The Oxford senior fired a 1-under-par 71 to win the Calhoun County golf tournament by 10 strokes Saturday over Alexandria freshman Cole McNeal, who carded a 3-over 75. Sanders’ two-day performance keyed the fourth straight team title by the Yellow Jackets.
Oxford turned in a 303, improving 11 strokes over the first day to win going away over Alexandria. The Yellow Jackets had a two-day 617 to the Valley Cubs’ 649. White Plains was third with 682.
Though the putts didn’t fall for Sanders like they did in the first round when he lit the course up for a 6-under 66, for his individual fight, it didn’t really matter. His third straight county title was all but in the bag by the turn.
While he said it was never a set-in-stone goal, Sanders played throughout his varsity career like it was his mission. After finishing second by one stroke as a freshman, in his three straight individual titles, he’s led each two-day tournament from start to finish.
“Well, it’s kind of one of those things that just falls into place,” he said. “Every time I go play, I tried to win, just so happened the way it fell that I won three times in a row.”
With fewer putts falling and not hitting as many greens, the birdies were a little more scarce. And the bogeys reared their head a little more, too.
Sanders drained a 30-footer to save par on No. 8, and almost came in with a bogey-free round, but made them back-to-back on his 14th and 15th hole in the shotgun-start format.
With Alexandria starting the day 10 back of the Yellow Jackets, it was a little too close for comfort for some of the Oxford faithful, and T.K. Waugh led the charge to get separation.
While he wanted to help his team win their seventh title in the past eight tournaments, his day shared another mission: redemption.
After shooting an 86 in the first round, Waugh shaved 10 strokes on the second day to come in as closest to Sanders.
“I was looking at the board (Saturday morning), and I wasn’t even Top 15. I’ve done it for the past three years,” he said with frustration dripping from his voice. “It feels good to come back and play a better round than I did yesterday — I let my team down, and I let myself down.”
Waugh’s performance was right in line with the rest of the Oxford golfers. After only two golfers fired sub-80 rounds on Friday, save for Sanders, the other scores that counted on Saturday came in below the number with each golfer improving over his previous round.
Taylor Smith had a 77 for a one-shot improvement, and Cody Stewart had a 79 to shave seven strokes following behind Waugh’s double-digit effort.
“I knew Waugh had that in him,” Oxford coach Darrell Cline said. “He had it in him Friday.”
Bran Strickland is the sports editor for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3570 or follow him on Twitter @bran_strickland