The best thing about the 2019 Wyndham Championship was not just seeing J.T. Poston win his first PGA TOUR event in his home state, it was seeing him win in front of his grandfather, the man he calls “Pa-Doc.”
Charles Cunningham was the man who cut down a persimmon-headed 5-wood so his 3-year-old grandson could start hitting balls, igniting a love affair with the game.
Age is nothing but a number
Cunningham is 85 and has shot his age or better more than 600 times, but it’s hard to imagine him being happier after a round than that Sunday when Poston closed with a 62 at Sedgefield Country Club to beat Webb Simpson by one stroke.
A role model for J.T. Poston
“I can remember as a kid following him to the range and taking that 5-wood and just hitting balls for hours and just loving every minute of it,” J.T. Poston said. “Our relationship, a lot of it has revolved around golf. He was a big influence on me growing up as a kid even as far as how to act on a golf course. I learned from him, just from watching him and how he carried himself.”
Poston makes history with breakthrough
Poston didn’t make a bogey on his breakthrough Sunday—in fact he didn’t drop a shot to par the entire week, making him the first player to accomplish the feat and win since Lee Trevino in 1974. He played like Pa-Doc—who still has the scorecard from the first time Poston beat him—Pa-Doc taught him the importance of keeping the ball in the fairway and giving himself chances on the greens.
Cunningham, who walked the front nine and six holes of the back, was part of a big cheering section for J.T. Poston, who was born in Hickory, a 90-minute drive from Greensboro, and is the fifth North Carolina native to win the Wyndham Championship.
Family affair for Poston
His parents and brother were also there, along with his coach and a spirited group of Western Carolina fans clad in the purple and gold, many of whom partied with the former Catamount golfer well into the night, finding a local watering hole that was happy to stay open late.
Pa-Doc, who has had some health issues of late, likely didn’t hang until the wee hours. But he was there when it counted most.
“For him to be here,” J.T. Poston said, “that’s something that I will never, never forget.”
This article first appeared in the PGA TOUR December 2019-May 2020 issue, which can be read here.