ORLANDO, Fla. – Connor Cink was 15 years old when his dad, Stewart Cink, won the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry.
He remembers watching his dad sink a 12-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole that eventually would force a playoff with five-time Open champion Tom Watson. The elder Cink would then defeat Watson in four extra holes to capture his lone major victory.
“I just remember thinking that this is the most incredible thing,” Connor Cink said. “I’ve believed in him playing all through (his career), but watching him almost go unconscious and knock down these ridiculous shots one after another, it was just surreal.”
Four years later, Connor Cink, now 20, was able to share another memorable moment with his dad, as the two won in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge on Sunday.
And again, Stewart Cink drained a big putt on the final hole. Leading Steve Elkington and his son, Sam, by a shot entering the par-18th at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Stewart Cink got a good read on a missed 22-foot eagle putt from his son.
He then stepped up and drained the eagle to wrap up a second straight 11-under 61 and seal a three-shot victory over the Elkingtons and the team of Vijay Singh and his son, Qass.
“I know it’s one of the biggest wins in his career. It’s definitely the biggest in mine,” said Connor Cink, a freshman at Clemson, although he doesn’t play golf there.
“It’s pretty unusual to have a putt to win a golf tournament when you know the worst you’re going to have left is this much (less than 2 feet),” Stewart Cink said. “I had a free run at a 22-footer to win.
“That’s a nice feeling, and to see the ball go in the middle (of the cup), that was also very cool.”
After holding a one-shot lead over the Elkingtons following Saturday’s first round of the two-man-scramble event, the Cinks fell behind early. A bogey at the second hole dropped them to 10 under and left them three shots back of their playing competitors, the Elkingtons.
But the Cinks’ putters caught fire on the back nine. The two needed just nine putts in the final nine holes, and a birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie stretch on Nos. 13-16 put the Cinks back in front.
The eagle putt came at the par-5 14th, when Connor Cink drained a 30-footer.
“(With the ball) halfway to the hole, I remember asking him, ‘Do you like it?’ because I could see that his eyes were just all over the ball,” Stewart Cink said. “He didn’t answer.”
The eagle came right after Connor Cink made a 15-footer for birdie at No. 13.
“The hole before that (No. 13), he said, ‘That’s the putt I’m going to remember.’ . . . And then he goes and makes a 30-footer for eagle.”
Stewart Cink said his son has played maybe 30 rounds since he was 14 years old, and the two have played very few rounds together. Contrast that with the Elkingtons, who play nearly every day together, according to Steve Elkington.
“We both had to learn our way around out there,” Stewart Cink said. “I had to learn his game a little bit.
“He also had to learn his game a little bit,” the elder Cink quipped.
The post-tournament press conference was filled with laughter as the Cinks took turns poking fun at each other. On the course, Stewart Cink kept his son calm.
An example came on Sunday after Connor Cink had just made the long eagle at the 14th. On the 15th tee, he was shaking from the excitement as he addressed his ball.
“I was pretty nervous throughout the entire time,” Connor Cink said.
“(At the 15th tee), I was addressing the ball, and he came up and grabbed me and was like, ‘Hey, whoa, that’s awesome. Make sure you’re in this shot.’ That stuck with me the rest of the round, just kind of kept my head on.”
The Cinks’ victory marks the first time since the inaugural event in 1995 that a team has won in its debut. After Sunday’s victory, Stewart Cink said he’d like to be back next year to defend the title.
His son agreed, too, although he’ll have to contend with his younger brother, Reagan, for a spot on the team.
“We don’t know the schedule next year, but hopefully we’ll get to defend our title,” Stewart Cink said. “There is a chance that maybe Reagan will get to tee it up.”
Said Connor Cink: “We’ll roshambo (rock-paper-scissors) for it.”