Baylor golf’s Kaur and Keefer make history with Arnold Palmer Cup selection

Junior golfer Johnny Keefer and fifth-year senior Gurleen Kaur will both represent Baylor in the annual Arnold Palmer Cup. Photo illustration courtesy of Brittany Tankersley

By Michael Haag | Sports Writer

The prestigious Arnold Palmer Cup unifies elite collegiate talent across the nation year in and year out. As announced on April 19, Baylor golf will be represented in a historic way across both the men’s and women’s programs, with junior golfer Johnny Keefer and fifth-year senior Gurleen Kaur both making the cut in the same year.

Keefer became the fourth Baylor male to receive the honor, while Kaur is the first Baylor women’s golfer to ever accomplish the feat. The Switzerland-bound Bears are the first Palmer Cup duo in program history, demonstrating the current state of the Baylor golf program.

“It’s amazing to see Baylor represented in that light,” sophomore golfer Britta Snyder said. “It’s great for other schools to know, ‘Hey, we’re a powerhouse school for golf and we can be able to compete at that level.’ It’s so exciting to be able to watch a teammate go out there and compete at such a high level.”

Being selected to major events feels almost routine for Kaur, as she is not far removed from participating in the Chevron Championship as part of the LPGA Tour. The Houston native said “it felt really good” to be named to the Palmer Cup because she had been close before, but to add that to her endless list of events in her final year was the icing on the cake.

“To finally get it my senior year, it was really satisfying and rewarding,” Kaur said. “I’m excited to go to Switzerland.”

While honored to make the cut, Kaur wasn’t surprised. Due to her keeping up with the rankings, she knew she’d be a shoo-in selection.

“I was anticipating that I would get in based on automatic selection because I was in the top six for automatic,” Kaur said. “It wasn’t like a captain’s pick or anything like that, so I kind of expected that I was going to get in.”

Someone who’s watched the fifth-year senior every step of the way is head coach Jay Goble, who has seen the impact Kaur’s had since her freshman year. Goble said “She’s done a lot for Baylor” and that she “deserves everything she gets” due to her work ethic.

“Gurleen is probably the best golfer we’ve ever had in this program,” Goble said. “[She’s] the career leader in scoring average [and] is going to have the most rounds in school history. She’s done a lot for Baylor. It’s exciting to see her hard work and everything that she’s put into her game and to this school to represent us on that big of a stage is really amazing. She deserves everything she gets because nobody works harder. Nobody has more confidence in herself, nobody believes in themselves as much as Gurleen. It’s exciting for her to get that opportunity to go to Switzerland in July.”

Although she came close to making the cut a couple times, Kaur did not have her mind set on being selected to the Palmer Cup toward the beginning of the season. The future pro said it’s a great way to end her collegiate career, but she’s more set on attending Q-School in the fall.

With how many events Kaur has stacked up over the years, Goble has no doubt that she will be on the LPGA Tour one day. He knows her future is in good hands as she heads toward her dreams of turning pro.

“All these things are building confidence for her,” Goble said. “I see this all as stepping stones going into [her] first stage of Q-School, which [is] going to give her a lot of confidence to go in and get through and hopefully get her tour card for next year.”

On the other side, forced to work his way to the top of Baylor’s roster, it’s safe to say Keefer is right there on the throne. Making the Palmer Cup was huge for the aspiring pro, as Baylor men’s golf head coach Mike McGraw said, “You couldn’t wipe that smile off his face” after he was selected.

“It’s a great honor and validation for Johnny because he’s put a lot of hard work in,” McGraw said. “To actually see it rewarded … he wasn’t even a captain’s pick, he actually qualified; I think he was third on their rankings. That was a wonderful thing right there so it’s really nice to see, I know he’s excited. You couldn’t wipe that smile off his face for about a day and a half. He was so happy about the accomplishment.”

This triumph is huge for Keefer, as he echoed McGraw’s comments on how much the hard work has paid off for him. The San Antonio native was able to see a former teammate get the achievement and is proud to represent the country now.

“It’s really nice to see that hard work is rewarded, it was kind of just a little bit of validation,” Keefer said. “It’s a great honor, I’ve been hearing about this for the last few years, saw Cooper [Dossey] go to the Arnold Palmer Cup. It’s really cool, especially because I haven’t really been on a team in college that represents the U.S., so it’s a really big honor and I’m really excited.”

Regarding his future, getting to the PGA Tour is what Keefer wants more than anything. However, with eligibility left, the third-year golfer is prioritizing a degree paired with experience to achieve his dreams.

“I haven’t really thought out whether I’m going to stay the fifth year — I think I will. I kind of want to get a degree and finish school first and then kind of worry about that later,” Keefer said. “Hopefully, I play well enough to get on the PGA Tour U rankings and get some status. But if not, then I’ll probably go through Korn Ferry Q-School and maybe Canada Q-School. But hopefully I don’t have to do those and play well enough to earn some status through PGA Tour U.”

The accomplished golfer has his options open and will only grow through his experience in the Palmer Cup. McGraw and the program know Keefer will not only play well, but represent the green and gold the way it’s meant to be.

“It’s a wonderful honor for the school,” McGraw said. “But again, he’s always represented us well and we’re really proud of that and really excited that he’s getting that opportunity.”