With a high finish in the 75th Calhoun County Championship at Cane Creek Golf Course that starts Friday, the Oxford educator can clinch Player of the Year honors on the Calhoun County Golf Tour for 2011.
Not bad for a guy who has been playing the game for all of seven years and “seriously” for only about five.
“I’m very excited about the prospects of that,” said Brady, an electronic engineering and automotive manufacturing instructor at Gadsden State. “You work all year long — at least I do — competing in our little tour to be competitive and to have an opportunity to win the championship would mean a lot to me.
“This is only the second full year I’ve played in (the series). There are such great players who play in it, to have a chance to win it is great.”
Brady enters the weekend second in the Tour standings, 35 points behind Jeremy McGatha, who is bidding for his second top player award in three years. He can claim the title — and the No. 1 seed in next month’s County Match Play Championship — a number of ways.
The easiest, of course, is winning the event. He’d also snag it if he finishes second and McGatha finishes third or worse. If he finishes second to current No. 3 Ott Chandler, Brady would share the overall points lead with Chandler and still claim the title by virtue of more tournament wins during the season.
He would also win it if he finishes third, McGatha finishes fourth or worse and Chandler, No. 4 Jason Johnson or No. 5 reigning Player of the Year Jaylon Ellison don’t win.
Chandler has won the County title three times and Ellison once. Johnson won his first County Tour title three weeks ago at Pine Hill.
Only 115 points separate the top four contenders. It’s as tight as race as there’s been for POY in the Tour’s five-year history.
“Jeremy is a warrior and very tenacious,” Brady said. “He knows how to win. He’s obviously the front runner and probably the favorite.
“Ott obviously is a great golfer. He’s won many tournaments and played in a lot of big matches. Jason is playing great right now, surging.”
Brady, who picked up the game at the urging of friends he once needled for playing, put himself in position to be the year’s No. 1 by winning the Cane Creek Invitational and finishing first among Tour players at Cider Ridge, eighth in the King of the Hill and tenth at home course Pine Hill.
His improvement as a player is reflected in his series stats. He goes into the weekend ranked second in scoring (72.67), second in greens in regulation (12.25), eighth in fairways (8.75) and 10th in putts per GIR (1.807). He’s also second in par-4 scoring.
Last year, when he finished 12th in the points standings, he was 15th in scoring (76.39), fifth in GIR (11.44), first in fairways (11.0) and 28th in putts per GIR (1.934).
“All I focus on is playing under-par golf,” Brady said. “That’s my main focus and let the chips fall where they may. My objective is to birdie every hole. All I’ll think about is I want to win the tournament. I want to win the County this weekend.”
McGatha, who finished first or second in the points race each of the last three years, has his focus on this weekend’s 54 holes as well – especially after the way it ended for him there last year.
He missed a six-foot putt on the 54th hole that would have won it in regulation, then three-putted the fourth playoff hole to make Gary Wigington a three-time county champion.
“After what happened last year I would love to just win the County Championship and Player of the Year would take care of itself,” McGatha said. “Our county championship is our biggest (tournament) of the year and I felt I had it in the palm of my hand last year and let it slip away. I’ve had a bad taste in my mouth since then.”
The top 16 finishers in the Tour points standings after Sunday qualify for the Match Play Championship. Five players, including Wigington, are within 40 points of the final qualifying spot.
Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.