E.A. Sports Today

He’s a closer now

Corey Ray emerges from three-way tie with two clutch iron shots down the stretch, birdies 18 to win Gadsden City Championship for first CCGT win

Eventual champion Corey Ray hits out of the greenside bunker on No. 14 during Sunday’s final round of the Gadsden City Championship at Twin Bridges.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

GADSDEN — Corey Ray’s golf game the last couple years has taken on a little bit of a Tony Finau-esque quality: Good player, capable of winning, usually in contention, but just couldn’t finish it off.

Can’t say that anymore.

The 36-year-old Boaz bank president hit two of his best pressure iron shots ever coming down the stretch Sunday and birdied the final hole from three feet to win the Gadsden City Championship at Twin Bridges Golf Club.

Ray shot a final-round 2-under-par 70 for a 1-under 143 total that was one better than Gary Wigington (68) and three better than Chad Calvert (72). All three were tied for the lead with three holes to play.

Ray found the fairway bunker off the tee on 17 and needed to make par from 122 yards out to keep the pressure down going to 18. He hit a pitching wedge off a firm lie to 12 feet and two-putted for par to remain tied with Wigington, who already was in the clubhouse at even par.

Then on 18, needing par to set up a playoff or birdie to win, he hit a 9-iron from 140 yards to three feet and calmly sank the putt for his first Calhoun County Golf Tour victory.

He’s finished second three times since joining the Tour — to Randy Lipscomb at Silver Lakes in 2019 (in a situation similar to Sunday) and twice last year — here to Ty Cole and at Silver Lakes to Jacob LeCroy.

“My common theme has been not being able to get over the hump,” he said. “Hopefully this will take the lid off.”

If he continues hitting focused shots like he did coming down the stretch with the tournament on the line, that shouldn’t be a problem. And focus is the operative word.

“Most of the time I try to stay lighthearted and kind of keep it light what I’ve found is that’s not working, so I did the opposite,” Ray said. “Down the stretch there, on 15, at that point I locked in and just blocked everything out.

“I just got super serious and that’s not something I normally do, but I wanted to try that approach and see if it worked and, funny enough, that’s what actually worked.”

When Ray birdied 15, he joined Wigington and Calvert playing in front of him atop the leaderboard at even par. Calvert fell back with a bogey on 16. All three parred 17. Wigington posted first, finishing with a par, and Calvert, playing in the next group, bogeyed 18 to drop another shot back and set the stage for Ray’s heroic shot.

“That’s a game-changer for me because now I know I can do it,” Ray said. “I got back into competitive golf a few years ago and I’ve just slowly gotten more and more comfortable again with it. Hitting those shots coming down the stretch like that knowing what I had to do and to actually do it I can’t describe how exciting it is because know I know I can do it.”

Calvert climbed into the mix with three birdies in his first five holes, then hit two out of bounds on 6, made triple bogey and had to start over. He birdied 9 and 15 to climb into a tie for the lead, then bogeyed two of his last three holes.

Wigington shared the best round of the day with Championship B winner Dane Moore. He earned his share of the lead with an eagle on 15 and he made a nice up-and-down for par on 16 to keep it, but he could point to several occasions that kept winning from happening.

He made a shocking 9 on 17 Saturday that knocked him from a share of the overnight lead and missed par putts inside 18 inches on 9 and 10 and a four-foot birdie putt on 17 in the final round.

NOTES: For the second day in a row Ray birdied both of the back-to-back par-5s on the front, part of three in a row that vaulted him into the lead. He birdied all four of them Sunday and seven of the eight on the weekend … The player flights moved up to the white tees Sunday and several players took advantage of it. Eight players in the two flights improved over Saturday’s score by 10 shots or more. Flight winners C.J. Taylor and Zack Pruitt both improved by 15. The second flight improved by an average of 7.6 shots … The next event on the Calhoun County Golf Tour schedule is next week’s Oxford City Championship. 

Gadsden City Championship
Final results

Corey Ray7370143
Gary Wigington7668144
Chad Calvert7472146
Kevin Daugherty7176147
Gary Randall7376149
Mason Dennis
Jeremy McGatha
Jody Wooten7676152
Scott Smith7676152
Chase Hollingsworth7586161
Gage Ledbetter7488162
Dane Moore7768145
Layton Bussey7775152
Chandler Richards7776153
Ty Cole7975154
Chad Hare7777154
Zach Mangum7975154
Patrick Cooper7780157
Michael Lovoy7880158
Clay Calkins7880158
Bumper Jones7782159
Norman Cliffton7881159
Jonathan Swader7784161
Matt Rogers7883161
Randy Lipscomb8073153
Casey Harmon8078158
Clayton Chandler8277159
Timmy Woodard8277159
Eli Edge8080160
Daily Thomas8279161
Jeremy Burns8279161
Graham Morrow8182163
Andrew Brooks8183164
Hunter Carr8287169
Lamar Carter8189170
Nathan Williams8288170
C.J. Taylor8873161
Drey Reeves8675161
Cain Hollingsworth8876164
Alex Beason8385168
Mason Aulsbrook8682168
Greg Hare8881169
Blake Grisham8881169
Brian Williams8585170
Ethan Davis8784171
Jimmy Bogle8689175
Jason Payne8989178
Zack Pruitt9176167
Tyrel Tucker9683179
Jeremy Hallmark9188179
Trey Stone9585180
Josh Eldridge9890188
David Carroll9989188
Houston Black9695191
Shannon Isreal10492196
Andy Lang98102200
Adam Benefiel111103214
Chase Thomas104NSNS
Greg Shultz7676152
David Sanders7974153
Gary Hopper7580155
Mark Spurlock7978157
Buster Winningham8575161
Ron McClellan7685161
Derek Jenkins8879167
Larry Gilchrist8483167
Ted Heim8285167

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