It’s been more than 13 years since he retired from Pine Bluff Country Club, but George McKeown finally has the recognition he deserves.
A plaque honoring the man who spent 36 years as the club’s golf professional was unveiled at the course’s No. 13 tee box Saturday afternoon.
Adam Robinson, 63, who did a lot of the organizing for Saturday’s event, said he has known McKeown “since the day he came to be the golf pro.”
That day was May 25, 1963, and McKeown would spend the rest of the century as the club’s golf pro, retiring on Dec. 31, 1999.
In 2002, McKeown was inducted into the Arkansas State Golf Association Hall of Fame along with Richard “Bubba” Smart, who was in attendance Saturday, and John Daly, among others.
“George McKeown is the best teaching professional in the history of Arkansas,” Robinson said. “He has had (his students win) over 15 state championships in different venues; women, juniors, amateur champions, senior champions.”
McKeown will always be remembered for being a great teacher of the game, but Robinson said his playing ability shouldn’t be forgotten.
“He was a great player and won the Arkansas Open, has won the South Central PGA Championship,” Robinson said. “Not only was he a great teacher, he was a great player.”
Robinson’s younger brother Spencer, 61, agrees.
“George was a tremendous player,” Spencer Robinson said. “He knows more about the golf swing than anyone I’ve ever met.
“His teaching style was to not change everything about your swing. He just wanted you to improve on the basics, so you could get the feel for the right kind of swing. He was also very patient. He could watch you hit five balls and know already what you needed to fix.”
Saturday’s master of ceremonies Walter Cash met McKeown 46 years ago when Cash was just 9.
Cash’s speech highlighted the 78-year-old’s numerous accomplishments, but also focused on the essence of McKeown, which came down to three words — excellence, passion and credibility.
Following Cash’s speech, two of McKeown’s friends spoke briefly about him.
After everybody had spoken, McKeown took the microphone and thanked the crowd of approximately 100 people who came out to honor him.
“Thank you,” McKeown said. “What an honor it is to be here today, so I could express my gratitude for all the years the Pine Bluff Country Club has given me.”
McKeown’s wife, daughter and two sons were among several members of the family who attended the ceremony.
“He’s just a great family man,” Gordy McKeown said about his father.
When asked about his father’s parenting style, Gordy McKeown, 49, said, “His style was he didn’t say a whole lot, but when he did it mattered.
“He had expectations for the entire family. He wanted us to be focused and find something to excel at.”
Today, Gordy McKeown is in the insurance business in San Antonio, but when he was younger the thing he excelled at was golf. The same can be said for several players who learned the game from his father.
Three of George McKeown’s most successful pupils, Wes McNulty, Brent Winston and Stan Payne, were all on hand Saturday.
“He meant everything to all three of us,” McNulty said. “He taught us how to play the game, respect the game and love the game.”
Looking back, the thing that impresses McNulty the most about McKeown’s teaching style was how advanced it was.
“When it comes to his teaching style, he was just so far ahead of his time,” the White Hall resident said. “The things he taught us are the things people are teaching now.”
While Saturday’s ceremony and the plaque that was unveiled are great ways to honor McKeown, McNulty probably summed up the feelings of everyone McKeown ever taught:
“There is no way to ever repay him for what he did.”