Wigington aims for county golf history this weekend
by Al Muskewitz
amuskewitz@annistonstar.com
Aug 15, 2013 | 2723 views |  0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gary Wigington may be chasing history this weekend in the Calhoun County Golf Championship, but the only thing he’s focused on is the 54 holes in front of him.

What else would explain him hitting drives off the 14th tee Thursday as a steady rain fell on Cane Creek Golf Course.

There’s a lot on the line for Wigington. If he wins this weekend — the tournament starts today — he will tie the tournament record for all-time wins (six) and the record for consecutive wins (four).

He’ll also clinch Player of the Year honors on the Calhoun County Golf Tour, becoming the first player to win it back-to-back.

“I hadn’t thought of any of that, to be honest,” he said. “It’s just the next tournament, and I just have to focus on the golf.

“If you’re thinking about all that, you’re thinking about all the wrong things. I try not to let it enter my mind. All I want to do is focus as best I can on this tournament.”

Chris Banister and Eric Hamilton both have won six county crowns — all when the event was played at Anniston Municipal Golf Course. Banister won in 1955, 1961, 1969-71 and 1973. Hamilton won four year in a row from 1981-84, 1994 and 1996.

Wigington has won it in 1999, 2004 and each of the last three years.

In the last three years, he shot 10-under par, 8 under and 10 under.

“Look, it’s been a fun run and all that, but I try not to focus on that,” Wigington said. “I think of it as the next tournament, not trying to get four (in a row).”

Wigington, the current Tour points leader, is one of three players who can win Player of the Year honors by winning the county.

He holds a 37.5-point lead over second-place Ott Chandler and a 55-point lead over Jeremy McGatha. And that doesn’t even figure any of the five to eight others players in the field capable of winning the tournament.

“It’s crazy how close it is, that at the end of six tournaments everything still rides on whoever wins this one,” Wigington said. “This is Jeremy’s home course. He plays it better than anybody, and Ott plays it well. It’s going to be a three-day grind. You can’t afford too many dumb mistakes. If you do, you’re going to get beat. You cannot afford to make a big number anywhere.”

Chandler established himself as the favorite early in the season. He won the season opener at Cider Ridge and finished second in each of the next two Tour events, but the second half of his season has been plagued by health problems that forced him to withdraw from one event and miss another completely.

He won back-to-back county titles the first two years the event was played at Cane Creek and won the County Match Play Championship there.

He said “it would be super” if he could pull it out, but considered himself the underdog among the three contenders.

“It would be really nice,” he said. “I’ve come close before and never closed the deal. It’ll be tough, but I’ll be battling to the end.”

McGatha was County Player of the Year in 2009 and 2011, the only player to have won the award twice. He said being this close to another overall title means a lot to him, but the bigger prize is the tournament.

“I work hard at trying to do this and practice a lot trying to get better at golf, but (the POY race) doesn’t mean as much as trying to win the County because I need an individual win,” he said. “It’s been a while since I’ve had an individual win and nothing would be better than to break that by winning the Calhoun County Championship.”

McGatha was the highest finisher among Tour players at the Wilfred Galbraith Anniston Country Club Invitational, but finished third overall. His best individual finish this season on Tour was second at Pine Hill.

The top 16 finishers in the Tour standings at the end of the weekend will qualify for next month’s County Match Play Championship. Now there's a race — 70 points separate 12th place from 18th in the current standings.

Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577. Calhoun County Championship Championship flight qualifying

7:30 a.m. -- Mark Durden, TBA

8:10 -- Billy Thompson, Allen Mangham

8:34 -- Daniel Black, Tim Steward

8:58 -- Caleb McKinney, Landon Straub, Jonathan Pate, Jason Rich

9:06 -- Jerry Kemp, TBA

9:14 -- Jeremy McGatha, T.J. McGatha, David Martin, Frank Brady

9:22 -- Nate Pearce, TBA

10:02 -- Jackson Johnson, TBA

10:10 -- Ott Chandler, Chandler Wilborn, Janson Wilborn, Lance Evans

10:18 -- Shane Chappell, Austin Minton

1:30 p.m. -- Doug East, Gary Wigington, Benji Turley

1:38 -- Matt Rogers, Kelly Rogers, Ty Cole, Chris Maye

2:02 -- Jaylon Ellison, TBA

2:26 -- Clay Calkins, Chris Cunningham, Mike Lett, Adrian Geeting

2:58 -- Kenny Wright, Dan Griffin, Scott Eaton, Dan McClellan

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