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Cunningham qualifies for national tournament

By Rich Palzewic
Sports Editor

BROWN COUNTY – Emma Cunningham’s earliest golf memory occurred when she was four years old.

“I was hitting at the driving range with the (Green Bay) Southwest (High School) girls’ team,” Emma, the daughter of Amanda and Cameron Cunningham, said. “My mom was an assistant coach, and I got to take pictures with them. I could hit the ball far, but I didn’t have the prettiest swing.”

Eight years later, Cunningham has taken her game to a new level.

Emma Cunningham

She recently shot a 90 at Thornberry Creek at Oneida (par 72) in the Optimist International District Qualifier, where golfers in each age group advanced to the national event at Doral in Miami, Fla., July 14-19.

“It was my first-ever 18 (tournament), so it was scary in the beginning,” Cunningham said. “It was fun, but there were lots of challenges of walking the 18 and not riding (a cart). I was happy to finish. I competed against two other girls.”

Cunningham won her division by nine strokes.

The Optimist International Junior Golf Championship is one of the world’s largest and best-known junior golf tournaments.
Each year, more than 600 golfers participate.

More than 5,000 golfers compete in official Optimist District qualifying tournaments.

The best of these golfers, along with international golfers from around the globe, advanced to the annual Optimist International Junior Golf Championships.

Former champions and top finishers of the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships include Lexi Thompson, Beth Bauer, Jonathan Byrd, Jason Day, Bill Haas, Brittany Lincicome, Jeff Overton, Stacy Prammanasudh and Jennifer Rosales.

“I’m looking forward to the national tournament, but it’s also going to be a bit scary,” Cunningham said. “I’m looking forward to the competition and meeting other girls. It will be three rounds of 18 holes over three days.”

After her initial indoctrination into the sport with the Southwest girls, Cunningham began playing more.

“I entered into tournaments in Milwaukee when I was seven,” she said. “They were par-threes, but I enjoyed the competition and the surroundings of golf. I grew up with golf around me. Being able to accomplish some things on the golf course has been fun for me. I love the competition and winning.”

Cunningham said the best part is seeing her hard work pay off.

“I can drive it about 200 yards off the tee,” she said. “I enjoy chipping and practicing that, but I have to work on my putting. I also need to work on keeping my drives and irons straight.”

Cunningham said her favorite local course is Brown County.

“I also like Sweetgrass (Golf Club in Harris, Mich.),” she said.

A future Trojans golfer at Southwest, Cunningham said her ultimate goal is to golf in college, even if that’s a few years away.

“I’d like to make golf my future if I’m able, so I’m aiming for a scholarship,” she said.

Amanda said coming from a golf family has helped her daughter.

“When you grow up around a sport, it’s easier to get involved,” she said. “We’ve worked at different golf courses, so we’d take Emma along. I’ve seen lots of golfers, so I saw she could at least hit the ball from a young age – I thought that was impressive. She’s competitive, even when she plays basketball. We don’t like to push her too much, but I think she has a good future in the sport.”

Emma said she’s hoping for a positive experience in Florida.

“I want to finish all of the days,” she said. “I also want to take in the experience of this competitive tournament. I don’t have any place in mind.”

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