Rogers won five straight holes at the start of the back nine, turning a two-hole deficit into his first lead of the match, and held on to defeat Frank Brady 2 and 1 to win the Calhoun County Match Play Championship.
Rogers, the fifth seed, went into The Hollow, the four-shot stretch across the road from the Cane Creek clubhouse that starts the back nine, 2-down. He came back across the street 2-up and extended his lead to three holes with four to play with a smartly played birdie on the par-5 14th.
“I just know something can happen over there,” said Rogers, who played out of a flag-draped commemorative 9-11 golf cart until the machine gave out in 13 fairway. “There are four different holes there and you just never know what can happen. Something always does.
“And it can go either way. If you’re not playing good, you can go down more or if you hit a couple good shots, you can go up more. It’s just a tricky four holes. You can come out playing good or you could lose a couple shots pretty easy.”
Brady, an instructor at Gadsden State, seemed well on his way to putting a positive finishing touch on the best year of his short golf career. A two-time winner on the Calhoun County Golf Tour this season, he won the first two holes of the match with pars and was 3-up twice in the first six holes as Rogers was “struggling trying to find my way.”
Rogers steadied his round with a birdie at 7. Brady remained 2 up at the turn, but then Rogers turned the match by winning the next five holes with three pars and two birdies.
Brady conceded 10 from a dicey lie in the hazard and then Rogers ran in a 15-foot birdie on 11 to get all-square. Rogers won 12 and 13 with pars, then birdied 14 to go 3-up.
Rogers conceded a birdie to Brady on 15 and both players birdied 16, with Brady sinking a 30-footer to force Rogers to make his six-footer to maintain a 2-up lead. The finalists halved 17 with pars to close it out.
Brady was 1-over-par through 6, but 3-over over the next eight holes. Rogers was 4-over through his first six, 2-under the rest of the way.
“(After) I built the lead I stopped free-flowing my swing; I was aiming and guiding and trying to be more precise and not take any chances,” Brady said. “I didn’t make a ton of mistakes, but the mistakes I made, every one of them cost me a hole. If I misfired, Matt would slam a birdie or a par in.”
Rogers reached the final by beating top-seeded County Player of the Year Jeremy McGatha 1 up in the semifinals. He knocked off David Martin and Dalton Chandler on Saturday.
Brady reached the final by beating Grant Hockman 5 & 4. He eliminated Benji Turley and two-time County champion Gary Wigington in extra holes on Saturday.
Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.