CARTERSVILLE, Ga. – Team Arkansas played lights-out golf over the final 36 holes at the Golfweek International Senior Invitational at Cartersville Country Club to pull off a come-from-behind victory over Team Ireland and two Georgia star-powered teams.
Arkansas team captain, Gordy McKeown, has known his teammates Stan Payne and Wes McNulty for more than 40 years. The three were taught how to play by McKeown’s father, George, at Pine Bluff Country Club in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. George played in four majors, became a life member of the PGA of America in 2000 and was inducted into the Arkansas Golf Association Hall of Fame in 2002.
In 2014, George passed away at the age of 76. Not only did McKeown lose his father, but Payne and McNulty lost the man who introduced them to competitive golf.
“For us to get to travel to a great golf course like this and play together and then win,” Payne said to Golfweek. “That’s just a testament to him.”
Team Arkansas used a simple approach for Saturday’s final round, relying on lessons taught to them since their youth by George more than 40 years ago.
“We knew the golf course was playing extremely difficult,” McNulty told Golfweek. “The greens are the defense of this golf course and we all knew if we hit it on the greens and two-putt we’d have a chance to win. I think our scores showed it–none of us took it low-low any day but we all kept it around par and that’s what you had to do today. And it’s a testament to this golf course. It’s a beautiful golf course. It’s a gem.”
Ahead of the final round, Arkansas lurked just one shot behind the 36-hole leaders Team Ireland. With individual leader and eventual champion, Joe Lyons leading the way and his teammates Karl Bornemann and John Reynolds playing well, it seemed as though one shot is all Ireland was going to need to pull away from the field.
Arkansas had plenty of momentum thanks to a 5-under team total of 139. McNulty (3 under) and Payne (2 under) counted while McKeown’s 1 under 71 made him the odd man out. The combined rounds catapulted Team Arkansas into a tie for second and in prime position to overtake Team Ireland who had commanded the lead for 36 holes.
Saturday’s final round brought cool temperatures and wind gusts up to 25 miles per hour, making the pristine greens of Cartersville Country Club even more important to find in regulation.
Even par through the turn as a team, Arkansas made their move on the back nine. Five birdies and an eagle combined for Payne and McNulty not only gave Team Arkansas the lead, but a four-shot victory to take home the team title.
“We were sitting in Whataburger last night and we were talking about George, Gordy’s dad,” McNulty said. “And did he envision that for us – I think he did. He wanted us to play golf at a high level and do these things together.”
”That was his biggest thing,” McKeown chimed in. “He wanted all of us to do it together.”
Perhaps with a bit of help from George, Team Arkansas, who has over 13 USGA starts between them, takes home a team win and a bond that will last a lifetime.