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State’s best in Hardscrabble spotlight

by Mitchell Gladstone | May 19, 2022 at 2:17 a.m.
Close-up of golf ball on grass - golf tile. / Photo credit: Getty Images/iStock/Somchai Sookkasem / EyeEm

The pair of Perry Maxwell courses are separated by two hours.

One is Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, the site of this week's PGA Championship.

The other? Fort Smith's Hardscrabble Country Club, which will play host to the 107th Arkansas Amateur, starting this morning and concluding Saturday. This will be the first time in the event's history that the men's and women's championships will be played simultaneously, a change that will remain in place going forward.

It also marks Hardscrabble's first Arkansas Amateur since the rain-shortened 2013 edition when Wes McNulty went wire-to-wire and won by seven shots.

But McNulty will not be in the field this time around, withdrawing Tuesday because of a work conflict.

That leaves Tyler Reynolds, 28, of Rogers as one of the favorites in the 76-man field.

"I won the state match play last year [on top of winning the 2019 Amateur], but at this point, it's all about catching Wes," Reynolds said of tracking down McNulty, who has won a combined 13 state titles between stroke and match play. "He won his last at 52, 53 years old, so my goal is to [eventually] pass him."

The state amateur was slated to be played at Hardscrabble in 2020, but when it was postponed from its original May date due to covid-19, the championship moved to Hot Springs Country Club.

The par-70 course will play at approximately 6,700 yards for the men and 5,800 yards for the women. And similar to what the pros at Southern Hills will face, Arkansas State Golf Association Executive Director Jay Fox expects those taking on Hardscrabble to be challenged by the course's rolling hills and undulating greens.

Reynolds, a former University of Arkansas-Little Rock standout who's visited Hardscrabble more than 100 times, said there will be challenges off every tee with tight fairways throughout the 18 holes.

Other players on the men's side to keep an eye on include Cabot's Connor Gaunt -- a junior at LSU -- as well as Little Rock's Mitchell Ford -- who recently earned a spot in U.S. Open qualifying sectionals.

Ford's Henderson State teammate, Josh McNulty -- Wes' younger son -- could also be in the mix along with Hardscrabble members Gordy McKeown and Bryon Shumate.

The women's field will feature just six players and is likely to come down to one of three.

Hot Springs' Nora Phillips and Fort Smith's Tanna Richard will go off in the final pairing at 12:40 p.m. Thursday, with Russellville's Julie Oxendine just before them at 12:30.

"It's pretty cool that we're going to award identical trophies to the men and women for them to keep," Fox said. "It's symbolic of the first time we've played these championships together."

2022 Arkansas Amateur Championship

WHERE Hardscrabble Country Club, Fort Smith

WHEN Today through Saturday

FORMAT 54 holes of stroke play; separate championships for 76 men and six women; men’s field will be cut to top 40 and ties for Saturday’s final round

2021 CHAMPIONS Men: Luke Long, Fayetteville; Women: Lilly Thomas, Bentonville


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