After working and playing at the Cherokee County Country Club course for several years, McGatha could never claim the Dub Ellis Invitational Tournament title.
Following Sunday’s final round of the 2011 tournament, McGatha has now won two invitational titles in the past three years.
McGatha, originally from Piedmont, shot an 8 under par 63 on Saturday and shot one over 72 on Sunday to finish at 135 and earn the championship flight title. McGatha was two strokes better than second-place finisher Mike Williams (69, 68) and third-place Hunter Hawkins (69, 68).
“It took me leaving the golf course and not playing here much to coming back and winning,” McGatha explained. “I think when you’re a member, the pressure’s on your home course, and it’s tough. I think leaving and coming back might have something to do with it. I won the club championship four times, but never won the Invitational.”
McGatha’s victory wasn’t an easy one.
Williams had a torrid finish, as he notched six straight birdies over the final half dozen holes. Hawkins opened with a 32 on the front nine and managed an even par 36 on the back.
McGatha, playing in the final foursome, opened at even on the front before bogeys on 11 and 16 put him in danger of letting the championship slip away.
Entering the upward sloped 18th, McGatha needed a par to win and closed with his only birdie of the day.
McGatha’s latest victory comes on the heels of last weekend’s Sunny King Classic in Anniston, where he and teammate Jaylon Ellison claimed that tournament title for the fourth time by shooting 39-under 175 on 54 holes. The duo won by six shots and broke the tournament record by four.
“It took me a few days to recuperate from that,” McGatha said. “It’s fun to win, but it’s never easy.”
“Honestly, when we started the (Dub Ellis) tournament and played a practice round Friday, the rough was thick. I didn’t think a 63 was out there. I thought 66 or 67 would be a good score, but I come in here Saturday and I just hit the ball well. I made some putts and made it close. From 63 to 72, you think ‘What happened?’ I hit the ball well today (Sunday), too. I just couldn’t get my yardages right. I was either a little short or a little long. I couldn’t make the putts, but that’s just golf.”
Hawkins picked up a closest to the pin prize on the 174 yard fifth hole. Centre’s Kaleb Kines was within 6 feet of the 229 yard 8th hole. Sean Webb captured the 198 yard 12th hole award while former Club Champion David Garrett was tight to the pin on the 159 yard 17th.
Cole Skaggs won the first flight (72,75) by a stroke over Lee Morgan (72,76), Robin Wood (75,73) and Jeremy Rieger (72,76).
John Stanley (78,73) took second flight honors by one shot over Clay Jones (77,75). Adam Wickham was third (77,76) and Casey McGinnis fourth (79,75).
A Centre trio finished in the next three positions. Jake Minnix (75,77- 4th), Chris Cothran (79,75 – 5th) and Scott Hays (77,79 – 6th) all earned merchandise prizes.
The third flight champion was Matt Brown (82,73). Brown was one shot clear of Jeff Woodall (81,75) and three ahead of Larry Woodall (80,78). Cherokee County High School freshman Trenton Edwards captured fourth with a solid 162 (80,82).
Scotty King shot an 80 to win the fourth flight. Kaleb Kines was runner up with a one day round of 85.
Williams and Hawkins were the only two players in the 105-man field to break par on Sunday. P.J. Shields shot an even par round of 71. Shields (69,71) was seventh among the elite golfers.
Local favorite Kim Nichols took the eighth prize in the top flight after firing rounds of 67 and 75.
The Cherokee County Country Club will be co-hosting another invitational tournament with Pine Hill Country Club in Anniston Sept. 6-7.