TO THE TEES 2023: City Championship tees off this weekend with Houston robotics team as sponsor

Published 2:41 pm Friday, July 28, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Duncan Park Golf Course will host the 2023 Bill McKenny Memorial City Golf Championship Saturday and Sunday. 

Tournament director and course superintendent Greg Brooking encourages people to come watch local golfers play for the coveted title. 

Griffin Agent is the defending champion after shooting 69 and 67 respectively last year. He played golf at Mississippi State in college and played Duncan Park during the Norman Puckett Junior Championships. Agent currently works in Natchez at Wealth Management. 

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Not all of the best players will be available for the city championships. Jordan Farmer, a former champion, is in Germany this week and Chase Kaiser, who shot a tournament record in 2021, is playing in the Cotton Stakes tournament held in Monroe, Louisiana.

Brooking said there are still several favorites who could win the tournament. Pete Powell is 75 years old but still plays solid golf. He has won 11 city tournaments, Brooking said. Jay Lessley, Casey Ham, Tom Bryant, P.Z. Brewer, Brooking and Wesley Rogers are also defending champions. 

“The course is in beautiful shape. It hasn’t rained well enough in four weeks so we are doing all we can,” Brooking said. “Overall I think we will be proud of the course. I have a good crew and we always try to keep it in top notch shape. We have a full field of 70 players this year.” 

Special sponsor

Natchez’s native son Lucien Junkin will return to play in the tournament. His parents were George and Ninette Junkin. He works for NASA in robotics and coaches a robotics team in Houston called the Robonauts. Brooking said the Robonauts are the sponsor of this year’s tournament. 

“I come back and play each year. I asked Greg how I could help and he said I could sponsor,” Junkin said. “I come back to support Duncan Park and the golf course there. I think Brooking has done a fantastic job of reviving and improving the course. He has it ready for the future and has done so on a shoestring budget. We are fortunate to have him be able to do it. I come back each year to support him.”

Junkin’s sons Casey and Bill Junkin helped set out 150 and 200 yard markers years ago. Junkin said his dream is to have a task list where he works with a group of students to take care of projects around Duncan Park during the summer. He said it would be called “Duncan Rock Kids,” an homage to the course’s old reputation of being rock solid and barren fairways before Brooking worked to improve it. 

Junkin has coached the Robonauts for the last 25 years and he has worked at NASA for 30 years. The Robonauts have won seven banners this season and are one of the most successful programs in the country. 

Robotics is a sport for the mind. Cathedral coaches Ken Beesley and Roy Garcia molded Junkin to have a successful team. He said the credit goes to Beesley, Garcia and parents Ninette and George. 

“All of our values and how you run the team. I pulled everything I learned from them. It is at the core of the success we have had,” Junkin said. “I wanted my kids to serve others. It is the most rewarding thing in life. Find a small way to serve others and beautify your community.”

Lucien is not the only native son who returns to play in the tournament. Kenny Weeks comes back and plays in the tournament. He is the grandchild of Bill McKeeny, who the tournament is named after. 

The first group of the day will tee off at 7:40 a.m. and the last group will tee off at 11:20 a.m.