E.A. Sports Today

The wait begins

McGatha, Clay hold out hope for a phone call as second alternates out of USGA Four-Ball qualifying at Willow Point

By East Alabama Sports Today

ALEXANDER CITY – Now the waiting begins for Jeremy McGatha and Brennan Clay.

The two Calhoun County golfers finished as the second alternate out of a three-team playoff for the two alternate spots from Thursday’s qualifying tournament at Willow Point for the USGA Four-Ball Championship. The playoff lasted three extra holes.

Now they’re hoping for a phone call from the USGA telling them they’ve got a spot in the main event in May at the Country Club of Birmingham.

They’re not confident.

“If you make it to a USGA event who’s going to back out for an alternate to have a chance?” McGatha said. “I don’t know how that works, but I mean, if you make it who’s gonna back out to not go. We hope, but I doubt it.”

“Any time I’ve been an alternate I don’t think I’ve ever got in,” Clay said. “We’re not real confident, but we sure hope we get a phone call at some point.”

The local contenders put together a hot back-nine to shoot 8-under-par 64 in regulation and for a time it looked as if they might be playing off for the second qualifying spot. But Bobby Wyatt of Atlanta and Lee Knox of St. Simons Island, Ga., posted a late 9-under 63 with a birdie at the last to share medalist honors and qualify with Steven Groover of Birmingham and Tyler McKeever of Atlanta.

McGatha and Clay shot 6-under on their closing nine – the front side – that featured McGatha’s called 60-yard hole-out for eagle and four straight birdies by Clay (two from 30 feet-plus). With a little better luck, they’re convinced they could have shot 10-under, the score it took the last two times they tried to qualify in this event.

“I actually called the shot,” McGatha said. “Brennan’s dad was caddying and I was like we’ve got nothing going on, I’m going to hole this. Wouldn’t it be something if I holed this and I’ll be danged if I didn’t hit the shot and it went in the hole. From then on, it lit a fire under Brennan and he made four in a row. We had a chance.”

They were joined in the playoff by Samford players Andrew Sullivan and Davis Woodliff and Emory University players Michael Rosenbloom and Max Schwarz.

All three teams birdied the first playoff hole. McGatha and Clay and the Samford players advanced with pars on the second playoff hole, then the Samford players hit to three feet on the third playoff hole and made the birdie to earn the first alternate spot.

McGatha made it to the main event with Matt Rogers the first year they staged the championship – when it was played at Winged Foot.

“Ever since I played in the one at Winged Foot, I want to get to another USGA event, especially wth Brennan. Brennan wants it bad, too,” McGatha said. “We had our chance.”

NOTES: McGatha and Clay didn’t make a bogey, but they parred three of the four par-5s … Two other local teams attempted to qualify. Jason Johnson and recently crowned Pine Hill club champion Landon Straub shot even-par 73 and Matt Rogers and Andrew Brooks shot 1-over 73. Johnson and Straub birdied three of the par-5s … Calhoun County Tour Player of the Year Ty Cole and Clay Guerin qualified for main event at Turtle Point in September.

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