Any on-course hazard standing in the way of one native Mooresville golfer will simply pale in comparison to the one he has successfully escaped from.
Nearly three weeks removed from surgery for removal of a portion of a cancerous colon and 24 lymph nodes, Mooresville native Chris Hunsucker found himself in the field as a successful sectional qualifier for participation in the United States Golf Association’s 40 th annual U.S. Senior Open.
It accounted for one whirlwind of a month indeed for the aspiring pro golfer.
Only 11 days after being diagnosed with stage 2 colon cancer following a routine medical procedure, the 54-year-old Hunsucker – currently a resident of San Antonio, Texas - posted a score of one-under-par 71 in the qualifier and survived a two-for-one playoff adventure to earn yet another first-alternate slot for the U.S. Sr. Open. It was the third straight time he found himself in such a situation.
This time around, though, that third time was the charm.
When the field was announced for play in this week’s USGA Senior Tour major, Hunsucker’s name was finally among the ones being called to complete the field among the world’s best golfers age 50 and above.
Hunsucker was part of the elite crowd convening on the Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame to contend for the crown.
Without a stroke or two of luck, though, he might not have ever made the cut.
The middle of last year, Hunsucker’s doctor recommended a colonoscopy after he was diagnosed with anemia, a condition in which red blood cells do not carry enough oxygen to the body’s tissues. The effects include fatigue, and Hunsucker now believes the cancer was stealing blood from his system.
Still, the golfer put the suggestion back deep into his golf bag.
As turned out, his wife, Michelle, wound up making the shot that really counted. When she was confronted to schedule her own precautionary colonoscopy, she also scheduled one for her husband without his knowledge.
The cancer wound up being caught before it spread to other areas. No additional radiation or chemotherapy will be required.
The arrival on one of pro golf’s biggest fairway stages also continues a near lifelong ambition for Hunsucker.
A product of Mooresville High School’s golf program, Hunsucker followed his graduation from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte by joining what was at the time the Nike Tour – currently known as the Korn Ferry Tour – for nearly five years. He also spent time playing the game of golf professionally in Asia as well.
In 1993, he just missed securing his Professional Golf Association Tour card for the following season by a mere two-stroke margin in the finals of the difficult Q-School qualifying process.
Marriage and becoming the father of three children – two sons and a daughter – threw his pro playing career into the rough but never completely put it out of bounds.
Hunsucker stayed active in the game by becoming a golf instructor. He is a teacher at a pair of driving ranges near his current residence.
Once turning 50, he re-charged his competitive battery and began to compete in Monday qualifiers. Three years ago, he won the Texas State Senior Open.
Since hitting the half-century mark, Hunsucker nearly qualified for the Staysure Tour (European Senior Tour) and lost in a playoff for a spot in the Senior Open conducted by The R&A. For each of the last two years, Hunsucker had been a first alternate for the U.S. Sr. Open.
Playing the waiting game finally paid off earlier this month.
Hunsucker received word that he was high on the replacement list should an already-qualified player be unable to participate. He prepped for possible participation by practicing at a course in Evansville, Indiana, where he also owned a membership. He then received the welcome official word of his inclusion in the field following the withdrawal of the 2003 champion.
Hunsucker was scheduled to compete in the first two full stroke play rounds of play on the still relatively new Warren Golf Course that is only the second university public course to host a U.S. Golf Association championship competition. The 250-acre spread that puts a premium on accurate approach shots from wide fairways onto small putting surfaces sits in the shadows of Notre Dame’s Golden Dome football facility.
Should he make the midway mark cut, Hunsucker will also merit the opportunity to spend the rest of the weekend appearing in his first U.S. Senior Open and USGA championship event. Final round national coverage of the U.S. Senior Open will take place Sunday and is being broadcast by the FOX Network.
Family will be foremost in play as well. His wife and daughter were on site from the start and his youngest son, heading to the University of Houston in 2020 to play golf, was slated to serve as his caddie.
Regardless of the troubles he may face on the golf course, Hunsucker has already overcome a life-changing challenge.