Garner, Kuhlke win at Midland Valley

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GRANITEVILLE — It wasn’t a trophy, but Olegs Garner was happy with a simple plaque because of what it signified.

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Olegs Garner hits his approach shot on the par 4 14th hole at Midland Valley Golf Club. Garner defeated John Wade in a sudden death playoff to win the Orville White Cup Regular Division title.  MIKE ADAMS/STAFF
MIKE ADAMS/STAFF
Olegs Garner hits his approach shot on the par 4 14th hole at Midland Valley Golf Club. Garner defeated John Wade in a sudden death playoff to win the Orville White Cup Regular Division title.

Garner, a 20-year-old who took up golf three years ago, beat John Wade with a par on the first hole of sudden death Sunday to win the Orville White Cup at Midland Valley Country Club – and enjoyed the spoils of victory afterward.

After closing with 1-over-par 72, Garner received a plaque as the regular division winner in the Peak Amateur Series event.

Garner, a runner-up three times this season, was hoping for something tangible to show other than the normal merchandise money that goes to the top finishers – if he did win this season.

Last week, after finishing second at Gordon Lakes, Garner was jokingly offering his second-place merchandise money to fellow golfers. He ended up cashing it in on a 60-degree wedge, which he used at Midland Valley for his first career win in the series.

“I don’t really care for (merchandise) money that much; I’d rather have that win,” Garner said when reminded of that incident at Gordon Lakes.

A symbol of a victory is important to Garner, a former Aquinas golfer who will be a sophomore at Georgia Regents, where he hopes to walk on the golf team this fall.

“That trophy, if you get it, you wake up in the morning and you see it there on the table, it reminds you that you can play golf,” Garner said. “This is sweet. I’ve never gotten anything.”

He planned to put the plaque against a mirror on his desk in his room.

“As soon as I wake up, I’ll see it,” Garner said. “It’s going to be awesome.”

Too bad Garner can’t transfer the merchandise money he’s won – it is only redeemable in the host course’s pro shop – for real money. He could use some right now with three Peak Amateur Series events left this season.

Garner extended his lead in the Peak Amateur Series points standings, which determine the player of the year at the end of the season. A large trophy goes to the top player, which Garner wants badly.

But he might not be able to afford the entry fee into the events.

“I’ve been playing so much golf, I’ve spent all my savings,” he said. “If my dad pays for some … it all depends right now. I’ve got 40 or 60 bucks left.”

While Garner broke through for his first Peak Amateur Series victory, a familiar face won the senior division – at least at Midland Valley.

Augusta’s Tripp Kuhlke, who normally makes the Or­ville White Cup one of his few stops each season, closed with 2-under-par 70 to beat Robert Samuels (67) by five shots.

“I knew he wasn’t going to stumble,” said Samuels, who had five birdies in a row from Nos. 13-17 in a late charge.

Kuhkle, 54, has won this tournament four times now. His other wins came in 1983, 2010 and 2012.

“I just love this place,” Kuhlke said of Midland Valley.

He entered the final round with a four-shot cushion after a brilliant 67 in Saturday’s all-day rain.

Samuels, who had 75 in the rain, said Kuhlke’s round that day was “exceptional, in my opinion.”

“I played good on Satur­day; I think I hit every green,” Kuhlke said. “But it was a lot of work, taking the umbrella in and out.”

Kuhlke ended the tournament at 7-under 137 with two eagles, eight birdies and five bogeys.

“If he played a regular schedule, he’d be the man to beat every week,” said Glen Hurt, who played with Kuhke both days and finished fourth after rounds of 71-76. “He’s kind of at another level from us.”

“I would love to play in all of them; I just can’t do it be­cause of other things going on,” Kuhlke said.

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