E.A. Sports Today

County Championship

Jeremy McGatha shoots 4-under 66 to lead the Calhoun County Golf Championship, 13 players under par within three shots of the lead

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

With the Player of the Year award for all intents out of reach, Jeremy McGatha went into the Calhoun County Championship this week with his eye on prize right in front of him – the county tournament itself.


He took a big first step Saturday, making birdies on four of his last six holes to post a 4-under-par 66 to take a one-shot lead over five player with 13 players under par and within three shots of the lead.

It’s been a while since that many contenders are in the hunt on Championship Sunday at the county.

As for the Player of the Year race, it’ll be decided by who between Brennan Clay and Gary Wigington finishes higher Sunday. They came into the weekend tied for the series points lead and after Saturday’s round Clay holds the advantage, but neither were particularly pleased with their opening rounds.

Clay is among the five at 67 and Wigington among three at 68. Based on the current leaderboard, Clay would project as the POY with 1340 points with McGatha second and Wigington third. Jacob LeCroy would hold the final spot in the 16-player Match Play Championship.

With that in mind, McGatha is keeping is eye on the weekend’s prize.

“My only chance for Player of the Year would have been for them (Clay and Wigington) to finish like seventh, eighth, something like that and I know ain’t neither one of them going to do that,” he said. “I’m just trying to get the best I can in the county.

“This is one of my favorite tournaments. I’ve won this thing three times and I’ve finished second eight times. I don’t want to finish second again.”

An 11-time winner on the Calhoun County Tour, McGatha won his last County in 2017. He won unexpectedly earlier this year at Pine Hill, a win that reinforced a lesson in patience. He got a refresher in it Saturday.

He parred his first eight holes before finally making a birdie on 12, then gave the stroke right back with a bogey on 13 from the middle of the fairway with a lob wedge in his hand. He stayed at even par until his big finish with birdies at 18, 1, 3 and 5. Three of those holes were scoreable par-5s.

“Just like at Pine Hill, I’m a ticking timebomb,” he said. “It happened so fast at Pine Hill and I did get out of my own way and finished strong. I’d love to do it tomorrow, but you’ve got to be patient out here. I think I had eight straight pars, finally birdied my ninth hole, now I’m leading. After that start, I’m like no way, not making any birdies. You’ve just got to be patient.”

PROJECTED TOP 16 (based on Saturday’s leaderboard)
Brennan Clay1340Mason Dennis788.75
Jeremy McGatha1290Dane Moore785
Gary Wigington1287.5Kevin Daugherty767.5
Ty Cole1212.25Corey Ray760
Layton Bussey976Sawyer Edwards757.5
Landon Straub974.75Clay Calkins742.5
Chad Calvert957.5Randy Lipscomb732.5
Gage Ledbetter922.5Jacob LeCroy600

Wigington had one of his craziest competition rounds in a long drive. It was as if the golf gods were conspiring to keep him away from the POY award. He started birdie, bogey, eagle, double. He virtually followed every good hole with something bad. He lipped out seven putts.

The roller-coaster ride finally ended with a birdie on 18, but even that was a head scratcher. He hit one of his best drives ever on the par-5, then hit an equally impressive 9-iron over the trees from 155 he thought was going to give him an eagle opportunity only to find the ball off the back of the green. 

“It’s was just stuff you don’t even dream of doing,” he said. “It was just one of those that everything that could go wrong did. I just couldn’t hit it any better and it turned out … terrible.

“I’ve just got to play hard tomorrow and hopefully good things happen tomorrow instead of the bad.”

Clay was equally as irritated about his round, but it was more over the way he played opposed to any bad breaks he may have incurred. He missed four birdie putts inside four feet and another short par putt on his next-to-last hole. 

He came into the weekend among the Tour leaders in putting, but needed 30 strikes to get around the course Saturday despite hitting 14 greens. He made two long putts on his back nine from bad chip shots. 

“The short game let me down,” he said. “I’ve been putting good the last few months and today they weren’t going in. Lucky to be one back. I’m shocked there wasn’t a 7- or 8-under out there. 

“The only thing I’m concentrating on is winning the tournament. If I win the tournament, it takes care of everything. That’s my main goal is win the tournament. I’m not going to try to play him and I still have to play the golf course. Try to win the golf tournament, that’s all I’m worried about.”

He’s not alone in that approach.

NOTES: Gage Ledbetter is getting another turn in the final pairing on Sunday. He won the Dennis Gable Duffer Award for fewest putts in Saturday’s round (21) because he was sharp after missing the green. He hit only six greens, but was 10-of-12 getting up and down. He also had the morning wave’s longest drive … Closest to the pin prizes went to Randy Watson (2/11) and Will Brown (7/16) in the morning, Tanner Wells (2/11) and Tyler Dopson (7/16) in the afternoon. Bradley Elliott had the longest drive in the afternoon … One of the most dynamic groups of the day was the Wigington, Scott Eaton, Chip Howell, Randy Reaves pairing in the afternoon. Eaton, Howell and eight-time winner Wigington have combined for 14 County crowns and were the only ones winning them between 1997 and 1999.

Jeremy McGatha323466
Brennan Clay343367
Chad Calvert333467
Gage Ledbetter333467
Layton Bussey353267
Sawyer Edwards343367
Clay Calkins333568
Gary Wigington343468
Josh Poole353368
Jonathan Pate353469
Landon Straub323769
Scott Eaton353469
Tyler Dopson343569
Andrew Brooks353570
Chip Howell333770
Robin Wood343670
Tim Turner373370
David Sanders333871
Timmy Woodard373471
Vance Lewis373471
Billy Thompson353772
Randy Lipscomb373572
Tanner Wells333972
Bob Eaton373673
Chase Hollingsworth373673
Lenn Coffey363773
Will Brown343973
Cam Hurst393574
Chris Reaves383674
Hunter Carr383674
Landon Winfrey393574
Mark Gaines363874
Max Basler383674
Randy Reaves344074
Blake Jones383775
Frankie Hanvey373875
George Salmon403575
Bradley Elliott403676
Kenny Fulmer364076
Mark McCaig373976
Matt Rogers373976
Ted Towns393776
Lamar Carter383876
Austin Jones383977
Jerry Kemp403777
Kurt Duryea374077
Tony Strickland374077
Andy Jenkins374178
Jared Waits384078
Keaton Borrelli393978
Ladon Rogers403878
Chris Sanford413879
Dalton Faulkner403979
Jeff Noah423779
Kaden Parramore394079
Kelly Rogers394079
Kevin Wells394079
Johnny Barnes404080
Ted Heim423880
Tim Steward423880
Austin Elliott394281
Daniel Black433881
Derrick Cotton394281
Fisher Prichard404181
Zack Goss384381
Cal Lambert433982
Daily Thomas414182
Dennis Austin424082
Mark Durden443882
Rom Fleming414182
Tyler Rich404282
Danny Whittaker384583
Roger Smith434083
Daniel Ricks414586
Charles Carden424587
Mark Cotton444387
Randy Watson464288
Nick Ledbetter474289
Byron Preston434992
Lamar Ward464692
Gene Hicks514495
Ken Renfroe5155106

Sunday tee assignments

8 a.m. Shotgun
1A: Kurt Duryea, Andy Jenkins, Keaton Borrelli, Ladon Rogers
1B: Lamar Carter, Austin Jones, Jerry Kemp, Tony Strickland
2: Jared Waits, Jeff Noah, Chris Sanford, Kelly Rogers
3: Kevin Wells, Kaden Parramore, Dalton Falkner, Ted Heim
4: Johnny Barnes, Tim Steward, Daniel Black, Austin Elliott
5: Fisher Prichard, Derrick Cotton, Zack Goss, Daily Thomas
6: Cal Lambert, Tyler Rich, Mark Durden, Dennis Austin
7: Ron Fleming, Danny Whittaker, Roger Smith, Daniel Ricks
8: Charles Carden, Mark Cotton, Randy Watson, Nick Ledbetter
9: Byron Preston, Lamar Ward, Gene Hicks, Ken Renfroe
1 p.m. Shotgun
1A: Sawyer Edwards, Chad Calvert, Gary Wigington, Clay Calkins
1B: Jeremy McGatha, Brennan Clay, Layton Bussey, Greg Ledbetter
2: Josh Poole, Tyler Dopson, Landon Straub, Jonathan Pate
3: Scott Eaton, Chip Howell, Robin Wood, Tim Turner
4: Andrew Brooks, David Sanders, Timmy Woodard, Vance Lewis
5: Billy Thompson, Tanner Wells, Randy Lipscomb, Chase Hollingsworth
6: Bob Eaton, Lenn Coffey, Will Brown, Mark Gaines
7: Randy Reaves, Max Basler, Chris Reaves, Cam Hurst
8: Landon Winfrey, Hunter Carr, Frankie Hanvey, Blake Jones, George Salmon
9: Matt Rogers, Mark McCaig, Kenny Fulmer, Bradley Elliott, Ted Towns

You must be logged in to post a comment Login