The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

June 15, 2013

Cherry fondly recollects 1954 Sunnehanna title

Shawn Curtis

JOHNSTOWN — The Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament for Champions has grown exponentially since the 72-hole medal play contest began in 1954.

Don Cherry, a native of Wichita Falls, Texas, captured the first title and gold jacket that year.

Cherry, now 89, is just as proud to carry that honor and wear the jacket as he was in 1954.

“That’s the thing that impressed people,” Cherry said Friday. “That jacket they gave me was the first jacket they gave to anyone. I was so proud of it that I walked around and held it out for people to see it.”

He’s also carried a great deal of memories from his championship in 1954 and a runner-up finish the following year.

“I remember just the name itself: Sunnehanna,” Cherry said. “When I came here the first time and played, I saw this golf course, and wow – and it’s greater now than it was then. But it made me feel good just to drive back into (Sunnehanna).”

Cherry, who is an accomplished singer with a top-five single to his credit, has quite the golf pedigree, including appearances on three Walker Cup teams and nine trips to The Masters.

He’s never forgotten Sunnehanna Country Club when looking back at where golf has taken him.

“I played every great golf course in the United States,” Cherry said. “I think Sunnehanna would be in the top 10.”

Trey’s long day: After an opening-round 77, Trey Mullinax had a long hill to climb. His second-round 70 allowed him to mark time and stay at 7-over going into today’s third round.

Mullinax then outdistanced a large portion of the 83-man field in capturing the long-drive contest, beating out Keith Mitchell in a playoff after both uncorked 369-yard drives to top the field.

“It’s fun,” Mullinax said. “There’s a lot of guys out here who hit it a lot farther than me, I promise you that. It was nice to get one out on the fairway.”

The contest, which happens off the tee at No. 1, also gives competitors a chance to unwind while competing – or playfully jeering – with their peers.

“It’s fun giving everybody a hard time,” said Tom Lovelady, who is a teammate of Mullinax’s at Alabama. “I just didn’t hit it hard enough. It’s good talking some trash to the guys, it’s a lot of fun.”

Mullinax was also looking at the contest’s therapeutic qualities heading into the weekend rounds.

“It definitely gives us a relaxed mindset,” Mullinax said. “We just go out and hit it as far as we can.”

New Sunnehanna course professional Carl Seelman was also pushed into the fray, as per announced tradition that former course pro Joe Shorto had participated in the contest in his first year at Sunnehanna.

Putting it all in perspective: The largest galleries of the first two days of the tournament have been following Richland graduate Brady Moran, who qualified for Sunnehanna last summer by winning the Greater Johnstown Open.

A 79 on Thursday was bettered by a 73 in Round 2 with a larger gallery in tow.

All those eyes on the hometown teenager playing at one of the nation’s elite amateur tournaments would make for a bit of pressure, right?

“I didn’t feel any pressure,” Moran said. “The stuff that my mom (Kathy Moran) went through with breast cancer, that’s pressure. This isn’t pressure. This is fun. This is a fun tournament to play in. I had a good time, I’m glad people are coming out and watching. I hope to be here next year, too.”