Recent adventures help change Augusta couple’s lives

It was a whirlwind weekend for one Augusta couple, flying to New York so Dr. Abigail Cline could deliver her award-winning essay to a prestigious foundation and then flying to Los Angeles so her husband, attorney Hunter Appler, could compete in the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions that continues airing this week.


The “jet set” experience in September was just part of how their lives have changed through the Jeopardy! experience and through Cline’s hard work to further her medical career. This has led to an interesting and unusual new hobby in knife-making and blacksmithing.

Appler is the first to admit that he would probably never considered pursuing a spot on the show had it not been for his wife.

“She’s the one who pushed me to try out for Jeopardy!,” he said. “It’s changed my outlook a little bit in that I start to see some of this stuff really can happen. It’s not out of reach and I credit Abigail with that because she’s one who’s taken the initiative.”

“My outlook is always, why not give it a shot and try?” Cline said. “It is only my hard work and time that would be sacrificed and I have plenty of that.”

Always one to seek opportunities, she entered an essay contest sponsored by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation and won the top prize of $10,000 and a paid trip to New York. Her husband did a little bit better: Appler was a six-day Jeopardy! champion who earned more than $145,000. The money helped them to pursue a passion that Appler has had for blacksmithing and making knives. The couple are big fans of the show Forged in Fire on the History channel and again it was Cline who decided to help her husband fulfill a dream.

“Hunter said, I think I could get into that,” Cline said, so she found a blacksmithing class in the mountains of North Carolina and they both took it up. There is something about taking raw iron and turning it into a finished product, “into something that is almost emblematic of man’s mastery of the elements, this steel, this stuff from which we have built our entire civilization,” Appler said.

“A lot of people are getting into it,” Cline said. “It’s not only a good hobby, it is a good workout. A good way to get stress out.”

Now it is part of their lives, albeit one where most of the expensive heavy equipment purchases will have to wait until they have a more permanent home. Cline is working a one-year internship in Internal Medicine at AU Medical Center while waiting for Match Day to come around again, when she will find out if she gets one of the highly sought-after dermatology residencies that did not come her way last March. But she is also a planner and has plans and “backup plans to backup plans to backup plans,” Cline said.

In the meantime, “we’re looking for anvils” in online ads, she said.

After Cline delivered her essay lecture to the Lasker Foundation at its awards ceremony, which is often called America’s Nobel Prize, the couple went on to the Tournament of Champions. Unfortunately, Appler was trailing in the first game and went he got the chance to bet big on a Video Daily Double, he took it, wagering most of his money. But he failed to recognize the illustration, “The Ancient of Days,” by author William Blake. In his defense, it was first published in 1794 on a seemingly unrelated and obscure work called Europe a Prophecy. Still, it stings that he missed it.

“It kills me because it was Blake and if it had been a picture of a tiger, I would have gotten it easily,” Appler said, referring to Blake’s far more well-known poem and illustration, The Tyger.

Nonetheless, “we actually had a great time out in LA,” he said.

“Friends and family were there,” Cline said. “Everyone was supporting Hunter. Everyone was so happy that we were invited back.”

Other Jeopardy! alumni, including top money winner Brad Rutter, were in the audience as well. And they got to meet some of the more recent phenomenons, like the animated and quirky bartender Austin Rogers, who caused a sensation recently with a 12-game spree that netted him more than $400,000.

“We met Austin,” Cline said. “We had not seen Austin’s run before then. It had not aired. Hunter had heard on the bus going over about Austin but everyone in the audience was like, ‘Who is this guy?’^”

The biggest thing was how nice everyone was, they agreed, even some who might not have appeared so before.

Appler was up against the cocky Buzzy Cohen in that first game and wasn’t sure about him going into the tournament.

“Actually meeting him, I’m a big Buzzy fan,” he said. “I hope he wins, in no small part because he beat me.”

“There’s no shame in losing to the champion,’ Cline said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213