E.A. Sports Today

Historic playoff

Cole edges Wigington in the first sudden-death playoff between the County Tour’s top two players to win the Oxford City Championship

Ty Cole (L) accepts the Oxford City Championship trophy from Cider Ridge director of golf Jammie Lett after winning in a playoff. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – Of all the things they’ve done together on the golf course, all the times they’ve battled each other down the stretch with a title on the line and all the times they joined forces to win a team event, the two best players on the Calhoun County Golf Tour did something Sunday that’s never happened between them before.

They went head-to-head in a playoff.

In the Calhoun County Tour version of Nicklaus-Palmer at Pinehurst, Ty Cole defeated Gary Wigington on the first hole of sudden death to win the Oxford City Championship at Cider Ridge Golf Club.

It was Cole’s second win this season and gave him two-thirds of the unofficial City Triple Crown after the first two events on the Tour schedule, having won the Gadsden City Championship at Twin Bridges two weeks ago. The newly named Anniston City Championship at Cane Creek in three weeks, but with other pursuits occupying his interests Cole wasn’t immediately certain he’ll enter.

The two winningest players on the Tour – now 21 wins each – played the 36 holes of regulation in 5-under-par 139 with Cole making birdie on each of the last two holes to force the playoff. Cole won the playoff hole (No. 18) with a conceded eagle after Wigington found the left-side hazard with his second shot and needed four to get on the green.

“It’s every week with him, so that’s sort of a normal thing there,” Wigington said. “You can’t not play 100 percent and expect to win. “You’re going to have to play good and I just didn’t take advantage of a couple opportunities I had there.”

Twig grabbed the lead on 10 when he chipped in for birdie from just off the green. He extended the margin to two shots when he birdied 16.

Cole cut his deficit in half when he birdied 17 from eight feet. Wigington hit a good birdie putt from 12 feet that just curled away at the end.

Wigington’s drive on 18 left him with a hanging lie just off the left side of the fairway. He hit a good 6-iron from 210 yards that he thought was going to be in the middle of the green but instead found the greenside bunker. His bunker shot ran through the green into the fringe, fromm where he putted to within six inches and tapped in for par.

Cole, meanwhile, hit the green with a 6-iron from 190 yards that left him an eagle putt for the win in regulation. He ran it past the hole, but confidently holed the next putt to force the playoff.

Gary Wigington blasts out of the green side bunker on 18 trying to give himself a chance to close out the tournament in regulation. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

With daylight fading, they hustled back to the 18th tee, an expedited start that never gave either play a chance to appreciate the magnitude of the moment.

“The turnaround was so fast because we knew we were fighting daylight, so you don’t think about it,” Cole said. “We drove right back to the tee, flipped a coin to see who went, pegged it up and we both smacked it. So, it was just another hole, really. It wasn’t like it was a playoff.

“In the heat of the moment, it’s just another hole. He would probably say the same thing. We turned right around and played the same hole we just played and it’s just another hole we’ve got to play to see who’s going to win.

“It wouldn’t have been any different if it would’ve been on 15. We both want to win, we’re both competitors. You just tee it up, hope you hole it out and see who wins.”

Playing 18 again, Wigington found the fairway off the tee, but his 5-iron from 215 went left and found in the deep rough inside the hazard line. Cole was 196 yards out and this time took a 5-iron because it was damp and put it in the middle of the green.

Wigington gouged his ball out of the rough, but it only made it halfway up the hill. He got on the green with his next shot and rolled his par putt past the hole at which time he picked up his Sunny King Classic partner’s coin and congratulated him on the win. It was Wigington’s Tour-leading 27th runner-up finish.

Cole played 12 par-5s in his first three Tour rounds this season with only three birdies. On those holes Sunday he birdied all four of them in regulation and had the conceded eagle in the playoff.

“I hit two great drives on 18 and I hit two great second shots,” he said. “That’s the four best shots of this tournament (for him).” 

Brennan Clay had the day’s best round (67) on a day where nearly two dozen players improved on their first-round score by at least 10 shots. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

The golf course played considerably easier than the day before. Eighty of the 130 players in the field improved on their first-round score, some by as many as 18 shots. Twenty players in the championship division and 22 overall improved by at least 10 shots.

The course, shortened by some 400 yards over the opening round, played to a stroke average of 82.77 in the championship division, compared to 85.40 the day before. There was only one round below 70 and three of par or better Saturday, but Sunday there were six rounds in the 60s and a dozen of par or better.

The day’s set up shortened five of the six holes that were played from the tips Saturday. In an homage to Arnold Palmer’s 1960 U.S. Open win at Cherry Hills, they gave players a chance to drive No. 1 at 289 yards, but the wind shifted and only one player hit the green from the tee (Maverick Smith).

“My first thought was I can’t believe 400 yards made that much difference,” Cider Ridge director of golf Jammie Lett said. “What was interesting was No. 2, the one we got the most complaints about yesterday, was shortened and it was harder today than it was yesterday.  I guess it’s just a hard hole.

“My whole deal was I wanted everyone to have a good experience here at Cider Ridge. My thought yesterday was I wanted them to play on a championship golf course, which I think it is, so we set it up that way. We were going to make it a little shorter today anyway and tuck a few pins on the shorter holes, so that was kind of the setup idea.”

Brennan Clay posted the best round of the day, 5-under 67, a 15-shot improvement over the day before when “I couldn’t find the center of the face with any club” that took him from a tie for 46th to a top 10 finish overall.

“The change in the course definitely made the difference,” Clay said. “Today was obviously a lot easier and that had a lot to do with it, but I think everybody was able to adjust, too.”

The biggest improvements came from third flight winner Clay Calkins (86-68) and fourth flight winner Ethan Davis (91-73). Both bettered their score by 18 shots. Chance Harris, Matt Rogers and Warren Sewell also had 15-shot improvements.

The main factor was keeping big numbers to the minimum. There were 452 double bogeys and “others” on Saturday, but only 348 Sunday. Davis hit seven out of bounds in his first tournament experience Saturday, but hit driver only once Sunday and hit none OB.

“Obviously, the golf course played shorter today so that helped and I think the pins were a little easier today,” said Calkins, whose round featured five birdies and a bogey. “The intimidation of some of the longer tee shots yesterday can get you. It can cost you two shots making one bad swing.

“Yes, it played easier today, but it sure helps when you hit it better and that was, for me, the big difference.”

Andrew Brooks made a late charge and finished third. It was his second straight top-5 finish in this event and his best finish on the County Tour since finishing second at Indian Oaks in 2017. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

Oxford City Championship

Championship Flight
x-Ty Cole6970139
Gary Wigington7168139
Andrew Brooks7669145
Kevin Daugherty7671147
Scott Martin7672148
Caleb McKinney7276148
Corey Ray7574149
Daniel Black7674150
Jeremy Willis7575150
Josh Poole7377150
Nick Pollard7675151
Tee Brown7477151
Tanner Wells7679155
Michael Rich7581156
Chris Leonhardt7687163
Lance Evans74WDWD
x-won on first playoff hole

First Flight
Landon Straub7869147
Dalton Chandler7770147
Dustin Travis 7773150
Kilgore Knight7874152
Sawyer Edwards7974153
Chip Howell7875153
Chase Hollingsworth7975154
Billy McCroskey7778155
Logan Forrester7879157
Lamar Carter7978157
Drew Anderton7979158
Mason Dennis7979158
Jonathan Pate7982161
Ethyn Roberts7982161
Dre Davenport7982161
Shannon Page7784161
Daily Thomas7787164
Billy Thompson79WDWD
Maverick Smith78NCNC

Second Flight
Brennan Clay8267149
Jeremy McGatha8070150
Justin Graveman8269151
Greg Schultz8076156
Nate Pearce8176157
Danny Whittaker8277159
Landon Winfrey8079159
Caleb Bowen8079159
Jake Goggans8181162
Walker Cobb8282164
Ryan Limbaugh8183164
Jay Esty8185166
Zac Mangum8285167
James Lett8087167
Craig Duncan8290172
Jason Payne82103185
Mark Guyther80WDWD

Third Flight
Clay Calkins8668154
Chance Harris8570155
Peyton Bradley8375158
Jeff Bain8375158
Maurice Dates8379162
Graham Morrow8578163
Sean Kline8579164
Clayton Chandler8383166
Timmy Woodard8482166
Jared Waits8386169
Keaton Borrelli8492176
Lenn Coffey8692178
Eric Ray8595180
Sean Hayes85NCNC
Bailey Masters85NCNC
Hunter Carr84DNFDNF

Fourth Flight
Ethan Davis9173164
Matt Rogers9075165
Tyler Romine8880168
Wesley Jenkins8782169
Tyler Dopson8783170
Bradley Elliott8982171
Chris Reaves9181172
Brad Baird9083173
Cain Hollingsworth8985174
Rex Brooks8986175
Jason Romine9086176
Greg Rainey9086176
Heath Waldrop9086176
Houston Black8791178
Marcus King9188179
Hogan Page9189180
Zac Carrizales8892180
Chase Thomas8992181
Drey Reeves8993182
Kolby Slick9198189

Fifth Flight
Gage Miller9380173
Will Brown9480174
Landon Holley9481175
Frankie Hanvey9682178
Bradley Young9484178
Randy Watson9485179
Marc Gaines9783180
Robert Daniel9784181
Eddie Burks 9986185
Tyler Teneyck9590185
Trey Stone9393186
Ricky Carden10089189
Kelly Rogers10290192
Chad Moore10392195
Jesse Junior10196197
Adam Benefiel101103204
Ethan Page103113216

Sixth Flight
Jim Ramey10496200
Alex Whaley105100205
Ken Renfroe110101211
Warren Sewell117102219
Austin Elliott111116227

Senior Championship
Gary Austin7376149
Jerry Irwin7677153
Steve Minton7677153
Charlie Estes7976155
Rich Etter7880158
James Beavers8475159
David Sanders8277159
Keith Haywood8579164
Mike Thompson8579164
Mike Lett8481165
Steve Templeton8481165

Senior Flight 1
Dennis Austin8877165
Jerry Kemp8679165
Frank Toland8681167
Lee Waldron8682168
Tim Steward8683169
Lamar Ward 8886174
Bobby Vinson8696182
Bruce Collins8994183
Ron Fleming10694200

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