One of those who finished second, the 30-year-old Harold Varner III summed it succinctly, with a smile: “He’s old and he’s kicking everyone’s (butt).” Go figure: At a time Cink is downsizing his life, he’s upsizing his career.
As he strolled up No. 18 with son, Reagan, on the bag, the only real quandary was how to frame this moment. Was it a great comeback story? Or a great father-son story? God knows, we love both those. And this one had sentiment draped all over it like Spanish moss wrapping a southern oak. It was almost too emotionally gratifying, if that’s possible.
Reagan Cink (left) raises his arms to the crowd while walking with his father, Stewart Cink, up the 18th fairway to the green during the final round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament Sunday, April 18, 2021, in Hilton Head Island, S.C. Stewart Cink won the tournament for a third time. (Stephen B. Morton/AP)
Credit: Stephen B. Morton
Credit: Stephen B. Morton
First, the comeback. Cink spent the decade of the 2010s winning nothing. By late in the decade, he also stepped back to be closer to his wife, Lisa, as she waged a hard, winning battle against cancer. No one could blame the golf world for assuming it had witnessed the last of Stewart Cink’s best.
But he remodeled his game, concentrating on power and spin — “I think I was one of the shortest hitters when I won this tournament in 2000, and I think I was probably one of the longer hitters in 2021,” Cink said. That is another age-defying trick he played on the field this week, leading it into the weekend in driving distance.
He drew closer and more committed to his swing coach and short game coach. Got fitter. For good reason.
“I love playing golf, and the players I’m playing against aren’t getting worse,” Cink said earlier this week. “I don’t really want to stop doing this as a job, and the guys that come out here year after year get better and better, younger and younger, and they don’t make it any easier. So, I have to continue getting more out of myself and managing myself different ways.”
So, at 47, he won again at the season-opening event in Napa, Calif. Then did it again this week, making this Cink’s first multiple-win season since 2004.
“What’s so amazing is this kind of rebirth that Stewart is experiencing and at such an older age,” Lisa said afterward. “I’m just in awe of how well he’s playing at this time in his career, and it just seems like icing on the cake.”
Some of this week was eye-popping: Back-to-back 63s on Thursday and Friday.
Some of it was stiff and structured: There wasn’t much exciting about his round Sunday. About the only real challenge came from the helpful fan who shouted, “Don’t choke today,” Cink’s way as he reported to the course Sunday.
He began the day with a sizeable lead — five strokes — and same as those movers will do today, Cink swaddled it in bubble wrap and carefully hauled it out the back door. Nothing fancy was required, just the hard work of sweating out some pars and come in with a fairly unnicked 1-under 70. Just don’t drop the dishes, and everything would be fine.
“I really felt like I had the kind of stuff this week that was going to be very, very hard to beat if I just maintained my composure,” Cink said. “And I knew that with Reagan caddying and with our belief in our game plan and the way we’re going about things, businesslike and very monotonous on the course, that it was just going to be really hard to beat Stewart Cink at this course this weekend.”
Yes, the Reagan Factor. Most importantly, these two revitalizing wins have coincided with the decision to have his 23-year old son, Reagan — just one year younger than Cink’s Sunday playing partner Collin Morikawa — caddie for him.
Yes, it is possible for father and son to communicate in the same voice. And by the time Sunday was done, the two of them had turned the tension of trying to win a PGA Tour event into a veritable game of catch.
“I think that the job fits in nicely with our connection that we have,” Cink said. “He and I have always just been on the same wavelength. We’re kind of from the same DNA, and I mean literally like we are the same person. We think about things — we think about jokes, we notice the same funny stuff, we just pick up on the same kind of little details about things in our immediate surroundings.
“It’s been a real good fit for him caddying, and I just can’t tell you how much fun it is to have my son caddying for me.”
It was a perfect walk, unspoiled, Sunday for all the Cinks. They all — Lisa, son, Connor, in from Wyoming and, of course, Reagan — were there to share the victory.
“The best thing here this week to make it more special or differently special than other tournaments was the fact that it happened at my age and with Reagan caddying and Connor and his fiancé and Lisa all here, Cink said. “Several of my friends came down just to be here for this.
“To have a posse like that waiting at the end to celebrate with is an experience that you just don’t get to have in your life that often.”
And he also picked up $1.278 million for the win.
So the moving expenses are covered.