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Kyle Hughes is medalist, teen makes cut at Apogee Investment Management Championship

Cortland, N.Y. — In a year’s time, Johnny Gruninger went from spectating to participating in the Apogee Investment Management Men’s Golf Championship.

After watching the final round last June, the 14-year-old Gruninger decided to give qualifying a shot this year. On Wednesday, the Manlius Pebble Hill eighth-grader played like a seasoned veteran in his first-ever adult amateur event with a 7-over-par 79 at Cortland Country Club.

Gruninger finished tied for eighth and advanced with 32 other players into the 61th annual main event, which begins June 7. The cutoff score for the second of three qualifiers was an 89 (including ties) at Cortland CC. It’s one of the highest qualifying cutoffs in recent years.

For Gruninger, it was an adjustment to playing in a qualifier where many of the golfers are at least twice his age. Gruninger competes in several junior circuit events. Last spring he finished first in his age group at Central New York PGA Junior Open. On Monday, Gruninger qualified for the Section 3 state qualifier at Seven Oaks on Thursday and Friday.

“It was different playing with older players,” he said. “I’m usually playing in junior tournaments with people my own age. But it was great, everybody is nice.”

Last June, Gruninger and his father, John, followed the lead group in the final day of the tournament (formerly known as the Post-Standard Amateur) and watched Luke Hobika capture his fifth career title. The event left a strong impression on the younger Gruninger. When entry forms came out for this year’s tournament, both father and son decided he was ready to enter.

“I really wanted to qualify,” Gruninger said. “I didn’t play well. But the goal is to qualify and do the best you can.”

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