E.A. Sports Today

Galbraith Invitational

Two-time winner Ellison emerges as first-round leader with an even-par 70, hopes ailing back will let him finish this year.

Cover photo: Jaylon Ellison shot an even-par 70 in Friday’s first round of the Wilfred Galbraith Invitational to lead by one stroke. (Photo by Joe Medley)

By Joe Medley
East Alabama Sports Today

Jaylon Ellison’s game put him atop the field after Friday’s first round of the Wilfred Galbraith Invitational.

He hopes his back will let him finish what he started.

Ellison shot 70 Friday at Anniston Country Club and leads Taylor McCollum and Brennan Clay by one stroke. Gary Wigington and Freeman Fite are two strokes back.

Starring at an 8 a.m. tee time for Saturday’s second round, Ellison had definite plans about how to spend the rest of his Friday … in an ice bath.

Ellison withdrew ahead of the 2023 Wilfred Galbraith Invitational’s final round because of back issues. He said the combination of sciatica and L5-S1 lumbosacral joint pain.

Ellison said he couldn’t promise ACC pro Steven Driggers a full three rounds.

“I was telling Steve before I teed off, I was going to try to play the best I can,” Ellison said. “I hope, in the morning, it’s OK.”

Ellison said his golfing work has been limited to chips and putts since playing in the Georgia State Mid-Amateur tournament two weeks ago.

“I’ve not hit a full shot in two weeks, just trying to preserve it,” he said.

The Wilfred Galbraith Invitational is the fourth points event on the 2024 Calhoun County Golf Tour. Ellison won in 2007 and 2012, two of his nine Tour victories, and was the 2010 Tour player of the year.

He’s continued to play in the Tour’s ACC stop through the years despite becoming more scarce on the Tour since moving to Alpharetta, Ga., in 2015.

Partly because back issues and acquaintance with ACC’s pitfalls, Ellison played conservatively Friday. He wound up with the lone par round.

“I kept the ball in front of me and played extremely conservative,” he said. “I tried to stay away from mistakes and not force anything and just let the course come to me.

“It was playing tough out there, just with the conditions and how the ball is rolling. We’ve got to more rounds to go, and it’s going to be tough.”

Wigington and Fite were the early leaders Friday. McCollum and Clay finished toward the back end of the day.

Brennan Clay (left) and Taylor McCollum each shot a 1-over-par 71 in Friday’s first round of the Wilfred Galbraith Invitational and stand one shot off of the lead. (Photos by Joe Medley)

McCollum, who works in real estate, lives in Pelham and played for UAB and the University of Memphis, is an ACC member and knows he course well. He plays often with Jacob and Lewis Lecroy and has partnered with Kyle Daugherty and Tanner Wells in the Sunny King Charity Classic.

This marks McCollum’s first run at the Wilfred Galbraith, and he toughed out a roller-coaster round. He was 1-under through five holes then tripped up for a double bogey on No. 6 and bogeys on Nos 7 and 9.

Making the turn at 3 over, he rebounded with birdies on 11, 15, 17 and 18 on the back nine with two bogeys mixed in.

Like the rest of the field, he struggled with fast greens, finishing with three three-putts from getting above the pin.

“I made a lot of putts, too, that, if they’d missed the hole, they would’ve been off the green,” he said. “You have to stay below the pin, pretty much. Play short of the pin and have uphill putts.”

Clay, a Tour regular with four victories and the 2022 player of the year, nearly came away with the first-round lead for the second time this season. He led after the first round at Cane Creek.

He’s never won the Wilfred Galbraith Invitational but went into the final two holes at 1 under and on pace to have sole possession of the lead. Bogeys on 17 and 18 set him back.

“I don’t have a great track record here, so it feels good (to be contending),” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere close to the lead here.”

He called his round “solid” with a “disheartening finish.” He found ACC’s fast greens to his liking Friday.

“That’s the way I like it,” he said. “Firm and fast is what I like. I love golf courses when they’re firm and fast.”

First-round scores

Jaylon Ellison7070
Brennan Clay7171
Taylor McCollum7171
Gary Wigington7272
Freeman Fite7272
Chip Howell7373
Clay Calkins7373
Harrison Hughston7373
Tanner Wells7373
Hunter Carr7474
John Rollins7474
Jeff Chapman7474
Wes Couch7474
Jacob Lecroy7474
Jeremy McGatha7474
Trey Rouse7575
Chance Harris7575
Layton Bussey7575
Vance Lewis7676
Ryan Howard7676
Dalton Chandler7676
Adam Sanders7676
Jeff Bain7676
Tim Turner7777
Ott Chandler7777
Chandler Wilborn7878
Ryan Huff7878
Chad Key7878
Benji Turley7979
Kevin Daugherty7979
Dustin Travis7979
Rusty Whitlow8080
Cypress Hathorn8080
Greg Shultz8080
Lewis Lecroy8080
Austin Elliott8181
Tim Woodard8181
Zach Limberis8282
Jonathan Pate8282
Kyle Glover8282
Chase Hollingsworth8282
Scott Watson8383
Cain Hollingsworth8383
Rob Svensen8383
Carson Chandler8484
Zachary Goss8484
Jason Payne8484
Joe Hedgepeth8585
Colin Reed8585
Tanner Tabor8585
Bob Eaton8686
Zach Mangum8787
Cam Hurst8787
Andrew Gunnells8787
Kenneth Willingham8888
Dre Davenport8888
Ted Gregerson8888
Mark Durden8888
Kolby Slick8989
Mike Gaines8989
Taylor Vera9090
Eric Stringer9191
Mike Thompson9191
Blake Grisham9292
Graham Morrow9292
Cody Smitherson9393
John Carpenter9393
Devin Williams9494
Hank Smith9595
Matt Greer9597
Don Whitlow9898
Dylan Parker9898
Clay Culbert9898
Keith Hutcheson9898
Chase Arnold9999
Paul Staples101101
Judson Miller103103
Isaac Scroggins106106
Marlee Hedgepeth107107
Shane Boman113113

Saturday tee times

8 a.m.: Jaylon Ellison, Taylor McCollum, Brennan Clay.
8:12 a.m.: Gary Wigington, Freeman Fite, Chip Howell.
8:24 a.m.: Harrison Hughston, Tannner Wells, Clay Calkins.
8:36 a.m.: Jeff Chapman, Wes Couch, John Rollins, Hunter Carr.
8:48 a.m.: Trey Rouse, Chance Harris, Jacob Lecroy, Jeremy McGatha.
9 a.m.: Ryan Howard, Dalton Chandler, Layton Bussey, Vance Lewis.
9:12 a.m.: Tim Turner, Ott Chandler, Adam Sanders, Jeff Bain.
9:24 a.m.: Chad Key, Kevin Daugherty, Chandler Wilborn, Ryan Huff.
9:36 a.m.: Cypress Hathorn, Greg Shultz, Lewis Lecroy, Dustin Travis.
9:48 a.m.: Rusty Whitlow, Benji Turley, Timmy Woodard, Austin Elliott.
10:12 a.m.: Paul Staples, Mike Lett, Don Whitlow.
10:36 a.m.: David Sanders, Don Springer, Ted Heim, Mike Thompson.
10:48 a.m.: Kolby Slick, Taylor Vera, Billy Thompson, Cain Hollingsworth.
11 a.m.: Ted Gregerson, Aaron Gregerson, Matt Rogers, Bob Eaton.
11:12 a.m.: Tyler Teneyck, Don Hill, Kenneth Willingham.
11:24 a.m.: Mark Gaines, Marlee Hedgepath, Matt Greer.
11:36 a.m.: Zachary Goss, Hank Smith, Eric Stringer, Tim Wilcox.
11:48 a.m.: Tyler Huckaby, Taylor Jones, Rob Svensen, Matt Hunter.
Noon: Clay Culbert, Isaac Scroggins, Shane Boman, Scott Jimmerson.
12:11 p.m.: Adam Benefiel, Houston Black, Dylan Parker, Cody Smitherson.
12:22 p.m.: Chase Hollingsworth, Henry Pritchett, Jake Goggans, Lamar Carter.
12:33 p.m.: Taylor Morrow, Trey Stone, Chase Thomas, Graham Morrow.
12:44 p.m.: Carson Chandler, Zach Limberis, Mark Durden, Keaton Borrelli.
12:55 p.m.: Mike Wiedmer, Bradley Elliott, Charlie Smith, Wyatt Cotney.
1:06 p.m.: Andrew Gunnels, Blake Grisham, Cam Hurst, Dre Davenport.
1:17 p.m.: Jonathan Pate, Colin Read, Jason Payne, Joe Hedgepath.
1:28 a.m.: Chase Arnold, Devin Williams, Jeff Pool, John Carpenter.
1:39 p.m.: Judson Miller, Tanner Tabor, Zach Mangum, Scott Watson.
1:50 p.m.: David Hughston, Keith Hutcheson, Kyle Glover, Kyle Webb.
2:01 p.m: Greg Rainey, Heath Waldrop, Kolby Webb, Sean Kline.

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