Josh McNulty is seemingly always critical of his performance on the golf course, often needing to rack his brain to find something he felt he did well.
“I didn’t hit good off the tee, and I didn’t hit my irons good, either. I putted pretty well, though.”
That’s what the 13-year-old said after shooting an eight-over 79 on Wednesday to lead the boys’ 12- to 13-year-old division by six strokes in the Bubba Smart Invitational at Pine Bluff Country Club.
“I played bad. I didn’t play that good. I didn’t putt too well. I hit my irons good and hit my driver good.”
That’s what the White Hall resident had to say about his three-stroke win in the 13-year-old division of the Arkansas State Golf Association Junior Stroke Play Championship June 23-24 at Shadow Valley Country Club in Rogers.
The impressive thing is that McNulty, a soon-to-be eighth-grader at White Hall Middle School, is able to keep his composure during the round. He doesn’t seem to let a missed putt here or a bad tee shot there affect his approach.
“I just try to keep the same mindset,” he said. “If you get mad, usually you do bad. So I just try to stay happier and not get mad.
“If I hit a bad drive, don’t think about it. Just hit the next one, get it on the green, and make par.”
PBCC PGA professional Neil Day said he has gotten to see a lot of McNulty over the few weeks he’s been working at the course.
“Josh is a tremendous athlete,” Day said. “He works at his game extremely hard.
“When he turned in his scorecard (Wednesday), he kind of had a disappointed look on his face. That’s what competitive golf does to you.”
The pressure of competitive golf is one of the reasons McNulty liked practicing and playing last year with the White Hall High School team, which included his brother Jake. He said he hopes to do it again next season, before officially joining the team his freshman year.
“It was pretty cool playing with older kids,” he said. “It’s nothing new. I’m used to playing with kids my brother’s age, 17. It lets me know how much better I need to get.
“Getting to play is nice. I mean my score doesn’t count, but usually I don’t get any pressure. I beat some; I lose some. Depends on how the day’s going.”
McNulty will hope his round Thursday in the Smart Invitational will be closer to his typical 76 or 77 at the course. With Thursday being the final day of the two-day tournament, McNulty will be looking to close out what he said would be his fourth win of the summer.
“I’m going to try and hit my driver better,” he said of his plan for Thursday. “I want to hit more fairways. I only hit like four (Wednesday).
“And I want to putt better.”
Even if McNulty, who finished Wednesday’s round with eight bogeys and 10 pars, was able to meet those goals, he’d still probably feel similar to how he said he felt after winning the ASGA stroke play title.
“It feels good that I won. I just know I could have done better. If I did, I would have had an easier win.”
Bubba Smart Invitational
Pine Bluff Country Club
First round; Par 71
(Top five in each division)
10- to 11-year-olds
Ben Brogdon, 83
Jackson Gilbert, 97
Josh McNulty, 79
Devan Mishra, 85
Logan Stephens, 93
Andrew Freeman, 97
Jackson May, 101
Whit Parker, 74
Grayson Martin, 75
Braxton Watkins, 78
Michael Tate, 79
Grant Shelman, 80
Hayden Lassiter, 80
Ryan Spurlock, 69
Grayson Jones, 71
Chandler Cain, 72
Caleb Kubacak, 74
Reese Nichols, 74
Connor Neil, 76
Josie Roberson, 79
Olivia Parker, 84
Anna Pinson, 92
Reagan Reed, 95
Hannah Bakalekos, 76
Christian Barrett, 78
Taylor Loeb, 78
Taylor Reed, 78
Stephanie Leake, 80