With son Reagan as his fulltime caddie, Stewart Cink has reached a happy – and productive – stage of his life and career
By Stan Awtrey
It is the dream of every golfing parent to one day be able to share the game with a child, walking down the fairway with a son or a daughter. To hear the bagpiper playing at the end of a round, to share a post-round beverage, to tell stories and recollections about the day … they’re all moments that parents long to share with their children.
PGA TOUR professional Stewart Cink has taken the fantasy a step further. His son, Reagan, has been carrying his bag and results are more than just some sort of family feel-good story. The father-son team has been winning and Cink has experienced a rebirth of his career at age 47, a time when many are starting to look ahead to the PGA TOUR Champions.
The results don’t lie. Cink, a Georgia Golf Hall of Fame member, has won twice since Reagan took over as caddie. Cink’s 12th-place finish at the Masters was his best there since 2008. His Official World Golf Ranking got as high as No. 42 in mid-May after being as low as No. 333 in January 2013 and No. 301 in August 2020.
The slide all changed in September 2020 when Cink won the Safeway Open. He began the final round in seventh place, but closed with a 65 and won by two shots. Reagan was on the bag for the victory and helped keep his father at ease during the situation that had become uncommon.
“(Reagan) knows the game in and out like a PGA TOUR player himself and he did a great job keeping me loose out there and we just had a really great time from the get-go,” Cink said.
The father-son feelings continue at Augusta National. Cink finished in a tie for 12th – which guaranteed him a spot in the 2022 Masters – and was his best finish there since a tie for third in 2008. But it was his interaction with Reagan, wearing those traditional white Augusta National coveralls, that caused more than a few eyes to get misty by the end of the day.
Cink surprised two First Tee students with some big news.
“I think the No. 1 thing for me that stands out from this Masters is going to be that Reagan was on the bag,” Cink said. “It was just really fantastic. He’s caddying for me this season, so it’s not like him caddying is new, but caddying at the Masters is a whole different ballgame. … That’s the No. 1 takeaway for me.”
Cink said his son has the ability to keep him loose on the golf course. Their comfort level with each other is high – all those ski trips and family vacations helped there – and Reagan helps provide an occasional boost of energy for his father.
“With Reagan, in between shots it’s easy to sort of laugh and we have so much in common that we joke about and notice things,” Cink said. “At my age, I don’t have this boundless energy that I used to have when I was a kid. So I need that a little – I need to switch it on for the shot and once the ball stops, joke around about stuff and smile in-between shots when there’s nothing else going on, and then get back into serious business when it’s time. He’s good about both things.”
The Cink Family kept the momentum rolling the next week when Stewart won the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, S.C., for the third time. He became only the fourth player to win twice in the same season after turning 47, joining Sam Snead, Julius Boros and Kenny Perry.
Yes, he has won bigger events and played on bigger stages, but it’s been a long time since the popular Georgia Tech graduate has felt the same level of satisfaction as he showed that April afternoon at Harbour Town.
“I don’t know if I have the words,” Cink said. “It just keeps getting better.”
Better because Lisa Cink, healthy and with her cancer in remission, was there to share in the success. Not only was Reagan on the bag, elder son Connor, who works for Capital One and lives in Jackson Hole, Wyo., changed his travel plans and flew in and watch his father make a little history.
“There was no way I was not going to win with him coming all the way down here,” Cink said.
Cink was at the top of his game in 2009 when he won the British Open at Turnberry, catching 59-year-old Tom Watson with a birdie on the final hole and prevailing over the sentimental favorite in a playoff. But that turned out be a stopping point instead of a jumping-off point for Cink. The wins stopped. The high finishes slowed. He even had to play the 2016-17 season using the career money list exemption. It appeared he was starting to make the descent into the PGA TOUR Champions.
That’s no longer a concern. He is exempt on the PGA TOUR through the 2023-24 season and has a great chance to qualify for the TOUR Championship for the first time since 2009.
“What’s so amazing is this kind of rebirth that Stewart is experiencing at such an older age,” Lisa said. “I’m just in awe of how well he’s playing at this time in his career. It just seems like icing on the cake.”
Cink believes he still has plenty of gas in his tank. He said he’s playing with great control of his game.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot of good things going throughout the bag, all the way down from driver to putter,” he said. “Reagan is maybe the key ingredient in the key lime pie right now. I feel like I’ve got a lot of good stuff going on. I’m loving playing golf. Life is in a good spot for me.”