Jacob McGhee has been preparing for this moment for quite some time. As a senior at Arkansas-Monticello, McGhee has struggled somewhat in his golf career, failing to make the cut to qualify to compete for the men’s golf team.
The waiting is over. When the golf team travels to Danville for this week’s Dave Falconer Memorial at Chamberlain Golf Club hosted by Arkansas Tech, McGhee will clean his grooves and compete after qualifying for his first college tournament with one of his lowest scores of the year.
“Our guys are all pretty close,” first-year UAM golf coach Heather Wall said. “This is great for Jacob. I am really excited for him. He has been working so hard. It’s nice to see his hard work is paying off.”
McGhee carded a 45-hole total of 187 after playing 18 holes the first day and 27 on the second. He turned in a 78 on day one and signed for a 74 on the second day before a 2-over 35 on the final nine holes solidified his spot on the five-man squad.
“It was either go low or go home,” McGhee said. “Hopefully, I can carry that momentum into the tournament.”
McGhee said making the transition to a belly putter was one of the things that aided his success.
“I am a firm believer in them now,” he said. “I started making some putts which is something I had really been struggling with. I don’t have a problem hitting fairways or greens in regulation. But I would have 40 putts per round and that was killing me.”
While McGhee credits the putter for lower scores, he added that he had to address the mental aspect of the game as well.
“I had to clear my head of bad swing thoughts,” he said. “I needed to feel competitive again, like I could win.”
A 2008 graduate of Star City High School, the 22-year old now reflects on his prep days when he and a group of friends became charter members of the Bulldog golf program.
“I didn’t really grow up playing golf,” McGhee said. “I was baseball and football. I started playing because my dad put a club in my hand. I went to some of my friends and said, ‘Hey let’s get a golf team going.’ None of us were really good golfers but we enjoyed it and it helped get me where I am today.”
Wall said McGhee earned his spot on the roster that is headed by Josh Tomlinson and Jonathon Helton in the top two positions and Jessie Smith and Jordan Christensen in the third and fourth spots.
“This will be his first tournament of the year,” Wall said. “But he kept working. He will go to the range and hit extra chips. He will stay late to hit a few more putts. It’s really nice to see, especially since it’s his senior year.”
Coach Alvy Early and the Cotton Blossoms are entering possibly the toughest section of the 2012 schedule. With the bulk of Great American Conference games straight ahead, UAM will need to keep pace in the conference with front-runner Southeastern Oklahoma State while distancing itself from the rest of the league.
Winner of six of the last seven outings, the Blossoms (16-10, 4-2 GAC) have four consecutive conference doubleheaders on tap, including a pair of twin bills this weekend at Blossom Field.
“As long as we don’t lose ground on percentage, we will be good,” Early said. “We could get back on top or at least catch Southeastern Oklahoma State with a sweep or two. But it’s hard to take four in a row against any team.”
Of the next three scheduled two-day double dips prior to a showdown with SOSU (20-12, 12-4) in Durant, Okla., Early said winning 9 of 12 outings would be a realistic goal.
“You would like to win them all,” he added.
Rainouts have delayed the Blossoms’ progress.
“I think we will get the games in this weekend,” Early said.
Rainy days and wet field conditions have hampered head coach John Harvey and the baseball team from dusting off after a three-game sweep by Southern Arkansas last weekend.
The Weevils’ single-game dates at Grambling State and Harding slated for Tuesday and Wednesday were both washed out by heavy rains as UAM now looks ahead to this weekend’s three-game series against Henderson State in Arkadelphia.
UAM (11-13, 1-7) has stumbled during the past few weeks and is on a six-game losing streak dating back to March 7.
Harvey said the team is struggling but has faith they can turn things around and finish the season strong.
“We are working hard to turn this around and everyone here believes we will do that,” he said.