Wigington earned a share of the 36-hole lead in the 77th Calhoun County Golf Championship on Saturday after shooting 3-under-par 69 in a demanding set-up.
It left him at 5-under 139 and tied with first-round leader Ty Cole of Albertville. They hold a one-shot lead over fellow Player of the Year contender Jeremy McGatha and a two-shot cushion over 17-year-old Caleb McKinney.
If Wigington can close the deal Saturday, he will join Chris Banister and Eric Hamilton atop the tournament’s all-time wins list (six) and join Hamilton as the only players to win the event four times in a row.
“Everybody is so close,” Wigington said. “Everybody is playing good. It’s going to be a battle. We’re all right in there within a shot or two. It’s going to be a great match. Whoever plays good tomorrow is going to win it.
“I’m just glad to have a shot at it.”
Wigington would have had sole possession of the lead going into the final round had he not bogeyed No. 18.
Still, he was in position to par the hole after finding the hazard off the tee and a hitting it through a bush on his third stroke. But he missed a 20-foot par putt after finally hitting the green with a 3-wood from 265 yards.
“It’s just one of those things you lay down a little bit,” he said. “You don’t think of hitting one like that. My foot slid a little bit when I was trying to come through it, but I kind of let up and didn’t concentrate on the tee ball like I had been all the way around.
“Just to have a putt for par was pretty surprising.”
Cole was watching the play at the green and felt fortunate to be tied for the lead.
He entered the second round with a one-shot lead on the field and a three-shot lead on Wigington, but he scored 18 straight pars in his round and stayed put.
Cane Creek pro Kenny Szuch discovered some trivia that the odds are greater for a PGA Tour player to score 18 straight pars in a round than make a hole-in-one. Nick Faldo had 18 straight pars in the final round of his 1987 British Open win at Muirfield, and Jeev Milkha Singh did it in 2008 on the European Tour.
The milestone didn't impress Cole while it was happening to him.
“It was the most mediocre round of golf I’ve ever played,” he said. “I’ve never played a round of golf and made 18 straight pars.”
Cole said he had “three or four real good chances” at birdie in the round. He had the putts on line but left them all short.
“We’ve got one more day and I’m not out of it, so …,” he said. “To play like I played today and still have a share of the lead, that’s all you can ask for. We’ll tee it up tomorrow and see how bad or good we can play.”
Not only is the tournament close, so is the race for county Player of the Year. Only 55 points separated leader Wigington and No. 3 McGatha coming into the tournament. Current No. 2 Ott Chandler dropped off the pace after shooting 75 Saturday to fall into fifth place.
If Wigington, McGatha or Chandler wins the tournament, that person will be the Player of the Year.
McGatha, the Player of the Year in 2009 and 2011, pulled in behind the leaders with his second straight 70. He had five birdies, including one at 18 to finish.
“I hit the ball as good as I’ve hit it in a while,” he said. “The few greens I missed I made bogeys, and they were barely missed. I can’t put that much pressure on my iron play because you can’t hit every green, and when you miss greens you’ve got to get up and down.”
Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.