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It was an unlikely twosome, heading off to challenge Atlantic
Golf Club on Eastern Long Island on the final afternoon of
play. The 43rd U.S. Senior Amateur had so far held to form,
but the names of Cliff Cunningham and Ed Bartlett continued
to surface, forcing journalists to dig out their biographical
forms to find out more about these two.
Of the 156 starters, who found Atlantic every bit as challenging
as the U.S. Open competitors had found nearby Shinnecock Hills
in 1994, the final four included two regulars in this championship.
One was O. Gordon Brewer, defending champion, a two-time
winner and a USGA Executive Committee member. He was striving
to match Lewis Oehmig, who had captured the Frederick L. Dold
Trophy in 1972,1976 and 1985.
The other was Joel Hirsch, a successful veteran senior who
had reached the semifinals in 1996 before losing.
Bartlett and Cunningham were newcomers to this level of
play, having succeeded mostly on local levels. Cunningham
lives in Monroe, N.C., a small town near Charlotte. Bartlett
drove all the way from Boise, Idaho. Most of his golf trips
away from home had taken him to Myrtle Beach, S.C. where he
combined the various hotel packages each winter to get in
a lot of golf. "Sometimes, we'd play two rounds a day," he
Bartlett and Cunningham played two rounds on the last day
of the Senior Amateur. Bartlett jumped to a 3-up lead on Brewer
and held on to win, 2 and 1, in the semifinals. Cunningham
(Cliff, not Clifford) scored an even more convincing win over
Hirsch, 5 and 3.
That left the final to Bartlett and Cunningham, public course
players who were basically unknown outside of their local
domains. And while the final result, 5 and 3 in Cunningham's
favor, was one-sided, the match was interesting.
When it ended on the 15th, Bartlett conceded the final putt,
a two-footer. Cunningham admitted it was the greatest day
of his golf career. "I have a lot of trophies in my attic
at home, but I guess I'll get a new table for this one in
my living room."