Wigington wins tourney, Player of the Year honors
by Al Muskewitz
amuskewitz@annistonstar.com
Aug 20, 2012 | 4552 views |  0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
McCLELLAN — Gary Wigington had to think long and hard to come up with the last time he had the year in golf he enjoyed this season.

Wigington capped what he finally determined was his best season in 10 years Sunday by winning two of the biggest individual prizes on the Calhoun County golf scene.

The 43-year-old local businessman shot a final-round 72 on a toughened Cane Creek layout to win his third straight Calhoun County Championship and claim County Player of the Year honors by winning the points title on the Calhoun County Golf Tour.

Wigington shot 10-under-par 206 for the tournament — the same score he posted in winning in 2010 — and won by two shots over Gonzalo Berlin. The 450 points he collected for the victory also gave him a 10-point edge over Marcus Harrell.

Wigington and Harrell will be the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds, respectively, in the upcoming Calhoun County Match Play Championship.

In addition to Sunday’s win, his County Tour resume includes a win at Silver Lakes, a second at Anniston Country Club and tie for second at Cider Ridge. He’s leading the Tour in stroke average and is among the leaders in greens, putting and birdies. In July, he won a record-tying fifth Sunny King Classic title with Randy Reaves.

“It’s been a real good year,” Wigington said. “I don’t know when would be the next best year. It’s been a while.

“I’ve gotten to play more this year than I’ve had in a few years and had some really good tournaments. It’s just a good feeling to win this thing again.”

Here’s some historical perspective on the County Championship to digest with your Corn Flakes this morning:

• Wigington is the first three-time winner of the County Championship since it moved to Cane Creek in 2005.

• He is the first player in 28 years to win the event three years in a row.

• The win was his fifth County title all-time, one off the all-time tournament record.

• The last player to win the County and Player of the Year in the same season was Garrett Burgess in 2008, the second year of the County Tour.

Just as the day before, the final six holes proved to be the pivotal stretch to Wigington’s round and ultimately the title.

After leading by as many as three midway through the front nine, he surrendered sole possession of the lead with a bogey at 11, but retook it for good after a brilliant approach set him up for birdie on 13.

Perhaps the play of the tournament came on the next hole. His second shot found the greenside hazard and he had to take a drop, but then nearly holed his L-wedge from 55 yards. The ball stopped inches from the cup and he tapped in to save par.

He birdied the par-3 15th, and then went three shots up on 16 by getting up-and-down to Berlin’s bogey. He gave a shot back with a bogey at 17 from the fairway bunker.

The lead was two going to 18 and Berlin needed eagle to force the issue. He had a putt at it and missed, but Wigington made it a moot point when he made birdie to close it out.

Wigington went into the weekend 162.5 points behind Harrell in the Player of the Year race. In retrospect, he called his chances of winning it “a long shot that happened to fall perfectly.”

Harrell, who won three times on the Tour this season, could have won the title by finishing first or second this week, but he was plagued by putting problems and a sore wrist that has bothered him since hitting a shot out of the hazard on 17 in the final round of the Sunny King Classic.

The injury prevented him from hitting driver either of the first two rounds, but he decided to pull it out Sunday in hopes of making something happen. It finally did on the back nine, where he shot 2-under — making birdie on both par-5s ­— to post 75 and to win B flight and finish sixth among Tour players.

“All I could do was control what I was doing; I didn’t worry about anybody else,” a tired Harrell said. “I wanted to finish as good as I could. It’s definitely disappointing to not win — I’ve had a really good year — but ‘Twig’ played great.”

With Harrell struggling, Jaylon Ellison, a two-time Tour winner this year, appeared to put himself in position to win the points title even with Wigington’s win. He was 4-under at the turn Sunday with only nine putts to close a seven-shot gap on the final threesome, but made four bogeys on the back. He shot 71 and finished fourth overall and third in the points standings.

“It was kind of tough the last four holes,” he said. “I had all the momentum to really do something special on the back and just didn’t capitalize.”

McGatha played in the final game but fell off the pace with a 41 on the front. He was 6-over through 12 holes but closed with a flourish, dropping three birdies in his last five holes — including 17 and 18 — to finish third overall.

Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.