Maybe relieved was the better word.
The 15-foot birdie putt Wigington drained on the par-3 acted like a turbo charge for a round that was rapidly losing steam. With momentum from a big putt back in his pocket, he proceeded to close out a successful defense of the Calhoun County Championship he won a year ago and claim his fourth win overall in the event.
Wigington shot a symmetrical even-par 72 in the final round that left him at 8-under 208 for the tournament and gave him a four-shot win over Jaylon Ellison. Ellison shot 71, one of only two rounds under par on the day.
“That putt kind of just put it at ease,” said Wigington, who had six birdies, six bogeys and six pars. “Instead of being three up with three to go, you’re up four. You felt like you didn’t have to worry too much (after that).”
Wigington became the first player since Ott Chandler (2005-06) to win back-to-back County crowns and one of only four players in the 75-year history of the tournament to win the title at least four times. He also earned enough points in the Calhoun County Golf Tour series to claim a No. 11 seed in the 16-player Match Play Championship that returns to Cane Creek Sept. 10-11.
It wasn’t the only title decided on this day, however. Jeremy McGatha wrapped up his second Calhoun County Player of the Year title in three years despite finishing T-10 among Calhoun Tour players in the field (T-12 overall). McGatha will play his father, T.J., in his opening-round match.
The Player of the Year race was one of the tightest in the five-year history of the series. McGatha edged runner-up and 2010 winner Ellison by 11 points. Frank Brady finished third, just 1.5 points back.
“I feel weird,” McGatha said. “To play as bad as I did in the County and put so much pressure on myself and still come out winning …
“But, you know what, it’s a series. One tournament does not determine Player of the Year. You build a lead throughout the year and if it happens at the end, it happens. Fortunately, for me, it happened. I played bad (in the tournament), but I played good throughout the whole year and I won it.”
There may have been no more important putt in the tournament than Wigington’s on 15. He entered the day with a three-shot lead and it had grown to six, but he lost three shots with bogeys on each of the last three holes in The Hollow, the four-hole stretch that opens the back nine. Ellison, who started the day five off the lead, parred all four holes.
“Had a few bad swings there on a few holes in a row and said I’ve got to tighten it up and get with it,” Wigington said. “It happens every round, it’s just a matter of whether you can get it back or not. Fortunately, the two birdies in a row kind of helped.”
Both players birdied the par-5 14th, keeping the margin three shots with four holes to play.
Wigington, who averaged 11.0 greens in regulation this season and hit his last five, found the putting surface with his tee shot on 15, while Ellison, who finished second on the tour with 12.3 greens per round, missed it to the right. Ellison chipped it close before Wigington sank his birdie putt to take a four-shot lead into the final three holes.
It should’ve been no surprise. Wigington led the series in putts made per greens hit (1.600).
“After the first four or five holes I felt like I could have been anybody’s game,” Ellison said. “I felt like from the first tee I could win both tournaments. Twig’s a great player, I respect his game, but I feel like I have enough game to catch him if he makes a few mistakes.
“He made mistakes early, but he closed the deal. He’s a really good player.”
Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.