Natchez natives on losing end at Gov. Cup

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, May 22, 2012

NATCHEZ — Collectively Natchez’s Bill Byrne and Greg Brooking had represented the State of Mississippi three times in the annual Governor’s Cup golf tournament that pits golfers from Mississippi up against golfers from Arkansas.

And in their three previous experiences, Mississippi took home the championship.

This year Byrne and Brooking teamed up on the Mississippi team for the first time, but their collective good luck was not enough to push them past a talented team from Arkansas.

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Arkansas defeated Mississippi 22.5 to 17.5 in the tournament, but Brooking said having the opportunity to represent Natchez was bigger than the end results.

“It was certainly an honor to play for the State of Mississippi, and to be one of the representatives from the City of Natchez,” Brooking said.

Byrne and Brooking received a tough draw early on in the contest, as they were forced to match up against former USGA Senior National Amateur Champion Stan Lee.

“We already had a tough matchup, and then neither Bill nor I played well,” Brooking said. “We really played poorly.”

Brooking and Byrne took a lopsided loss to start the tournament. Despite the loss, Byrne said he enjoyed playing with his partner from Natchez.

“It was a lot of fun,” Byrne said. “Greg had made the team before, and I had, but we never made it together. To be able to be paired together for the match we were real excited about it.”

Brooking had a different partner for the second round of the tournament, but he saw a familiar foe from Arkansas on the tee box with him. This time Stan Lee was partnered with his brother Louis, the 2011 USGA Senior Amateur Champion. Brooking and his partner, Canton’s Ricky Sims, battled with the Lee brothers to the final hole. But a par on the 18th hole gave the Lee brothers the win over Brooking and Sims.

Byrne and his partner Robert Pannell of Greenwood saw a similar fate in the second round losing a close match to Bobby Baker and Bruce Dickey from Arkansas.

Both Natchez men regrouped and cruised to victories in their singles matches, but a late push by the Arkansas team gave it the five-point win.

Brooking said it was an honor to go up against some of the best golfers in the country.

“That was an exciting thing,” he said. “It was exciting to know you’re playing as good a golfer as there is in the nation.”

Brooking said experiencing his first Governor’s Cup loss was difficult, but he will take the lessons he learned into his next tournament.

“It’s never good to lose, but you always take something from winning or losing,” he said. “Learning how to lose is just as good as learning how to win.”

Brooking said he could always find a way to get over his defeats.

“I revel on the victories, and don’t dwell on the losses,” he said.

Byrne said he just enjoys the camaraderie at the Governor’s Cup, and he hopes to earn enough points to qualify again next year.

“It’s a motivation each year to make the team, because once you do it and go and see how well you’re treated and once you get a taste you want to continue to make the team,” Byrne said.

Both golfers also said it was a thrill to get to play at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point.