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Stewart Cink 2009 PGA Grand Slam of Golf

Stewart Cink -- Open Champion

PGA Grand Slam of Golf Appearance(s): 2009
Major Championship Wins: 2009 British Open
Worldwide Victories: 13
Height: 6' 4"
Weight: 205
Birthdate: May 21, 1973
Birthplace: Huntsville, Ala.
Residence: Duluth, Ga.
Family: Wife, Lisa; Children: Connor (9/13/93), Reagan (4/8/97)
Special Interests: Family, boating, water sports, hiking, barbecue, snow skiing
Turned Professional: 2001

By Bob Denney, The PGA of America

Stewart Cink could have easily slipped into the role of a golf fan sitting in front of his television one Sunday in July, or better yet cheering from the grandstands as the final moments of the 138th British Open unfolded.

But, Cink had an unfettered, almost surreal view - he was the leader in the clubhouse watching a monitor in the scoring trailer at Turnberry, Scotland.

As Tom Watson failed to convert a par putt on the 72nd hole, Cink was suddenly thrust into the middle of attempting to reach a conclusion to an improbable major championship.

Because he had converted when it mattered most - making a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole - Cink had new life. He later admitted that he worked hard to erase any thoughts of standing in the way of perhaps the best golf story ever -- 59-year-old Hall of Famer Watson claiming the Championship.

It was Cink's 50th career start in a major, but this one had more than its share of historic implications. This would become his watershed moment, and he went about making the most of it.

Cink defeated Watson, a five-time Open winner, in the four-hole aggregate playoff by six strokes. Two pars followed by a birdie at the third playoff hole gave him a 4-stroke advantage when Watson played them in 3 over. Cink made another birdie at 18 to win by 6 strokes.

Gracious in his praise of his opponent, Cink's steadiness allowed him to step into the next realm of golf's premier achievers.

Gone were any references to a lost major opportunity, when he missed a potential tying putt on the 18th green in the 2001 U.S. Open at Southern Hills.

The 36-year-old boldly captured his first major title and sixth PGA Tour victory and its perks.

"I had pretty much written off 2009, I was playing so poorly," he said.

Born in Huntsville, Ala., Cink grew up 73 miles away in Florence, where he attended Bradshaw High School. After completing high school in 1991, he earned a golf scholarship to Georgia Tech in Atlanta. While he worked toward graduation, Cink also was a husband and a father.

Cink turned professional in 1995 and went on to win the Mexican Open and three events on the Nike Tour (now the Nationwide Tour) in 1996. He joined the PGA Tour in 1997 and won the Canon Greater Hartford Open in his rookie season.

He was a consistent performer over the next few years, picking up another win at the 2000 MCI Classic. Until this season, Cink's milestone season had been 2004, when he finished fifth on the money list and captured the MCI Heritage and the WGC-NEC Invitational.

Cink finished runner-up in the 2008 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, falling 8 and 7 in the 36-hole final to top-ranked Tiger Woods. In June 2008, he reached his highest ever ranking, sixth, in the Official World Golf Rankings with his victory at the Travelers Championship in suburban Hartford.

A change in putters and routines gave him confidence as he competed at Turnberry. Cink said that he had a "calmness" about him on a Sunday that was quite unique. He was also the only player among those within five strokes of the lead to break par in the final round, posting a 1-under 69 that featured four back-nine birdies.

Since then, it has been a whirlwind for Cink, his wife, Lisa, and their two children, who were with him every step of the way at Turnberry.

Their belongings at the Turnberry Hotel were quickly moved to the newly named Cink Suite -- there are also Watson, Norman and Price suites, named for the winners of the four Opens played at Turnberry.

Before he had earned a major, Cink had earned an unexpected major following in social media. His personal Twitter account, which he updates regularly, had more than 868,000 followers as of Sept. 14, 2009. He is the most-followed professional golfer, male or female, on the Web site.

He also is a deeply religious person, who has shared his faith in many venues while serving as one of golf's spokespersons for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. During a 2005 trip to Japan while competing in the Dunlop Phoenix Open, Cink was open in conveying that faith and how it has helped pick him up when he needed that anchor in his life.

In an interview, Cink declared, "Well, I've always relied on my faith real heavily ... I have never been afraid to talk about that with people - whether it's media, friends, whatever. And I really believe that that's the rock I have.

"I've been through a lot. Anybody that plays golf out here for a long enough time goes through some ups and downs and I've been through both of them. And the one thing I always have with me, whether it's up or down, is my faith."

A group of two dozen friends met the Cinks at the airport in Atlanta the Monday after their return from Turnberry. They celebrated by drinking Guinness out of the Claret Jug.

The next day, with New York media all a-Twitter over Cink and his achievement, he received what is now the rite of passage for newsmakers in sport - reading of a Top 10 list on The Late Show with David Letterman.

And, what question earned No. 1 on the list?

"Even I was rooting for Tom Watson."


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