But after making an eagle and three birdies in his first nine holes, Cunning had extended his margin and didn’t have to sweat too much on the final nine holes.
Cunning shot 3-under-par 67 and cruised to a nine-shot victory at Aiken Golf Club. The 26-year-old from Aiken successfully defended his title in the event, which was held for the first time last year.
“I was nervous to start because I never played with a big lead before,” Cunning said. “They were asking me yesterday about being the defending champion, putting pressure on yourself, but I was able to get past that, play my round and not worry about what everyone else was doing.”
Cunning made an early statement in Sunday’s final round. He eagled the par-5 second hole, then made a birdie on the difficult par-4 third.
“I was feeling good after that,” said Cunning, a left-hander who played at South Carolina. “I just held on.”
Bo McCullough, who finished as runner-up, birdied the first hole but couldn’t keep pace.
“You couldn’t put any pressure on him early. I made birdie on No. 1 and thought maybe I could put some pressure on him,” he said. “I don’t make birdie on 2, he makes eagle-birdie on next two holes. It’s tough to make pressure when he’s doing that.”
Cunning opened with 65 in Saturday’s first round, and his 36-hole total of 8-under 132 was eight shots better than his winning score from a year ago.
“On this course, you have to take advantage of par-5s and the drivable par-4s,” Cunning said of the course, which plays around 6,000 yards. “I played those pretty strong.”
Other winners Sunday were Nick Walker (75-80-155), senior division; Dick Korzen (75-74-149), super seniors; and Spencer Skiff (75-75-150), junior division.