E.A. Sports Today

Brooks battles back

County champion shoots 63, passes a host of contenders for his first stroke play win on the County Tour; Clay edges Wigington for Player of the Year

Andrew Brooks7063133
Jeremy McGatha6668134
Chad Calvert6768135
Layton Bussey6768135
Landon Straub6966135

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

With all the players in contention for the Calhoun County Championship and given his position on the overnight leaderboard, Andrew Brooks knew it would take a real good round, a whole lot of patience and, not that he wished ill on his fellow competitors, some stumbling by the field if he wanted to raise the trophy at the end of the day.

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He got all of that Sunday at Anniston Municipal. Brooks did his part by shooting a smart 7-under-par 63 that came within a late double bogey of being even better and starting from near the bottom of the Championship B Flight weaved his way through a maze of 16 other players to win his first Calhoun County crown. It was his first win on the Calhoun County Tour in an individual stroke play event.

Helped by an advantageous starting position in the shotgun start, Brooks birdied all three of the par-5s he had in his closing stretch and finished at 7-under 133, one better than first-round leader Jeremy McGatha. It was McGatha’s ninth second-place finish in this event.

The race for Player of the Year was just as tight. Co-leaders Gary Wigington and Brennan Clay finished tied for sixth at 4-under 136, which left tied at the top of the points standings. The award went to Clay – for the first time – by virtue of his higher tournament finish among the events that didn’t count towards their best five.

Wigington also shot a better score in the final round, however, a 68 (to Clay’s 69) capped by a closing eagle on 18 – his second eagle of the round – that took some of the sting out of his two triple-bogey 7s on the back nine that took him out of tournament contention.

Brooks started the day tied for 14th, four shots behind McGatha. He needed to get off to a good start and did with birdies on three of his first four holes (and four of his first six) and just played smart and steady while all the other contenders were falling by the wayside.

As an exceptionally long hitter, it helped his cause to play the three par-5s among his last four holes of the day. The Jon Rahm lookalike birdied 18 and nearly eagled 1 after hitting the green in 2.

He brought a lot of drama back into the tournament when he four-putted No. 2 for a double bogey. It left him with a one-shot lead over McGatha and Landon Straub going to the par-5 third, his final hole of the day. Thinking he needed a 3 at the last to win and trying to avoid going left at all costs, he hit his tee shot so far right he thought he lost it. Instead, the ball settled in the right-hand rough of the first fairway.

He played a 7-iron from 180 yards to the front left fringe and banged his putt of some 60 feet off the pin. It stopped about six inches from the cup and he tapped in closing birdie to seal it.

“If I had to pick a tournament on the County Tour to be my first individual stroke play (win), it would be in this tournament up here,” said Brooks, whose previous two Tour wins came in the County Match Play Championship. “This place is just special. All the tradition that’s up here, all the work Matt (Rogers), one of my best friends, puts into this place, all that going into one.

“It’s hard to win on this Tour, it really is. I think we’ve got the most competitive bunch of golfers in the state of Alabama here on this Calhoun County Tour. It’s hard to win. I never would have thought 7-under would have won this tournament. I told myself today I felt like I needed to get to 8 or 9 to have a chance, that’s barring somebody in the 10 to 12 players ahead of me having a good round also. I really didn’t expect it.

“Today was just one of those days where everything came together.”

It was as wild a Championship Sunday in the county tournament as anyone could remember. Thirteen players started the day within three shots of the lead and 20 were within four.

Four players had at least a piece of the lead at some point in the round and three times there was a three-way tie at the top.

It looked like it was going to be McGatha’s day early when he never touched the first hole with his first three shots then chipped in for birdie from near the big oak behind the green. He birdied both par 5s and bogeyed both par-3s at the start and couldn’t gain any traction.

He lost ground with back-to-back bogeys on 10 and 11 and never made it up until birdies at 16 and 18, but it proved to be not enough.

“Here we go again, second No. 9,” McGatha said. “But I got in my own way. You saw the short putts I missed. My wedges were not my fault, it was the putter.”

While McGatha was spinning his wheels early, Wigington played those first four holes with two birdies and an eagle to take the lead. He held the lead until the back nine when he incurred a most uncharacteristic penalty for hitting a wrong ball. 

Wigington uniquely marks his Titleist with a half circle and straight line intended to help his putting. His drive on 10 landed in some higher rough right of the fairway. He went to the spot he believed his ball had settled and when he looked down there was a ball with his markings that he proceeded to hit.

Only later did they discover the ball carried a different number, so he was assessed a two-shot penalty and made 7. They found his ball about 10 yards from the spot of the other. It took him from one shot ahead to one behind and he never had a piece of the lead again. He followed it with a bogey on the next hole and two holes later made another 7.

“I never have (done that),” he said of hitting the wrong ball. “Nobody marks it like that and it was right where we had hit it. It just never … never even was a consideration.”

It was that kind of season for Wigington, really, where one big number on a hole has impacted his finish or, this week, where everything that could go wrong found him.

Clay got off to the start he wanted with a birdie on 1 and nice up-and-down par save on 2, but the back-to-back bogeys on the next two holes told him it wasn’t going to be his day. He had 30 putts for the second day in a row after hitting 14 greens to the second day in a row.

“Yesterday was a battle, today was more than that,” Clay said. “It was good to get back to 1-under today. I just didn’t make anything.”

Layton Bussey had a share of the lead early in the round. He fell off the face by going bogey-par-double through the turn, but rallied with birdies on the next three holes to regain a share of lead. He then bogeyed two of his next three holes before finishing with a birdie that gave him a share of third with Chad Calvert and Landon Straub.

Straub joined the conversation with an eagle at 6 and Calvert joined with three straight birdies on the back and an eagle at 18.

How close was the POY race? They were neck-and-neck coming to the last hole. Wigington played 18 the same way he did before – a big drive and a 9-iron over the trees – and this time the ball stayed on the green for him to make an eagle putt. Clay played in the group behind and had an eagle chip to nose out Wigington at the wire and the shot lipped out.

NOTES: Here’s a fun fact from Brooks’ round. He marked his putts today with a 1963 nickel. What did he shoot to win? A 63. He had it to use Saturday, but kept it in his pocket in favor of his magnetic dad marker embossed with his kids’ names … Clay already has said he would not be playing in the Match Play as it conflicts with the NASCAR date at Talladega … Bradley Elliott won the putt-off against Lamar Carter prior to the start of the afternoon wave … Sunday long drive prizes went to Randy Watson and Sawyer Edwards. Closest to the pin prizes went to Kelly Rogers (No. 2) and Andy Jenkins (No. 7) in the morning, Andrew Brooks (2) and Gage Ledbetter (7) in the afternoon

Here are the unofficial first-round matchups for the Calhoun County Match Play Championship, Oct. 1-2 at The Hill.

No. 1 Brennan Clay vs. No. 16 Sawyer Edwards
No. 8 Dane Moore vs. No. 9 Gage Ledbetter
No. 5 Landon Straub vs. No. 12 Corey Ray
No. 4 Ty Cole vs. No. 13 Randy Lipscomb

No. 3 Jeremy McGatha vs. No. 14 Andrew Brooks
No. 6 Layton Bussey vs. 11 Kevin Daugherty
No. 7 Chad Calvert vs. No. 10 Mason Dennis
No. 2 Gary Wigington vs. No. 15 Clay Calkins

Calhoun County Championship

Jeremy McGatha6668134
Chad Calvert6768135
Layton Bussey6768135
Gary Wigington6868136
Brennan Clay6769136
Clay Calkins6873141
Josh Poole6874142
Sawyer Edwards6776143
Gage Ledbetter6779146
Andrew Brooks7063133
Landon Straub6966135
Tyler Dopson6972141
Tim Turner7073143
Chip Howell7073143
Jonathan Pate6980149
Scott Eaton6976145
Robin Wood7077147
David Sanders7178149
Timmy Woodard7175146
Vance Lewis7177148
Max Basler7469143
Billy Thompson7273145
Randy Reaves7471145
Randy Lipscomb7274146
Tanner Wells7274146
Chase Hollingsworth7376149
Bob Eaton7376149
Will Brown7377150
Cam Hurst7480154
Chris Reaves7481155
Hunter Carr7479153
Landon Winfrey7482156
Mark Gaines7477151
Lenn Coffey73WDWD
Matt Rogers7672148
George Salmon7574149
Bradley Elliott7674150
Kenny Fulmer7676152
Blake Jones7582157
Frankie Hanvey7582157
Mark McCaig7677153
Ted Towns7679155
Lamar Carter7678154
Kurt Duryea7778155
Austin Jones7778155
Jared Waits787877
Ladon Rogers7878156
Tony Strickland7780157
Andy Jenkins7880158
Keaton Borrelli7883161
Jerry Kemp77WDWD
Chris Sanford7976155
Jeff Noah7976155
Ted Heim8077157
Tim Steward8078158
Dalton Faulkner7980159
Kelly Rogers7981160
Johnny Barnes8080160
Kevin Wells7984163
Kaden Parramore79WDWD
Daily Thomas8274156
Zack Goss8177158
Nick Ledbetter8970159
Dennis Austin8277159
Mark Durden8280162
Derrick Cotton8181162
Daniel Black8182163
Tyler Rich8281163
Austin Elliott8185166
Cal Lambert8285167
Fisher Prichard8189170
Rom Fleming8296178
Roger Smith8383166
Danny Whittaker8383166
Charles Carden8780167
Randy Watson8883171
Daniel Ricks8689175
Mark Cotton8792179
Byron Preston9285
Lamar Ward9289
Gene Hicks9593
Ken Renfroe10699
x-Sunday score only

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