Joe Medley: Thanks for the memories, Wigington and Reaves
by Joe Medley
Jul 14, 2013 | 4583 views |  0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Gary Wigington and Randy Reaves finished at 7-under par for Sunday and 33 under for the tournament, five strokes back. (Photo by Trent Penny/Anniston Star)
Gary Wigington and Randy Reaves finished at 7-under par for Sunday and 33 under for the tournament, five strokes back. (Photo by Trent Penny/Anniston Star)
Gary Wigington’s and Randy Reaves’ run as one of the Sunny King Charity Classic’s greatest tandems started in court.

Well, it’s more accurate to say it started at court.

Jeff Russell, who partnered with Reaves to win the area’s signature golf event in 1997, had just had that moment with Reaves, that moment some Sunny King tandems have. It’s the moment where one partner tells the other, in effect, “You deserve a partner who can keep devoting so much time to golf.”

Then Reaves, Calhoun County’s chief juvenile probation officer, spotted his life-long buddy. There was his former teammate at Saks High School and Jacksonville State University, leaving the courthouse.

“I’m sitting in my office, and it’s the Monday after Sunny King that Jeff had told me, ‘Hey, I want you to find somebody else,’” Reaves said. “I hadn’t called anybody or anything.

“I see Gary, walking through the parking lot, coming to the courthouse. He had some business in small-claims court or something, so I come out of my office and go out and meet him, and I ask him.”

So began the partnership the led to a five Sunny King championships, spanning from 2000 to 2012, and Sunday saw that Sunny King partnership end at Anniston Country Club.

The partnership ended with Wigington tapping in a short par putt on No. 18 to secure their second-place finish. They finished at 7 under par for the day and 33 under for the tournament, five strokes back of winners Garrett Burgess and Cypress Hathorn and one up on Michael Lee and Mike Lewis.

Wigington then walked to the side of the green, where Reaves held the pin as Lee and Lewis finished out. Reaves walked up and patted Wigington on the side as they shared a moment.

They carted up to the hill to the clubhouse, where Wigington’s son Peyton greeted Reaves with a hug. The three sat in the cart together as Wigington’s wife Tammy and her sister Valerie took pictures with their cell phones.

“It’s a relief, and it’s sad at the same time,” Reaves said minutes later. “But it’s, you know, something that needs to happen.”

Remember that talk Russell had with Reaves all those years ago? Reaves had that same talk with Wigington after the two won the 2012 Sunny King.

Reaves, now 45, didn’t feel he could continue to devote as much time to golf. Son Will plays baseball for Alexandria High during the spring and Excel Baseball Academy during the summer. Daughter Ashton is about to begin school at the University of Alabama.

Dad doesn’t want to miss baseball games and visits to Tuscaloosa.

Reaves had already scaled back his golf time in recent years. This year, he didn’t play in the Anniston Country Club invitational. He played in the Silver Lakes Invitational just to shake off the rust before playing in the Sunny King.

“I took off from October to April and didn’t play any, and I didn’t miss it,” Reaves said. “That’s the thing. It used to, it would drive me crazy, if I wasn’t out there playing.”

Though Wigington says otherwise, Reaves already felt like he wasn’t carrying his weight in their Sunny King ventures. After they won in 2012, leaving them tied with Patrick Cushman and Eric Hamilton for most Sunny King victories by any tandem, Reaves joked that he was “riding Secretariat” all weekend.

“Last year, he just flat tore it up,” Reaves said. “You know, one person can’t win this thing. It takes two, but last year, he came as close as anybody to winning it one his own.

“I made some putts and things like that for him, but he played so great last year, and he deserves to not have that pressure on him all the time so he can take a shot off, so he can relax.”

That’s why Reaves had the talk with Wigington after their victory in 2012, but Wigington wasn’t having any of it. He talked Reaves into playing one more year.

Reaves told The Anniston Star this past week that a victory this year would bring him back next year.

Over the three rounds of the tournament, Reaves and Wigington went 13-under par at Silver Lakes on Friday, 13 under with the help of Wigington’s hole-in-one at Cider Ridge on Saturday and 7 under with a Wigington eagle on No. 11 on Sunday.

They came into Sunday in fourth place, four strokes back of Burgess and Hathorn, and finished second, five strokes back.

Again, Reaves came away saying he didn’t help much. Wigington said Reaves always helps.

“His strong points are my weak points, so he’s the perfect partner for me,” he said. “He complements my game more than anybody, especially the short game, always being in play. He putts and chips good.”

In other words, Reaves’ allows Wigington to take more risks. Their best ball almost will always be a playable ball.

It’s worked well enough for two men in their mid-40s to spread five championships over 13 years -- 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007 and 2012. Even as younger, longer-hitting players team up with older, short-game salts, “Twig” and Reaves kept playing at the top.

They were good enough to finish second in their final Sunny King, even as Reaves carried the emotions of it.

“I’ve been thinking about it all weekend,” he said. “It was hard for me to get in gear today because, my mind, I couldn’t get focused on playing golf. I was thinking about, ‘This is the last time I’ll do this. This is the last time I’ll do that.’

“I really didn’t do him any justice today. I didn’t help him a lot. It was tough.”

Reaves didn’t rule out playing in the Sunny King again, but only with Wigington. If it happens, it will likely happen after son Will leaves the nest.

For now, there’s no plan for Reaves and Wigington to play together in the Sunny King again, but what a time-tested pair they made.

And it all started with a timely visit to the courthouse.

Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, On Twitter @jmedley_star.
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