Golf's George Cunningham plays with ex-Wildcat Jim Furyk

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Courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Arizona men’s golf freshman George Cunningham received an opportunity on Monday that every athlete dreams of at least once in their career: playing with a professional athlete — more specifically, ex-Wildcat Jim Furyk.

The pair competed at the Northern Trust Open Collegiate Showcase at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and despite shooting a one-over-par and finishing second, the experience for Cunningham was imperative.

“This was a chance for George to get experience with a true competitor, and it worked out great for him,” Arizona men’s golf head coach Jim Anderson said. “For being such a young player, having someone like Jim play with you is something that is very helpful to George.”

Even though Furyk hasn’t recorded a PGA Tour win since 2010, the 44-year-old completed the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am tied for seventh place after shooting a total score of 271 (-16). Furyk’s performance was highlighted during the final round after he somehow made par on the par-5 sixth hole after his ball ended up on the edge of a cliff.

Most golfers would panic in a situation such as standing over a ball on the edge of a cliff looking out to the Pacific Ocean, but Furyk thrives on being relaxed and refusing to let sticky situations get the best of him, a trait that Cunningham hopes to replicate.

“It was unbelievable to play with a guy like Jim,” Cunningham said, “because he’s so relaxed about everything, and that’s a great trait to have as a golfer.”

Cunningham was a highly touted player coming out of high school as the No. 2 overall recruit by both Golfweek and American Junior Golf Association, and even though the young Cunningham is ahead of many players his age, playing with Furyk was more of a golf lesson to the freshman.

“One thing that I learned from him was to stay relaxed, and that’s one thing that stood out to me was how relaxed he was with everything,” Cunningham said. “I used to get frustrated really easily in high school, but I’ve been more relaxed and now after playing with Jim; it will definitely help my game.”

The NTO Collegiate Showcase was also a chance for Cunningham to present his talents to the former Wildcat in hopes of getting positive feedback from a man of his profession.

“Jim actually had some pretty positive comments about George’s game, as well as mentoring him,” Anderson said, “so that was something George can hold on to.”

Cunningham will take the compliments with a grain of salt and use Furyk’s words of wisdom as motivation heading into Hawaii for the John Burns Invitational.

“Jim’s comments will be used as a confidence booster for myself, and hopefully I’m not too tired for the next tournament we have coming up in Hawaii,” Cunningham said. “But I’ll be fine, and I’m looking forward after a day like today.”

The Wildcats will compete for the John Burns Invitational in Lihue, Hawaii, on Wednesday with an 11:30 a.m. tee time.

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