Team Arkansas comes from behind to win Governor’s Cup

Published 12:11 am Sunday, May 18, 2008

NATCHEZ — After winning the last two matches of the day in the foursomes (alternate shot) competition, Team Mississippi was looking to carry its momentum into Saturday morning’s singles matches at the 2008 Governor’s Cup.

And not only that, Team Mississippi was also hoping to expand its one-point lead over defending champion Team Arkansas after Friday’s matches were completed. And it appeared it was heading in that direction after Team Mississippi won three of the first four matches.

But Team Arkansas, led by wins by Bruce Dickey and Jim Thurston, rallied from that three-point deficit by taking eight of the final 12 matches and halving two others to defeat Team Mississippi 16 1/2 points to 15 1/2 points at Beau Pré Country Club.

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Dickey was the one who started the amazing comeback for Team Arkansas by defeating George Hinman of Team Mississippi, 1-up. Thurston followed that up by defeating Brother Sandifer 2&1. That gave both teams a split of the singles matches in the senior division.

“It was a real good match,” Dickey said of his match against Hinman. “It was back and forth. He was 2-up and then I tied it and then I went 1-up. We have really enjoyed being in Mississippi. The hospitality is fantastic and Natchez is a beautiful city. The golf course is fantastic. It’s a lot of fun and it’s got a lot of character.”

And just as Team Arkansas captain Jay Fox predicted, the outcome came down to the final putt – except that the final putt determined whether Team Arkansas would win outright or have to end up in a tie, in which case it still would have retained the Governor’s Cup. But Fox wasn’t exactly interested in a tie at first.

“A tie wouldn’t have been all that bad,” Fox said. “I think it’s wonderful it came down to the last putt of the last match of the last day. When Bruce and Jim won their matches, it was big. We’ve got a really strong team and they showed up. It’s a great competition. It’s great that it ended with two guys making tough shots under pressure and birdying the hole.”

Fox was referring to the match between Team Mississippi’s Michael Dowst and Team Arkansas’s Wes McNulty. On the par-5 18th hole, Dowst made an incredible putt from just in front of the green. McNulty followed that up by making a pressure-packed short putt that would end that match all square and give Team Arkansas the one-point win.

As to what Fox told his team before play began today, he said, “Play hard and never give up. Do your best.”

Even though Team Mississippi fell one and a half points short of winning back the Governor’s Cup, captain Gerald Chatham Sr. said he was pleased with the way his team played.

“That’s the closest I can remember,” Chatham said. “We just got outplayed today. They deserved to win. Guys played their hearts out. The other team played better. It’s exciting for golf when it comes down to the last hole. We appreciate Beau Pré for hosting this.”

Team Mississippi got off to a good start in the senior division. Robert Willis and Peter Marks got the team going with fairly easy wins. Willis defeated Oscar Taylor, 5&4, while Marks defeated Mike Hale, 3&2.

“I played good. Oscar had some really bad breaks, some really bad lies early on,” Willis said. “I took advantage of them. It’s a good course.”

“I just tried to keep the ball in the fairways and on the greens,” Marks said. “He (Hale) started off slow and then he had a hole-in-one on No. 13 with a 4-iron from 176 yards. That gave him some confidence. In match play, you never can tell. Momentum can swing in a heartbeat. I was lucky.”

Unfortunately for Team Mississippi, it couldn’t keep the momentum going when it counted and will now have to wait another year to win back the Governor’s Cup.