Earlier this week, one of our state’s all-time greatest golfers, Harold Payne, was in the headlines again. The South Charleston native who now lives in Putnam County won the prestigious State Senior Amateur Championship.
Payne continues to be an amazing story as he played championship golf not long after recuperating from pacemaker surgery. He has been a dominant player in our state for a long time. He started winning as a golfer at South Charleston High from 1971-73. When you watched him play and compete, you felt like you were watching the Jack Nicklaus of high school golf in our state. You could tell where he was playing by looking for the gallery of spectators that would follow him around.
Payne played at Marshall from 1974-77, helping the 1976 team to the 17th-place finish at the NCAA Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. His teammates in that tournament were Tim Starrett, Jay Guthrie, Jim Peet and Scott Davis. Greenbrier owner Jim Justice was a teammate of Payne in 1974. He’s in the Marshall Hall of Fame and longtime Herd golf coach Joe Feaganes considers him the finest player he ever coached.
Lost in his success in golf is the fact that Payne was also an outstanding high school basketball player at South Charleston from 1971-73. He was a three-year starter as the Black Eagles’ point guard and played with teammates such as Billy Woolwine, Wes Womack, Chip Stansbury, Paul Tyler, Tim Runyon and Phil Ruddle.
He played at a time when most teams in Kanawha County played their entire schedule without the county borders. There also was talent everywhere. As a sophomore he had go head to head with veteran guards such as Trippi Adams at George Washington, Lanny Steed and Minor Woods at East Bank and Ron Bernard at Dunbar. In Payne’s senior season of 1972-73, the Kanawha Valley was also loaded with outstanding guards. Here are some of the names.
Joey Caruthers: A star at DuPont, Caruthers led the Panthers to the Class AA state tournament in 1973. He went on to play for state native Sonny Allen at Old Dominion and helped lead the Monarchs to the NCAA Division II national title in 1975.
Bruce Gresham: Fred Aldridge had a team full of guards at GW. Gresham was a hard-nosed defensive player and unselfish offensive player.
Keith Hager: Hager teamed with Caruthers to give DuPont scoring punch in the backcourt in his junior season in 1973. He would go on to lead the Kanawha Valley Conference in scoring in 1974.
Lowell Harris: A sixth man who played a lot of minutes on the unbeaten state-champion 1973 Charleston High team, Harris would have been a starter for any other squad.
Joey Holland: Holland had a great career at GW. He was a sixth man as a sophomore on the 1971 team that won the AAA state championship and led the Patriots to the state tournament as a junior in 1972. He went on to play at Kentucky and played for the Wildcats in the loss to UCLA in the 1975 national championship game. That was also John Wooden’s last game as coach of the Bruins.
Wendell Morrison: A starter for three years as a guard for Tex Williams at St. Albans, Morrison was a junior in 1973. He went to Old Dominion to play for Sonny Allen and was on the 1975 NCAA Division II national title team.
Charles “Dickie” Russell: The senior point guard and floor leader for the state champions Mountain Lions, Russell ran the show for coach Lou Romano. He went on to play for Curt Price at West Virginia State.
Ameche Watson: A junior guard for the Mountain Lions in 1973, Watson played on the 1973 and ’74 teams that won back-to-back AAA state titles. He was a complete guard who went on to play at West Virginia Tech.
Billy Williams: An all-around athlete at GW, Williams played for the Patriots from 1972-74. He and Holland provided most of the scoring punch for the 1973 team. Williams was the leading scorer for the 1974 team was an all-tournament player at the state tournament.
Reach Frank Giardina at email@example.com.