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Cloninger wins third CNSI championship

Rick Cloninger won his third Chanticleer National Senior Invitational title when he birdied his final hole. (GolfClub photo)
CNSI 3-time champion Rick Cloninger talks about his win (GolfClub video)

It isn’t unusual for the Chanticleer National Senior Invitational to end with a fantastic finish.

Playoffs, great shots and dumb luck have all taken turns making the event at the Greenville Country Club’s Chanticleer course a tournament that is never over until it is over.

Rick Cloninger, from Rock Hill, has now won three CNSI championships.

In each win he has done his part to add to the events reputation, but this time he did it differently than in the past.

“I didn’t hit one in the water on 18 this year,” he chuckled.

Cloninger shot rounds of 71-73-73 for a 1-over par 217 total. (GolfClub Photo)

When Cloninger won the CNSI for the first time in 2013, he survived hitting two in the water on the final hole.

The next time he won in 2016, he cut that number in half, but still dunked his approach shot on18.

Cloninger started the final round tied for the lead with #3 ranked Bob Royak from Alpahretta and was two-shots in front of the third member of the final group, Jack Larkin from Atlanta.

Royak fell off the pace and Cloninger was able to build a two-shot lead over Larkin by the 17th hole.

“There were not many birdies out there. You had to take big risks and today I didn’t take any big risks,” said Cloninger.

Jack Larkin eagled the 17th hole to tie Cloninger going to the last hole at Chanticleer. (GolfClub Photo)

The par 5 580 yard hole gave Larkin a chance to catch Cloninger and he did by sinking a 20 foot eagle putt.

On the final hole, Larkin landed his second shot about 20 feet from the pin. Cloninger’s approach shot flew over the flag and ended up in the fringe above the hole.

Larkin was first to putt and appeared to have the ball in the hole.

“I had a good line and it looked like it was going in and then it just turned right,” said Larkin. “I thought it was in,” he said.

Cloninger’s putt was about the same length from just off the green.

Just as Larkin’s ball turned away from the hole, Cloninger’s putt turned in and dropped in the side of the cup.

“I just had to make sure I didn’t knock it past. I gave it plenty of room and about half way there it started to move,” he said.

Cloninger finished with a 1-over par 73 and a 1-over par 217 for a 1 shot win.

While the tournament has always enjoyed having some of the best seniors in the country, the number of outstanding players have grown since Cloninger’s last win in 2016.

“The caliber of players has definitely improved. Now you got senior am champs and a really good field and you are not going to find a better track (Chanticleer). It is thrilling to do this against this competition,” he said.

The continued growth of the event and especially the quality of the field has resulted in the championship being awarded 1,000 points by Golfweek. It has been a “counting event” for World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) points in the past.

At 66, Cloninger could have played in the Super-Senior portion of the tournament.

“I may do that someday, but right now I still feel competitive and I’m healthy so I’m going to keep competing with the young guys,” he jokes.

Cloninger has now collected 3 of the unique awards from the CNSI.
Cloninger has now won in 2013 (l) 2016 (c) and 2023 (r).(GolfClub Photos)

Four-time South Carolina Senior Player of the Year Eddie Hargett from Blythewood finished in third with Royak dropping back to fifth and former champion Todd Hendley from Thornblade in seventh place.

Tournament chairman and founder Frank Wrenn presents Preston Edmondson with the award for winning the Super-Senior Division. (GolfClub Photo)

Preston Edmondson, from Morrisville, NC won a playoff with Steve Humphry from Ocala, Florida for the Super-Senior title.

Scores from the Chanticleer National Senior Invitational

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