This is Father’s Day weekend and it’s also a time to celebrate our state’s birthday. June is also traditionally a month for weddings and anniversaries.
I noticed this past week that June of 2020 was a time to celebrate the 42nd wedding anniversary of “The Jack Nicklaus of West Virginia,” former South Charleston and Marshall golfer Harold Payne. Payne and his wife, the former Phyllis Vecsey, were married in June of 1978.
Former Marshall golf coach Joe Feaganes coached many of the state’s best golfers when he coached at Marshall from 1972-2012. He often said that Payne was the best player he ever coached.
Payne graduated from South Charleston in 1973. He went on to be a two-time All-American at Marshall and played in three NCAA tournaments. In 1976, he led Marshall to a 17th-place finish at the NCAA championships.
Over the years, Payne became our state’s “Jack Nicklaus” as one of our most successful and impactful golf talents. From 1979-93, Payne won six West Virginia Amateurs and four West Virginia Open titles.
Many state golf fans may not realize that Payne was also an outstanding high school basketball point guard. He was a starting point guard for three straight seasons at South Charleston from 1971-73. He played his sophomore season for John McConihay and his junior and senior season for Bill Young.
Among his teammates on those teams were Billy Woolwine, Paul Tyler, Phil Ruddle, Wes Womack, Roger Woolwine, Dave Broyles and Tim Runyan.
Payne’s Black Eagles basketball teams had trouble advancing in the postseason as they were in a tough sectional with powerful Charleston High and Stonewall Jackson. In those days, if you lost once you were done in the tournament.
In that time period, South Charleston was in the Kanawha Valley Conference. There were enough schools that teams rarely needed to play a game outside of the county. There seemed to be great guards everywhere.
As a point guard, Payne went head to head with Charles “Dickie” Russell, Lowell Harris and Shan Phillips at Charleston High, Joey Holland, Billy Williams and Bruce Gresham at George Washington, Doug Spry and Ron Bernard at Dunbar, Joey Caruthers and Keith Hager at DuPont, Lanny Steed and Lester Weems at East Bank, Raymond Jordan and Bobby Dawson at Sissonville, Wendell Morrison of St. Albans and Raymond McClure at Stonewall Jackson.
n If you like sports history in our state, there is a new book called “The Black Athlete in West Virginia,” written by former Marshall professor Bob Barnett and former WVU professors Dana Brooks and Ronald Althouse.
There are stories of integrating the college programs across the state, and stories of teams and athletes from all-black schools such as Garnet and London in Kanawha County, Huntington Douglass, Williamson Liberty, Mullens Conley, Gary District and Kimball.
You can order it by calling Barnett at (941) 371-1572.