SILVER LAKES — Even with a new partner, Gary Wigington is still chasing Sunny King Charity Classic records.
Wigington and Freeman Fite opened the 36th annual tournament with an 18-under-par 54. Scott Smith and Blake Smith are tied for second with Ryan Howard and Lance Evans at 56.
The 54 posted by Wigington and Fite tied a tournament single-round record.
If Wiginton and Fite are able to continue their success through Sunday’s conclusion of the tournament, Wigington will win his sixth Sunny King Classic, which will tie his former partner, Randy Reaves.
Wigington and Reaves won the tournament five times, most recently in 2012, which ties the tandem record with Patrick Cushman and Eric Hamilton, who won five in six years, with the last one coming in 1999. Reaves also won the tournament with Jeff Russell in 1997, which gives him more than anyone else.
Even though Wigington and Fite haven’t played together often — Fite only remembers playing together once before a “seven-year hiatus” — the two posted two eagles and 14 birdies Friday.
Wigington said Fite drove the ball well and had a strong putting game. In turn, Fite said Wigington had an outstanding day hitting irons and also played well on the green.
“Our games really do complement each other,” Wigington said. “He hits a ton of fairways and greens, which leaves me open to take a chance or two here or there that you may not be able to do if you’re not in good shape. It worked out well.”
One team that is certainly familiar with each other is the defending champion: Cypress Hathorn and Garrett Burgess are tied for sixth after shooting a 58 on Friday.
“It feels easier this year, but we have a lot way to go. It was kind of boring today — 14 birdies, four pars. Nothing really spectacular happened, nothing you’ll look back on and remember,” Hathorn said. “We didn’t lose it today, and we’re in a position as long as we maintain that Sunday we’ll have a good chance.”
Burgess said that Friday is more about perception. The duo shot 16 under on the first day of the tournament last year, and Burgess said if they would have been 15 under after Friday’s round they would have been “ecstatic.”
“If someone shoots 18, more power to them,” Burgess said. “More than likely, we’ll be a couple shots back, but if we shoot a 14 (Saturday) like we did last year, then we’ll be maybe leading. I don’t know.”
Burgess and Hathorn are approaching Saturday with the mindset to stay in the hunt, with Burgess noting that the tournament can’t be won on the first two days, but it can be lost.
“It’s all about giving yourself an opportunity and giving yourself a chance. If we play decently tomorrow then we’ll have a chance,” Hathorn said. “I like our chances if it comes down to Sunday.”
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.