Cunning wins Aiken golf title in playoff

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AIKEN — Patrick Cunning figured he was going to win the fourth annual City of Aiken Amateur Championship after shooting a tournament record 9-under-par 61 in Sunday’s final round.

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Ron Schroder reacts after making an eagle on No. 15 at the Aiken City Amateur Championship golf tournament on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013. Schroder made eagles on holes 14 and 15 and finished at 8-under 62, losing in a playoff. JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Ron Schroder reacts after making an eagle on No. 15 at the Aiken City Amateur Championship golf tournament on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013. Schroder made eagles on holes 14 and 15 and finished at 8-under 62, losing in a playoff. JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF

So he loaded his clubs in his car, ate lunch in the clubhouse at the Aiken Golf Club and waited around to hoist the trophy.

“I thought that had been enough,” Cunning said.

It wasn’t.

Two hours after he finished he round, Cunning found himself in a sudden-death playoff, where he beat Ron Schroder, who had a cool 62 of his own, on the second hole.

“I had to refocus after being done so long,” Cunning said. “I kept my mind right for some more pressure. I was able to pull it out. It feels good.”

Cunning started the day four shots off the lead and teed off one hour, 48 minutes before the leaders, who were in the final group of the day. By the time Cunning bogeyed his last hole of regulation, the leaders in the final group were still on the eighth hole.

Word of Cunning’s 61 quickly got back to the final group, which included Schroder.

“We never thought we were going to catch him,” Schroder said. “We heard what he had finished at and said, ‘we’re just playing for second.’ He’d finished with 61 and we said, ‘Gosh, we’re seven behind.’ But I never gave up.”

Schroder played his final four holes at 5-under. He holed out a fairway shot from 60 yards for eagle on par-4 14th hole, then from 115 yards for another eagle on par-4 15th and nearly aced the par-3 16th hole, where he made birdie.

“Lightning struck and weird stuff started happening,” Schroder said. “It was unbelievable. I had three 2s in a row.”

In the sudden-death playoff, both players made bogey on the first hole – the No. 1 hole on the course. Cunning then rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the second hole, which was the par-3 18th hole on the course, for the victory.

“I had that same putt for par at the end of regulation,” Cunning said. “I had to redeem myself and bogeying the last hole of regulation and three-putting the first playoff hole. It feels nice to make a putt like that to win it.”

Cunning (72-61) and Schroder (71-62) finished regulation at 7-under 133.

Cunning is the face of this young tournament. In its four years, he’s won it three times, his lone miss coming last year.

This time, the 28-year-old Cunning had to hold off Schroder, who at age 51 is 23 years older than Cunning. For the final round, Cunning had eagles on Nos. 2 and 14 and birdies on Nos. 5, 10, 12, 13 and 17 to go with his bogey on No. 18.

“I caught fire on the back nine,” Cunning said.

In the senior division, which was for golfers age 55-over, Glen Hurt shot 74-73 to win by three shots over Jimmy Hamilton (79-71).

Hurt, 58, had never played in this event because it interfered with the Regions Bank Amateur Series events until this year. Hurt, the Regions senior player of the year in 2012, finished second in the race for player of the year honors this year, but did not win a tournament in the series, which ended a week ago.

On Sunday, Hurt was paired with Regions regulars Kenny Larry and Billy Rangos.

“They both won this year, so it was nice,” Hurt said. “I won’t call it revenge. At least I won something this year.”


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