Anniston Municipal GC
(Original seeding in parenthesis)
Buddy Moore Bracket
No. 1 Jeremy McGatha (2) def. No. 16 Chris Cox (24), 5 & 3.
No. 9 Matt Rogers (14) def. No. 8 Layton Bussey (13), 2 & 1.
No. 5 Randy Lipscomb (7) def. No. 12 Clay Calkins (18), 1 up.
No. 13 Andrew Brooks (19) def. No. 4 Justin Graveman (6), 3 & 1.
Chris Banister Bracket
No. 6 Chad Calvert (10) def. No. 11 Frank Brady (17), 5 & 4.
No. 3 Adrian Geeting (5) def. No. 14 Tyler Dopson (20), 2 & 1.
No. 7 Gage Miller (25) def. No. 10 Jonathan Pate (15), 3 & 1.
No. 2 Brennan Clay (4) def. No. 15 Landon Straub (22), 3 & 2.
Second Round
McGatha def. Rogers, 6 & 4.
Brooks def. Lipscomb, 1 up.
Calvert def. Geeting, 4 & 3.
Clay def. Miller, 2 up.
Sunday semifinals
Jeremy McGatha vs. Andrew Brooks, 9 a.m.
Chad Calvert vs. Brennan Clay, 9:30 a.m. (or sooner if players agree)
Championship match
McGatha-Brooks winner vs. Calvert-Clay winner, 12:30 p.m. (time approx.)

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