Former Arkansas golf standout Lisa Cornwell counting her blessings

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Tuesday, April 9, 2019
Lisa Cornwell, former Fayetteville High School and Arkansas golfer and current Golf Channel anchor, speaks Tuesday, April 9, 2019, during a press conference to announce the details of the NCAA Men's and Women's Golf Nation Championship at Blessings Golf Club in Johnson.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Lisa Cornwell, former Fayetteville High School and Arkansas golfer and current Golf Channel anchor, speaks Tuesday, April 9, 2019, during a press conference to announce the details of the NCAA Men's and Women's Golf Nation Championship at Blessings Golf Club in Johnson.

— Former Fayetteville High and Arkansas golf standout and current Golf Network personality Lisa Cornwell was all smiles Tuesday at the Blessings Golf Course.

She was on hand for a press conference heralding the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Golf Championships, which will run May 17-29 at the course founded by Tyson Foods Chairman John H. “Johnny” Tyson. The women's tournament is May 17-22. The men will play May 24-29.

Cornwell, who was the first women's scholarship golfer at Arkansas after transferring home from SMU, has worked with the Golf Channel since Jan. 1, 2014 and was on the dias Tuesday with LPGA and former Arkansas player Stacy Lewis and current players Gabby Lopez and Maria Fassi.

“Sometimes when I complain about something, I look at myself and say, wait a minute, this is fantastic, a dream come true,” Cornwell said. “Not just to cover golf, but to incorporate anything with the University of Arkansas. I am so proud of it as you can tell.

“Whether they ask me about what is coming up here in a few weeks or about (Little Rock course) Alotian or something about Stacy or Gabby, I am just so proud of my state and my school and can’t wait to tell them about anything Arkansas.”

The two-week event will begin with a women’s practice round on Thursday, May 16 followed by four days of women’s stroke play. The event will end with Tuesday’s team match play quarterfinal and semifinals and Wednesday’s team match play championship.

The men will follow the same schedule the next week.

“I couldn’t be prouder of what Arkansas has done with its men’s and women’s golf programs and what Johnny has done with this course,” Cornwell said. “It’s beautiful and challenging and will look great on our network.”

Arkansas’ women are currently fifth nationally in Golfweek's rankings with Duke, USC, Stanford and Wake Forrest above them.

SEC teams Florida (7), Vanderbilt (8), South Carolina (13), Auburn (14), Alabama (25) are also ranked in the top 25.

Oklahoma State is the top-ranked men’s teams with SEC teams Vanderbilt (4), Georgia (11), LSU (12), South Carolina (13), Auburn (15) Alabama (26), Tennessee (27) and Arkansas (32), two spots behind Arkansas State.

“The level of college golf is so much better these days and that’s a big reason why we are so happy to have it on our network now,” Cornwell said. “The young kids these days are so good and we see that with the average age on the tours going down.”

Cornwell, now based in Orlando where the Golf Channel studios are located, was a three-time All-American junior golfer, a four-time Arkansas Women’s State Amateur champion - winning her first title at 14 - and won over 30 tournaments while playing golf for SMU and Arkansas.

She was a pre-law major at Arkansas before eventually coming back to school to get a minor in broadcast journalism.

“When I first got into broadcasting, I was kind of searching and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career,” Cornwell said. “I had stopped playing golf and it honestly felt like I had gone through a divorce because it had been all I wanted to do.

“I was just searching. I had some friends that worked in (Little Rock) television doing the weather and when I was around that environment, I felt like it was sort of that competition, deadlines, timelines, the energy so I gave it a shot.”

That began a career that started with stops in Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio.

“I was a sports anchor in Columbus, Mississippi, then Knoxville, then Cincinnati and then with the Big 10 Network,” Cornwell said. “I was so burned out with golf that I didn’t think I would ever want to do it again.

“But I started slowly playing golf again and I called my agent one day and he said, 'There may be something at the Golf Channel, do you want to take a look at it?’”

It has turned out to be all that Cornwell, who first started playing at age 5, could have hoped for during the past five-plus years.

“I work with wonderful people and cover a game that I fell back in love with,” Cornwell said. “It truly is a dream job.”

Cornwell, a cousin of former President Bill Clinton, is more interested in talking about golf with her fellow employees than politics.

“Most of them (co-workers) are my buddies and I treat them like the guys and girls that I grew up playing with,” Cornwell said. “…We have a great time talking about golf, things we agree on, things we disagree on. If I am going to debate something, I would rather it be golf than politics these days.”

She is amazed how Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas have changed during her lifetime.

“It is incredible,” Cornwell said. “Just look at where we are standing now. I never would have envisioned this when I was a teenager. To see it now, and not just the growth in Fayetteville, but the surrounding areas is amazing.

“I mostly care about Fayetteville, but I drive around when I am here and it is amazing. Not just socially, but I go up on campus and see the athletic facilities, people who live here now, it just brings them in.

“I was reading a magazine that said this is one of the top five places in the United States to live and I see that.”

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