One of the most successful teams in tournament history, these life-long friends will be seeking a record sixth team title when they hit the first tee at Silver Lakes Friday to open the 35th annual Classic.
And it will be an emotional bid as this likely will be their last Classic together as a team except for maybe old time’s sake when they’re both empty-nesters.
“Gary deserves to have the opportunity to win more in the future, and I’m at the point where I don’t give him that opportunity anymore,” Reaves said. “He needs to be able to continue to win. He deserves to win three or four more, but I’m not going to be able to do that for him.
“When the kids get older, get grown, who knows, maybe we’ll come back and play again, but I just don’t have the time to devote to it, to give it what it deserves. I just don’t play enough any more.”
Reaves and Wigington won their fifth King title together last year — with Wigington draining a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole — tying the all-time Classic record set by Eric Hamilton and Patrick Cushman in the 90s.
Reaves already is the winningest individual in tournament history, having been a part of six championship celebrations. He won his first King crown with Jeff Russell in 1997 — the only year Hamilton and Cushman didn’t win during their record run.
The case could be made for Reaves and Wigington already holding a sixth team — and Reaves a seventh individual title — as they took first place in the Championship B flight in 2009. They won overall titles in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007 and 2012, and lost in a playoff in 2010.
Actually, Reaves was “extremely close” to not playing this year. He simply doesn’t have the time any more to devote to his game in a way that would do his partner justice. He didn’t play at all between October and April and the only reason he played in last week’s Silver Lakes Invitational was to get his competitive feel back.
When Reaves explained he wanted his partner to have a chance to rack up more titles, Wigington wouldn’t hear of it. He said that didn’t mean anything to him, certainly not more than the partnership.
“When he called and said he wasn’t going to play this year, I didn’t like it at all,” Wigington said. “We’ve been playing for … ever.
“I told him it’s not (about that chance to keep winning). We’ve been friends since we were kids, I always want to keep going and doing it. It’s fun every year, we look forward to it, work hard to get ready for it. It’s not necessarily about whether he plays good enough to win or what. I understand what he’s saying, but that’s not the No. 1 thing for me; it’s not the way I feel about it.”
The end is going to come for one of the great Classic partnerships some day and when it does Reaves believes his partner will carry on without him; in fact, he encourages it. For now, Wigington hasn’t the first clue who he might choose as a future partner. Reaves thought of the possibilities as he contemplated his own retirement, and said there will be plenty of volunteers.
“People are going to be lined up wanting to play with him, and that’s great for him,” Reaves said. “But I want him to find the right person to play with because I really want him to do well and win. I want him to have the most wins. He deserves it because he plays so good.”
As for his own King future, Reaves said if he ever plays in it again it will be “with him (Wigington) or nobody.”
If this is it, Wigington said it makes this a special year.
“It puts a little more emphasis on it,” he said. “You want to go out in a good way if that’s the way it’s going to happen.
“I don’t want this to be our last year and I’ve expressed that to him very strongly. If that’s the case, if that’s how he feels and he’s made his mind up, then obviously we’d like to go out in a winning way.”
That would keep them together one more year.
“If Twig and I win again this year, we will play again,” he said.
So there is hope.
Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.