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1997

Cliff Cunningham

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 said.

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."

 
Championship Facts

VENUE – Flint Hills National Golf Club, north of Wichita, Kan., was designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 1997.

COURSE RATING AND SLOPE – The USGA Course RatingTM for Flint Hills National Golf Club is 72.2; Slope Rating® is 133.

COURSE LAYOUT – The fairways will measure 0.55" in height. There will be no intermediate rough used outside the fairways. Depending on density, the primary rough will stand between 2½ and 3 inches high. The greens will measure approximately 10.5 feet on the Stimpmeter.

HISTORY – The USGA Senior Amateur Championship was first played in 1955. The 2007 Senior Amateur Championship will be the 53rd.

SCHEDULE – Practice rounds will be held Aug. 30 (Thursday) and Aug. 31 (Friday). The starting field of 156 players will play two rounds of stroke play, with the low 64 scorers advancing to match play. The schedule is as follows:

  • Sept. 1 (Saturday) – First round of stroke play
  • Sept. 2 (Sunday) – Second round of stroke play
  • Sept. 3 (Monday) – First round of match play
  • Sept. 4 (Tuesday) – Second and third rounds of match play
  • Sept. 5 (Wednesday) – Quarterfinals and semifinals, match play
  • Sept. 6 (Thursday) – Final, match play (18 holes)

 

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