Fort Mill golfer Rick Cloninger holds off charge for 2-shot win at SCGA Senior Championship

mmccombs@islandpacket.comMay 9, 2014 

For Rick Cloninger, things suddenly got interesting on the 15th hole Thursday.

And just as quickly, the Fort Mill golfer made them seem routine again.

Cloninger shot a 1-over 73 at Old Tabby Links on Spring Island in Okatie to finish with a three-round total of even-par 216 to win the 56th S.C. Golf Association Senior Championship by two strokes over Bluffton's Kevin King.

"I did what I had to do," Cloninger said.

After making the turn with a sizable lead on the field and an eight-stroke lead on King, in particular, the 2012 SCGA Senior Champion suddenly found himself in a close battle.

As Cloninger made par after par, King made three birdies on the first five holes of the back nine.

"Kevin played fabulously on the back side," Cloninger said. "He started making birdies. He made some birdies that not many people can make."

And then Cloninger did his best to help King's cause. On the par-4 15th, he bounced his second shot over the island green and into a trap on the backside of the green. After it took him two tries to get out of the sand, he two-putted for a double-bogey 6.

Suddenly, his lead over King, who at this point was alone in second, was just three shots with three holes to play.

But as quickly as Cloninger opened the door, he closed it with a birdie on No. 16.

"All of a sudden I've got a chance," King said, "and then he birdied 16, and that gave him the cushion."

The birdie pushed the lead back to a comfortable four strokes.

"I was proud about stepping back up after I'd done that," Cloninger said.

Cloninger made bogey on 18, while King made birdie, to reduce the final margin to two strokes.

"If someone came up and beat me, they were going to beat me," Cloninger said, "but I wasn't going to do it to myself."

This week marked the first time Cloninger had played Old Tabby Links.

"The course was very fast, there were a lot of places where the ball was running out. I hit just three drivers today," Cloninger said. "This course is about strategically landing the ball because the ball was rolling. It's not like you were aiming at the flag all the time.

"I love this kind of course, where placing the ball on the fairway, placing the ball on the greens is at a premium.

Cloninger knew early on that a par round, or close to it, might be enough to win.

"It was obvious birdies were not plentiful," he said. "I birdied No. 1, and they struggled early and that allowed me to be a little more conservative."

For King, who finished as a runner-up in this event for the second time, the finish was an indication he's made progress with an ankle that has required two surgeries since he broke it more than a year ago.

"I'm going to play a lot this summer and get my game going," King said. "I still struggle with some shots. Some shots I just can't hit. But I'm getting there."

SCGA SENIOR CHAMPIONSHIP

Tuesday-Thursday, Old Tabby Links

Par 72, 6,520 yards

Final

Cloninger, Rick (Fort Mill) 72-71-73--216

King, Kevin (Bluffton) 71-76-71--218

Gravley, Mike (Greer) 73-74-75--222

Wise, Jim (Columbia) 73-74-75--222

Vignati, Joe (Bluffton) 76-73-75--224

Rogers, Wayne (Easley) 73-77-74--224

Delcher, Duke (Bluffton) 74-74-76--224

Odiorne, Walter (Columbia) 75-70-80--225

Burgess, Jim (Columbia) 74-73-78--225

Sylvan, Gus (Columbia) 79-76-71--226

Shealy, Bernie (Columbia) 76-74-77--227

Kabas, Scott (Greenville) 79-76-74--229

Gianoukos, Andy (Charleston) 80-78-72--230

Smunk, Bill (Kingstree) 77-78-76--231

Ackerman, George (Charleston) 78-78-75--231

Shimmin, Gary (Okatie) 72-80-80--232

Collar, Bob (Hilton Head Island) 78-80-75--233

Smunk, John (Port Royal) 76-73-85--234

Edens, Bob (Columbia) 79-79-77--235

Beck, Bruce (Myrtle Beach) 80-80-76--236

Pachol, Steve (Columbia) 81-79-76--236

Wrenn, Frank (Greenville) 77-77-83--237

Arns, Art (Bluffton) 80-80-78--238

Crocker, David (Bluffton) 76-84-78--238

Hamilton, Jimmy (Aiken) 75-83-81--239

Palmer, Bill (Bluffton) 82-78-79--239

Irving, Lee (Bluffton) 85-74-80--239

Alley, Robin (Columbia) 79-77-83--239

Bennett, Robby (Cheraw) 81-79-80--240

Culler, Wade (Lugoff) 84-79-77--240

Wyer, Nick (Okatie) 77-81-82--240

Weiner, Mike (Kiawah Island) 78-81-82--241

Hammersla, Bob (Greenville) 78-81-83--242

Calkins, Mike (Columbia) 79-82-81--242

Eberhard, Thomas (Johns Island) 79-81-82--242

Hall, Charlie (Hilton Head) 75-84-83--242

Congdon, Andy (Garden City Beach) 83-78-81--242

McAvoy, Sean (Johns Island) 81-84-78--243

Galbavy, Edward (Seabrook Island) 82-81-81--244

Leslie, Bo (Simpsonville) 82-77-85--244

Cibulsky, Bob (Bluffton) 80-82-82--244

Hyams, Jimmy (Charleston) 82-80-83--245

Hendren, Brady (Hilton Head) 78-83-84--245

Hall, Kent (Summerville) 79-82-85--246

Avery, Nick (Goose Creek) 79-80-87--246

Slack, Dale (North Augusta) 84-78-84--246

Robinson, Joe (Roch hill ) 81-83-82--246

Stubbs, Danny (Columbia) 82-83-81--246

McGee, Joe (Ridgeland) 81-84-81--246

Southern, Steven (Bluffton) 81-82-83--246

Arnold, Kevin (Hilton Head Island) 77-87-83--247

Hazelton, Mark (Mt Pleasant) 80-78-89--247

Murphy, Robert (Okatie) 79-83-85--247

Politi, David (Hilton Head) 73-86-89--248

Quigley, Brian (Hilton Head) 85-78-85--248

Souza, Mark (Simpsonville) 83-80-89--252

Young, Gibby (Okatie) 78-84-90--252

Craft, Charles (Chapin) 81-79-92--252

Dollenberg, Eric (Hilton Head) 85-80-89--254

Teaster, Tim (Columbia) 81-78-WD--WD

Dennis, John (Greenville) 80-78-WD--WD

Fairey, Joe (St Matthews) 82-80-WD--WD

Cunneff, Tom (Hilton Head Island) 77-81-WD--WD

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