Balicki: It's a Wyn-win for Southern Am

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -– Wyn Norwood has been a member of the Southern Golf Association for some 30 years. The recently retired golf coach at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock has served as a director, treasurer, second vice president, first vice president and president (1997-98).

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Courtesy Photo

Wyn Norwood.

During those years, Norwood had one dream: bring the SGA’s premier championship, the Southern Amateur, to the Natural State.

Last week, Norwood was at Chenal Country Club wearing a huge smile as he watched his dream come true.

“Without a doubt, if not for Wyn Norwood, we wouldn’t be here this week,” said Buford McCarty, the SGA’s executive secretary. “He’s wanted us to come to Arkansas for a long time, and we have so much confidence in him, we knew it was the right choice.”

The championship came to Arkansas for the first time in its 106-year history, and no one was prouder than Norwood.

“For over 30 years I have had the opportunity to see this great event played on some of the finest courses in the United States,” said Norwood, whose career as UALR coach included 13 years in which he headed the men’s and women’s programs. “I felt the state of Arkansas deserved a chance to host the Southern Amateur, and what better place than Little Rock and Chenal Country Club.”

Chenal, which played host to the 2007 Southern Junior, went beyond what most would expect from an amateur tournament. Norwood got the ball rolling to bring the championship here, but the staff and members at Chenal, the volunteers – more than I’ve ever seen at an amateur event – the Little Rock area, and the state kept that ball going.

Here’s something I’ve never seen in some 30 years of covering some of the best amateur events in the country: Two weeks before the start of this year’s Southern Am, Chenal completely closed the Bear Den Course to play. (Members were able to play the club’s adjacent Founders Course.)

“We wanted to make sure the golf course was in the best condition possible for the tournament,” said Aaron Dawson, Chenal’s general manager. “I think we were able to do that.”

No doubt about it.

“We have not gone to many golf courses that have been in this good of shape,” McCarty said. “And, as far as the membership, volunteers, support, etc., (Chenal) has maybe been the best we’ve ever experienced.”

For Norwood, it was his dream come true. For all those involved with the event, it was mission accomplished.

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