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GolfBC title special for dads

It was a special Sunday for George Cunningham and his dad Tracy.

With dad on the bag, the younger Cunningham captured his first professional title since turning pro mere weeks ago.

Cunningham held off a hard-charging P.J. Samiere for a two-stroke victory at the GolfBC Championship at Gallagher's Canyon Golf and Country Club.

It was special for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact it was Father's Day.

"I told him before he made his putt on the 18th hole, if you'll make this putt and win, I'll take this as my Fathers's Day gift," said Tracy Cunningham.

"I got my dad a hat. This is sure better than a hat."

For George Cunningham, with his parents and grandparents in attendance, the only way the day could have been better is if his daughter were also there.

"It was perfect. I played great, I felt great, we were both obviously nervous, but we handled it great," said Cunningham after his victory.

"We have such a good relationship that it really makes it that much more special."

Cunningham graduated from the University of Arizona a month ago and qualified for the Mackenzie Tour.

He missed the cut during the first two events in Vancouver and Victoria before catching fire in Saturday's third round at Gallagher's Canyon.

He was six under after the first two rounds, but put it all together in round three, starting birdie, birdie, hole-in-one. His nine under 62 gave him a three-shot cushion.

Despite the hot start to Saturday's round, Cunningham said it was missing the cut last week that was the real turning point for him.

"I missed the cut by a lot butI played solid, and was able to reflect on the way I played the last two tournaments."

"Once I shot the six under through two rounds I felt better and better, and my start, hitting two shots close then the hole-in-one really sent me over the edge. It gave me that confidence to finish my round."

He kept that momentum going Sunday. Leading by three over five others, Cunningham kept the pressure on the rest of the field, going birdie, eagle on five and six en route to a four under 32 on the front side.

He made the turn two clear of the field. A birdie early on the back nine increased the lead to three, but Samiere made a late charge. Back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 pulled him to within one.

A bogey by Cunningham on 17 left the two tied at 19 under with one hole to play.

Samiere's drive went into the right rough, short of the bunker. His second shot landed near the VIP tent in the green-side rough. A chip and two putts dropped him back to 18.

Cunningham, figuring Samiere had dropped a shot, drilled his tee shot on 18 down the middle, about 90 yards from the pin.

"Our number was 91 (yards), and we said lets hit it 90 and hit it right at it," said Tracy.

"We don't know where it landed, but I'm sure it landed 90. It had to be a foot or two from where we wanted to land it."

Cunningham calmly dropped the birdie for a five under round of 66 and a four-day score of 20 under 264.

Zach Wright also shot a final round 65 to finish in a tied for second, two back.

Andrew Dorn finished along in fourth at 17 under, three back.

Kimberley's Jared du Toit was the top Canadian. The midway leader shot a final round 67, finishing solo fifth, four back.

Playing a few groups ahead of the leaders, du Toit climbed to within a shot of the lead with birdies on three, five and six. That momentum stalled after Cunningham made the eagle on six to restore the three-shot advantage.

The win was worth CDN $36,000 for the Tuscon, AZ native.

The tournament also presented a cheque for $150,000 to the Canadian Cancer Foundation. Since the inception of the GolfBC Championship, the tournament has raised about $400,000 for charity.

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