E.A. Sports Today

Drama ends drought

McGatha uses eagle-birdie finish to come roaring back and win the Pine Hill Invitational, his 11th win on the County Tour, first since 2019

David Sanders (L) visits with Pine Hill owner Cory Etter after winning the Senior Division of the Pine Hill Invitational. On the cover, Jeremy McGatha (L) won the overall title with a 9-under 135 total.
PINE HILL INVITATIONAL
Jeremy McGatha6966135
Brennan Clay6967136
Gary Wigington6969138
Ty Cole6771138
Brad Moultrie6771138
Landon Straub6969138
Layton Bussey7068138

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

Jeremy McGatha led only once by himself in the Pine Hill Invitational this weekend and that was on his very last shot, a tap-in 12-inch birdie putt on his final hole of the two-day event.

The birdie capped off a brilliant eagle-birdie finish that thrust him to his 11th career win on the Calhoun County Golf Tour and ended a frustrating three-year absence from the Tour’s winner’s circle.

McGatha shot a final-round 66 Sunday for a two-day 9-under 135 that was one shot better than his Sunny King Charity Classic partner Brennan Clay and capped a wild shootout on the final day. Six-time Pine Hill winner Gary Wigington was among five players tied for third at 138.

First-round leader Gage Ledbetter had another tough Sunday, shot 74 and finished at 139.

“It was a real honor to get the win and to go past some of the names I had to pass today,” McGatha said. “There were some tough names out there and it is kind of special to win this and know that I can still win out here.

“I never felt like at any point that I was gonna win; it just kind of happened real fast there at the end. Maybe it was easier to win not having to think about it all day. It is just never easy and I am grateful for the win today.”

It was his first win on the Calhoun County Golf Tour since the 2019 Match Play Championship and his first in a County Tour stroke play event since the 2017 County. He has played in every Tour event since its inception, and is the only player in Tour history to do so. He has 21 career runner-up finishes.

“I keep seeing Twig (Wigington) and Ty (Cole) get the wins and all their wins and I never thought I’d win again,” he said. “It’s hard to win on our county tour. For me to win this one, with 160 guys, our strongest field in a long time and I pull it out, wow, I’ll take it.”

The eagle-birdie finish was actually part of a larger closing run. He played his last five holes in 5-under-par, with birdies on 14 and 15. The 45-year-old lipped out a birdie putt on 16.

McGatha started the day four strokes behind Ledbetter, who held a two-shot lead on the field to start the day. He started out birdie-birdie to close within two, but gave them both back with a double bogey at the third and was back to four back.

“It was one of those holes that I am prone to have and they always seem to knock me out of contention,” said McGatha.

He finished out the front nine with birdies on 6 and 8 and was back to 5-under at the turn. Leader Ledbetter shot even par on the front nine and led by two shots over Ty Cole of Albertville, Brad Moultrie of Decatur, McGatha and Clay.

At one point there were seven players within sight of the lead.

It seemed as if Ledbetter was going to be able to hold off the pack with steady pars. He parred the first 10 holes and maintained that two-shot lead. Cole and Moultrie made birdies to chop the lead to one, but they followed up those birdies with quick bogeys.

The whole afternoon changed on 11 when Ledbetter missed a par putt and Cole birdied and with Moultrie’s birdie at 10 there was a three-way tie for first. McGatha bogeyed 12 and was three back with six holes to go.

At hole 14, Moultrie made a long putt for birdie to save par and Ledbetter and Cole bogeyed. McGatha snuck within one with a birdie at 14. He then birdied 15 to get to 6-under par and tie Moultrie.

Clay was on fire three holes ahead of them. He birdied his last four holes and got to 8-under, two ahead of McGataha. Ledbetter and Moultrie bogeyed 16 and Cole missed a short putt on 16 to fall off the pace.

McGatha then boomed his drive on 17 onto the green and rolled in a dramatic 30-footer for an eagle to suddenly tie for the lead.

His drive on 18 was in the fairway. His second shot on the 508-yard par-5 found the bunker next to the green. His sand shot was magnificent, as it took one hop, hit the pin and settled just 12 inches from the cup.

He knocked it down and the Pine Hill Invitational was his.

“It’s been a long time,” he said. “I still don’t know how 5-under in the last five holes happened. I just hit the shot and they went in. When that eagle putt went in on 17 I thought I had a chance I could win it. It’s been a while, but I could win this. Then on 18 I hit a great drive, hit a shot up there (into the bunker) and I was as nervous as all get-out. I was like please hit that close and then hit it to six inches.”

“It was great to see Jeremy win,” Clay said. “I had it at 5-under and then bogeyed 11. I was able to give it a good run by ending with four straight birdies.”

Pine Hill Invitational

CHAMPIONSHIP FLIGHTFIRST FLIGHT
Jeremy McGatha6966135Layton Bussey7068138
Brennan Clay6967136Gage Miller7169140
Gary Wigington6969138Wesley Jenkins7172143
Ty Cole6771138Mason Dennis7172143
Brad Moultrie6771138Chip Howell7074144
Landon Straub6969138Chance Harris7174145
Gage Ledbetter6574139Greg Barnett7273145
Jonathan Pate6872140Kobie Webb7076146
Josh Reynolds6873141Jeff Noah7274146
John Rollins6972141Chris Randall7177148
Seth Wallace6973142Vance Lewis7277149
Chad Calvert6973142Billy Thompson7284156
Nick Ledbetter6875143
Kenny Okins6977146
SECOND FLIGHTTHIRD FLIGHT
Chase Hollingsworth7369142Mark McCaig7671147
Randy Lipscomb7369142Hunter Carr7674150
Kent Whitley7468142Will Brown7675151
Daily Thomas7469143Nick Hubbard7675151
Clay Calkins7373146Marcus King7675151
Landon Winfrey7474148Sawyer Edwards7675151
Riley Boyd7476149Bob Eaton7676152
Craig Duncan7576151Josh Poole7775152
Daniel Black7577152Cam Hurst7775152
Chris Hubbard7578153Tony Hicks7776153
Bradley Elliott7579154Casey Harmon7678154
Cain Hollingsworth7580155Lamar Carter7777154
Jimbo Phillips7580155Mark Durden7680156
Matt Rogers7581156Brock Young7680156
Tyler Teneyck7583158Houston Black7780157
Coleman Messer7486160Joe Hedgepeth7681157
Benji Turley73WDWD
FOURTH FLIGHTFIFTH FLIGHT
Shawn Ledbetter7872150Sean Kline8278160
Shannon Page7872150Mike Wallace8378161
Chris Sprayberry7975154Heath Waldrop8181162
Samuel Wallace7977156C.J. Murphy8183164
Nick Pollard7879157Wyatt Cotney8183164
Patrick Cooper7978157David Coffey8184165
Aaron Whitley7880158Frankie Hanvey8283165
Jared Waits8078158Chris Reaves8185166
Johnny Barnes7980159Heath Hammond8284166
Mark Minton7882160Landon Holley8383166
Austin Elliott8084164Greg Rainey8385168
Shane Lee8085165Terry Cobb8189170
Spence Florczak7988167Bart Smith8388171
Zack Goss7992171
SIXTH FLIGHTSEVENTH FLIGHT
Mark Gaines8577162Logan Turner9084174
Billy McCroskey8478162Shaughn Rankin9183174
Taylor Vera8678164Keith Hutcheson8985174
Blake Jones8579164Ryder Hudgins8887175
Ethan Davis8679165Mason Nolen8987176
Keaton Borrelli8581166Wimberly Scarbrough9488182
Steve Taylor8483167Kelly Rogers9786183
Austin Jones8483167Alex Whaley9285187
Eddy Burks8780167Ken Renfroe9196187
David Medders Jr.8682168Jeff Roszell88100188
Jared Joiner8586171Mickey Sheppard9496190
Jarred Driggers8784171Greg Goodwin96101197
Warren Sewell8792179Johnston Smith99100199
Scott Watson8694180Jake Moore 100106206
Mike Ledbetter8794181
SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIPSENIOR FIRST
David Sanders7169140Ted Heim7572147
Robbie Hurst6972141Allen Mangham7573148
James Beavers7273145Jerry Irwin7673149
Jerry Kemp7372145David Toland7774151
Mike Lett7178149David Messer7775152
Rick Barthel7277149Dennis Austin7579154
Tim Steward7476150Buddy Eiland7876154
Ron Wheeler7480154Frank Toland7580155
Bob McClain7680156
Keith Haywood7779156
SENIOR SECONDSENIOR THIRD
Gary Austin8176157Frank Cobb8685171
Randall Doss7978157Steve Perry8586171
Lamar Ward8178159Bobby Vinson8586171
Steve Williams8278160David Stephens8587172
Wilton Page8281163Greg Thrower8686172
Tim Hill8282164Ron Fleming8588173
Jim Landers8183164David Medders Sr.8787174
Robbie Robertson8282164Lee Clark 8693179
Carter Gable8284166Steve Borrelli10289191
Steve Smith8383166Paul Dorsey9698194
Mike Thompson83WDWDSam Morgan97WDWD


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