Cunning adds to his history, Skenandore makes her own

·5 min read

Sep. 12—The size of the field wasn't the only record set this week at the 13th annual City of Aiken Amateur Championship.

More players than ever before were entered in this year's tournament at The Aiken Golf Club, and by Sunday evening there were some more records to add to that one.

Patrick Cunning added to his own record by winning the Regular division for the sixth time, and his 36-hole total of 10-under 130 tied the tournament low Brian Quackenbush set in last year's victory.

Before that, Skye Two Hawks Skenandore won the Ladies division by eight shots with a total of 140 that included a final-round 66, one shot better than the women's course record set in 2019 by Brooke Hutto.

"It means a lot. Born and raised in Aiken, and this is our city championship so, yeah, it means a lot to have six of them," Cunning said after his final-round 64 that left him four clear of Quackenbush. "Mr. McNair, this is 13 (years), so it's a lot to put on a tournament and it keeps growing and growing. We've got the Sweetwater Barnwell crew coming in. It's expanding, so I think the future's bright."

Cunning started the day in a tie for second with Quackenbush, one shot behind Barnwell's Kyle Bearden. They stayed tightly bunched at the turn, and Cunning sank a key 8-foot par putt on the par-3 11th after hitting a chip he didn't like.

That kept him at 5 under for the championship, and then came a good omen when his father arrived to watch him play. From that point he added birdies on holes 13-15 and the difficult 17th to seal the deal.

"I've got to thank my dad. Bo (McCullough) was asking me where my dad was, and I wasn't sure if he was coming out," Cunning said. "He showed up, and then I birdied three in a row. ... The one on 17 was crazy. I was just trying to par in and get to the house."

Quackenbush (68), the defending champion, finished alone in second at 134. Tom Kennaday (69), the 2019 champion, finished third at 138. Bearden (74) and 2020 champion David Lott (69) tied for fourth at 139.

Cunning asked for a late tee time for Saturday's round so he could watch his sons play, then caught the worst of the weather late in the afternoon but still posted a 66 that felt a few strokes better.

With so many quality players so close to one another on the leaderboard, it was more likely that the winner would have to go low than for everyone else to fade. Once again, that turned out to be Cunning.

Skenandore was also locked in a close battle coming into the final round. She led Nabila Inak by a shot after opening with a 74, and she said Sunday that she felt like she was playing too conservatively in the first round and ended up not knowing where her shots were going.

Then came a downpour when her group was on the 10th hole, and she couldn't help but feel annoyed by her game.

She woke up Sunday and told herself to play aggressive the entire round, and if she ended up getting a few strokes under par she wasn't going to allow herself to play like she was protecting that score.

She birdied six of her first 14 holes and parred her way in from there for the 66 for the new women's course record — Hutto's 67 three years ago broke the record World Golf Hall of Fame member Patty Berg set in 1948.

Skenandore was aware of the course record before the tournament and wanted to try to break it. She knew where her score stood in relation to that record until the last three holes, and after she parred out she knew she had the record.

"I play out here a lot, and my dad and I, just the yardage, the par is technically like a 67 because we change some of the par-5s to 4s and 4s to 3s, and that's kind of how I looked at it," she said.

This win continues a strong stretch of play for the 16-year-old, who last month won the South Carolina Women's Open with a score that was good enough to be best in both the amateur and professional divisions.

"I just feel like mentally I'm on it right now, and hopefully I can just keep going," she said.

Skenandore, who took online courses and is already a high school graduate, will next head to the PURE Insurance Championship next weekend at Pebble Beach to play in a televised tournament featuring PGA Tour Champions players, First Tee juniors and other amateurs.

Needless to say, she'll head there with confidence in her game.

Dick Korzen is a champion again after defending his Legends division title with rounds of 75 and 78 for a 13-shot win over Jared Long.

Mike Wiland (71) overcame a five-shot deficit to win the Senior division by two over Dan Skiff (74) and Wayne McKenney (76) at 147.

Jim Olsen (77) held off James Morrow (73) to win the Super Senior title by three at 145.

South Aiken's Miles Eubanks (71), the reigning South Carolina Golf Association junior champion, finished five ahead of Aiken High's Richard Anaclerio (75) for low junior honors.

The Inglis Cup belongs to Palmetto Golf Club once again, with Cunning and Zoey Meldrum teaming up to bring home the trophy.