Persistence finally pays off for Hunter

JOHN HERBERT -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:08 AM ET

PORT STANLEY -- Earl Hunter didn't ask questions when he was notified last week by the Golf Association of Ontario that he had been accepted as an alternate in the Investors Ontario Amateur.

It was only yesterday, just before the 53-year-old London Hunt member teed off in the first round at Redtail Golf Course, that he found out whose place he took -- and why the province's No. 1- ranked player, Richard Scott of Kingsville, had withdrawn.

A place opened up for Hunter when Scott decided to join his Georgia golf team -- the NCAA champions -- at the White House for a private audience with George W. Bush.

"Maybe I should send Bush a letter of thanks," Hunter joked.

He made it as an alternate after failing in three separate qualifying events to win a spot in the tournament.

A round-table member at Redtail, Hunter shot 81 in a special qualifying for three spots about a month ago, missing by four strokes.

At his home club, in the official qualifying round, he shot 79, missing by a stroke. His 79 was good enough to earn him a spot in final qualifying at Oshawa a few weeks ago but he missed again by shooting 75. That earned him fifth alternate status.

Hunter had just about given up hope of playing -- until Scott pulled out late last week.

"I figured with it being at Redtail and me being the fifth alternate, I wouldn't get it," said Hunter. "I could have gone to the Investors qualifying (for two spots) but I would have preferred to go in the front door. If you can't make it the regular way, I shouldn't be here."

Hunter has worked with Investors for 30 years in London, Toronto and Ottawa.

Years ago, before beginning his business career, Hunter was one of Ontario's top juniors, winning several tournaments and at one time he played on the Ontario team in matches with the U.S.

His golfing achievements landed him a scholarship at the University of Hawaii.

Hunter last played in the Ontario Amateur in 1971 when it was at Westmount in Kitchener and he quit competitive golf in 1978.

When he turned 50, Hunter said he started to get interested in playing competitively again as he is eligible to play senior events when he turns 55. He played in the Seaforth senior tournament the last two years -- the eligibility age for that tournament is 50 -- and has played in two Tyson Senior Tour events where the age is also 50.

"That got the juice going again," Hunter said. "This (the Ontario Amateur) is kind of a stepping stone for me into competitive golf again. I'm excited to be playing with the kids. I was a flat belly 35 years ago."


Photos