In what seemed like a page from Zach Johnson’s 2007 Masters yardage book, Ellison took a conservative approach all weekend and it led him to victory in the Wilfred Galbraith Invitational at Anniston Country Club.
Ellison parred his first 10 holes and hardly took driver from his bag en route to a 1-over par 71 Sunday that left him 1-over 211 for the championship. He won by three shots over Gary Wigington and four over Jeff Champion.
A long hitter anyway, Ellison hit only one driver in three days — on the par-5 17th in Sunday’s final round. He relied mostly on a stinging 3-wood for his long ball off the tee. Johnson laid up on all the par-5s in his 2007 Masters win.
“My plan from the first hole on Friday was to play conservative, play my game, keep it in play, keep it in front of me and give myself opportunities to make birdies,” Ellison said. “It was extremely conservative. I think I hit four or five 5-irons from the tee box to position myself.
“As I become a seasoned player I’m learning you don’t have to overpower a golf course to win the golf tournament. The last couple of years I’m becoming more of a conservative player and letting my short game kind of be my foundation.”
There were three key swings on the Sunday road to victory. He hit what he called “one of the best shots I’ve hit in tournament golf in about 10 years” after nearly hitting the ball out of bounds off 12 tee. He got some favorable relief from a support wire to save “the best par of my career” and stay tied for the lead with Ott Chandler.
Then he birdied the short par-4 13th while Chandler made double bogey after a poor tee shot, taking the lead for good.
Finally, on 17 with a two-shot lead, he hit the green with a 260-yard 3-wood from the right rough and made par, while Wigington, who had the last best chance to overtake him, hit his second shot into the hazard on a shot he had to make happen.
“I felt if I could find the green with that 3-wood I would have a good shot to win the golf tournament, if I did what I was supposed to do,” Ellison said.
Chandler went into the final round with a two-shot lead but never got on track and shot 78. He was 4-over through five holes and was two shots back at the turn, but regained a share of the lead with a birdie on 11 before disaster struck two holes later. He was lucky not to hit his ball out of bounds off 13 tee, punched it out and then hit a poor chip to the green and three-putted.
“I drove the ball bad all day,” Chandler said. “That’s unlike me. I usually drive the ball good, but I drove it terrible. I just didn’t play well overall. The last two days I haven’t played well. I just kind of scraped it around (Saturday) and today it caught up with me.”
When Chandler fell out of the picture at 13, it left Wigington as the last real threat. On 17, two shots down, he hit his driver into the left rough. It cleared the tree line but left him with the choice of either hitting a big hook to the green or going over the trees that stood in front of him.
He didn’t lift his 6-iron from 195 yards quite high enough and it fell in the hazard halfway to the green. He did hit a nice approach after taking his penalty stroke but didn’t convert the par putt.
“I had to go over; I couldn’t hit a hook and stop it on the green,” Wigington said. “I had to try it, it was the only chance.”
Champion, a former mini-tour player and briefly a caddie for Boo Weekley on the regular tour, surged into third place with his second straight 69. In retrospect, the Pell City golfer rued the 9 he took on No. 17 Friday. Had he just parred the hole, he would have matched Ellison’s score.
The win was Ellison’s second in a row on the Calhoun County Golf Tour and his eighth in the history of the series. He won the ACC Invitational in 2007.
Ty Cole won the Championship flight B Division (225). The other flight winners were Dan Griffin (first, 142); David Coffey (second, 152); Danny Shears (third, 162); and Jimmy Flowers (fourth, 171).
The next event on the Calhoun County Golf Tour schedule is the KIA-FMCU Pro-Invitational at Cane Creek, June 1-3.
Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.