The fact that Payton has been able to build, and sustain, a program capable of attracting players like O'Neal, Dandridge and Roddy amazes many in college golf circles. In 10 years Payton's budget has risen to all of $5,000, excluding scholarships. The team drives to most events, sometimes 10 hours each way, in a borrowed van and usually bunks three to a room. Payton washes the team uniforms. By way of comparison, TCU has a $50,000 budget, while SMU, according to coach Hank Haney, "can spend whatever we need."
Payton's kids had no shortage of motivation, though. A year ago the Tigers won seven tournaments and felt they had earned an NCAA bid. The selection committee passed them over, saying they had played against soft competition. The snub was hard to swallow. This season Jackson State beefed up its schedule and played with a purpose.
"They deserved to be here as much as anybody. They're a class act and a team to be reckoned with," said Bill Montigel, the coach at TCU, which tied for eighth at Ann Arbor and advanced to the Honors Course.
"Jackson State has a great team and a really strong program." said Haney, whose Mustangs placed second. "They had a much better team than they showed here."
In the final analysis, the Tigers played poorly in the regional because they lacked not skill or determination but experience. Jackson State is still very much a work in progress. "The magnitude of the event caught up with us," Payton says. "We're just getting our feet wet in these circles. No way is this week the end of the world. It's just the beginning."
Walt Braddy can't wait to see the ending.