Hunter overcomes early disaster for playoff win; Funk takes Senior Division

How rare is it to win a golf tournament with a quadruple bogey on the scorecard in the final round?

On the PGA Tour, only four players have won while taking a quad since 1980, and none of the quads happened in the final round. Recordkeeping is murkier for the amateur game, but suffice it to say it is rare.

But John Hunter (Spring, Texas) did just that on Thursday, overcoming a 7 on the par-3 3rd hole to capture the Carlton Woods Invitational in a playoff over his final-round co-leader Chris Wheeler (Addison, Texas).

Starting the day one shot ahead of three players, including the 2018 CWI champion Joseph Deraney (Tupelo, Miss.), both Hunter and Wheeler gave the lead away at the 3rd hole, taking 12 shots between them.

The tee shot at the 3rd is the first do-or-die shot that the players face when playing the Nicklaus Course at Carlton Woods, an all-carry shot over water to a diagonal green running short right to long left. the former Purdue baseball player hit a “chip 5-iron” long into the back of the bunker, from where he had “no shot” with the fast green and water behind. From there he tried to pitch sideways, only to see the ball plug in the bunker. Trying to catch at least a part of the green on his explosion shot, he saw the ball instead run into the water. After a trip to the drop area, he pitched on and two-putted for a quadruple bogey that took him out of the lead.

“It was a blur,” said Hunter to AmateurGolf.com. “I rushed the [second] bunker shot, and it got kind of dark there. But I thought ‘This is going to be a tough day and I can stick with it and hope the field doesn’t get away from me.’ My whole round became ‘How do I claw back from this?'”

Deraney didn’t make it easy, though, and when he eagled the next hole, the par-5 4th, he suddenly had a three-shot lead over Wheeler, with Hunter four shots back.

At that point, it was reasonable to expect that Deraney, a winner of many national mid-amateur events and the 2019 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up, might take control of the tournament, or at least force the chasers to catch him on another day of swirling winds. But it turned out that Deraney’s eagle would be the only shots he would gain the whole day.

The slide began at the 6th with the first of back-to-back bogeys, and after Deraney wasn’t able to take advantage of the reachable par-5 8th, he dropped another shot at the 10th. He would eventually fall out of contention altogether after taking a last-ditch chance on the par-3 17th and taking triple.

Deraney’s retreat gave Hunter and Wheeler a chance to rebound, and when Wheeler birdied the par-4 10th, he took the lead, a spot he would hold all the way until the final green.

Hunter bounced back quickly after his triple, making birdies on the next two holes before a roller coaster ride of three bogeys and three birdies in the middle of his round that put him one shot behind Wheeler. Fighting his driver, Hunter described his play as “athleting it around”, not really in his best form but finding a way to get it in the hole. When Padden Nelson bogeyed 16 and 17, it was down to the two players who started the day tied for the lead.

With Wheeler one ahead on the 18th tee, he bunkered his tee shot while Hunter found the fairway, 245 yards from the green. After Wheeler laid up, Hunter flushed his 4-wood but saw the ball fall just short of the green. Wheeler wedged to 20 feet, and then Hunter hit “one of the best chip shots I hit all week”, a 50-degree to tap-in birdie range. When Wheeler missed his birdie putt, the two were off to a playoff.

Hunter felt good going into the playoff. “In the past, I would feel pretty nervous going into a playoff, but this time I felt more comfortable for some reason. Maybe it’s because I felt I survived just to get there.”

Playing the par-5 18th, Hunter opted to lay up while Wheeler went for the green and found himself long with a tricky downhill pitch. From 110 yards, Hunter hit it inside 15 feet while Wheeler could not keep his ball close enough to the hole to get up and down. When Hunter rolled in his birdie putt (his 7th of 19 holes played), the comeback was complete.

“I tend to like left-to-right putts more, it fits my eye, so I felt comfortable. It [the comeback and the winning putt] is nice to have in the memory bank.”

Wheeler, the 2019 Texas Mid-Amateur champion, settled for second after both players finished 54 holes at even par. Both players shot 73 in the final round. Nelson (75) and Spencer Provow (70) shared third at 3 over, and Scott Maurer was fifth at 4 over par. Deraney was in a large group of players tied for 6th at 5 over including the 2015 CWI champ Derek Meinhart (Mattoon, Ill.).

The defending champion Jeronimo Esteve finished tied for 13th.

Senior Division


While Hunter’s win was the result of a long, slow climb, Robert Funk (Canyon Lake, Calif.) had a different kind of stress on Thursday. Starting the day with a six-shot lead, Funk had to endure what a lot of players with big leads do — his was a battle largely with himself as his lead continued to shrink throughout the day.

After starting bogey-bogey, Funk seemingly righted the ship with birdies on 7 and 8 to get back to even for the day and 4 under for the tournament. But a freak shot at the 10th hole — his 6 iron approach went just left toward the bunker and no one could find the ball — led to a double and things started to tighten up.

“That’s where the pressure started”, said Funk to AmateurGolf.com. “I was struggling with the speed of the greens all day. But I’ve been playing well, so I figured I would be fine.”

The pressure didn’t come from anyone in his group, however; rather it came from a player on the opposite side of the course. Mike Lohner (Southlake, Texas) started the day nine shots back and dropped a further shot back after eight holes. But he would race to the house, picking up four birdies along the way, to chip into Funk’s lead. When Funk bogeyed 15 and 16 and Lohner birdied his final hole for a 69, the lead was just two, but Funk was able to par the final two holes for a two-shot win.

It was Funk’s second big win of the year, having captured the Golfweek Senior Amateur in the California desert a month ago.

Then, as at the CWI, Funk started the final day with a big lead but both times he didn’t let the situation change his approach. “I played the same way [in the final round] that I did in the first two days, I just play golf shot-by-shot.”

Like Hunter, Funk’s winning total was even-par 216. Lohner was solo second at 2 over, with Gordy McKeown (Little Rock, Ark.) third at 3 over. The defending champion David Ortego (Spring, Texas) was 4th at 4 over, with Jon Valuck (Oklahoma City, Okla.) rounding out the top five at 5 over.

Four-time CWI senior champion Mike Booker (Houston, Texas) tied for 6th at 7 over par, along with Gary Durbin (Houston, Texas) and two-time CWI senior champ Lewis Stephenson (Burleson, Texas).

Notes

– Robert Harrington and Adam Harrington were just the second father-son combo to play in the CWI, and both got top-15 finishes. Bob was T14 in the Senior division, and Adam was 12th among the mid-ams. Ramiro Romo and Tony Romo were the first father and son to play in the CWI.

– With his 9th place finish, Rusty Strawn took over the lead in the 2022 AmateurGolf.com Senior Player-of-the-Year points race.

– Two-time CWI champ Colby Harwell finished tied for 20th, while 2019 winner Philip Lee was T28. 2015 Senior CWI champ Lee Sandlin was T30.


Hunter and Wheeler share lead at Carlton Woods Invitational

With most of the fields going in the opposite direction, Chris Wheeler and Robert Funk turned in the lowest rounds of the day to surge to the top of the mid-and senior amateur leaderboards on Wednesday at the Carlton Woods Invitational being held in The Woodlands, Texas.

Wheeler’s second round 69 moved the Addison, Texas resident into a tie with John Hunter, who followed an opening-round 69 with a 3-over 75 on Wednesday. At 1-under 143, Wheeler and Hunter will take a one-shot lead over Joe DeraneyToby Zeringue and Padden Nelson going into Wednesday’s final round.

Funk carded a brilliant round of 68 (-4) to open a six-shot lead in the senior division over defending champion David OrtegoScott Smith and Gordy McKeown.

Mid-Amateur Division

Wheeler used a red-hot inward nine en route to carding a 3-under 69 in the swirling winds that plagued the players all day at Carlton Woods.

The two-time Texas Player of the Year birdied holes 7 and 8 to make the turn at 1-under for the day and then dropped back to even after a bogey to start his second nine. After pars on 11 and 12, Wheeler then caught fire, reeling off four straight birdies on holes 13-16 to move to 4-under on the day. A dropped shot on 18 left him with a 69.

Hunter, playing close to home in nearby Spring, enjoyed a three-shot lead at the start of the day but a double bogey on the par-4 14th led to a 3-over round of 75.

In hot pursuit of Wheeler and Hunter are Deraney, Zeringue and Nelson, who are just one off the pace at even-par 144. Jon Lindstrom is just two back at 1-over 143. Zeringue was 1-over on his round after making a bogey on the 13th, but birdied three of his last five holes to card a 2-under round of 70.

Deraney, the 2018 champion, bogeyed 14 and 16 and three-putted from the back fringe for par on the par-5 18th to finish with a 1-under 71 while Nelson overcame a double/bogey start to get his round back to even before a bogey on 18 led to a round of 73.

Senior Division

Funk racked up some serious miles in making the journey to The Woodlands from his home in Canyon Lakes, Calif. and it looks like the long trip is going to be well worth the effort for the Californian.

A second-round 68 left Funk at 4-under 140 at the 36-hole mark of the tournament, which is good for a six-stroke lead over Ortego, Smith and McKeown heading into Thursday’s final round.

With five birdies against a lone bogey, Funk turned in the lowest round of the day in either field.

Mike Booker, a four-time Carlton Woods Invitational senior champion and Texas Golf Hall of Famer, was keeping pace with Funk before dropping four shots over the last four holes to fall to 3-over 76 to finish with a 76 (+3) and finds himself seven off the pace heading into Thursday’s final round.