Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Backroads Road Trip

I've had an urge for about a year now to take off on a backroads road trip, hitting all the little 9-holers and small-town semiprivate golf clubs I stumble across, staying at cheap motels that have in-the-office coffee shops and eating at each little town's Bluebonnet Cafe.

The urge struck me last year when Mrs. McDuff and I were on a road trip of a different kind. We were visiting a couple of golf resorts - one in East Texas and one in western Louisiana. I was on assignment, and my wife doesn't play golf, so our time at the resorts was brief. We'then headed to Jefferson for a few days of R&R before heading home.

It was good trip, but the drive home was long and painful. Painful because we were traveling on a lot of 2-lane highways past small-town golf courses and my clubs were rattling in the back. I felt a physical urge every time we passed a track or drove through a town that I knew had a golf course - starting with Jefferson itself, and Henderson and Jacksonville and countless other towns along the way.

I knew then that I would have to take off on my own, clubs in the back, dog-eared copy of the Texas Golf Bible on the seat beside me, on a backroads golf trip. How many small-town 9-holers could I fit into, say, a 5-day trip that led from my front door, in a big circle back around?

A lot, and it doesn't matter which direction I started in. There are more than 1,000 golf courses in Texas. Just start driving, and I'll bump into them.

That's the goal. It hasn't happened yet. But it will.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Tight Lies Tour Adding Winter Series

The Texas-based Tight Lies Tour, one of the best mini-tours in the country, is adding a winter series for golfers who want to play all year long (or need a place to play while their regular tour is on winter hiatus).

The Tight Lies Tour Winter Series will consist of 12 events played from November through February, all at courses in the Greater Houston area. Each will have a 36-hole cut.

Check out the details on the Tight Lies Tour website.

Does Texas Golf Blog Need a New Look?

When Hooked on Golf Blog posted a note to let its readers know about Texas Golf, they included this comment: "Lets get them a new blogger template!"

We've since decided HOGB was probably right. The current Blogger template we use isn't the most attractive or easiest to read. So we'd like to ask our readers for feedback: If we change formats, which Blogger template should we switch to?

We don't know enough about blog technology or design to try switching to a Moveable Type or Typepad blog, so we're definitely sticking with Blogger for now. So if you've seen another blog that uses Blogger (blogs that have "blogspot" in their URLs use Blogger templates), and you like the design and think it would work better for Texas Golf, please post a note in comments with the URL, or drop us a line.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Message from Arnold Palmer

One of the (many) charitable efforts in which Arnold Palmer is involved is prostate-cancer research. Palmer is the honorary chairman of an organization called Arnie's Army Battles Prostate Cancer, which raises money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

We recently received an email from Arnie's Army that included a request to pass along to our readers a message from Arnie himself. Mr. Palmer's organization is seeking local volunteers to organize one-day, closest-to-the-pin competitions at local golf clubs as a fund-raising method. Check out Arnie's message:

Fellow Golfers, Golf Pros, Survivors and Supporters,

In the time it takes to play a round of golf, 18 men will lose their lives to prostate cancer.

As the Honorary Chairman of Arnie’s Army Battles Prostate Cancer and a prostate cancer survivor, I am asking for your help.

Our program is about raising funds to find a cure. Funds raised go directly to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropic source of support for prostate cancer research. Since its inception, PCF has raised over $210 million dollars and funded over 1,200 research projects.

The easiest way to help is to schedule a one-day, one-hole, closest-to-the-pin contest at your golf club. My colleagues will supply the support materials and send a golf prize for the winner. Currently it's a $200 MacGregor V-foil putter!

You can also incorporate the one-hole contest into a pre-scheduled charity, group or
corporate outing.

On a grander scale, committed individuals are organizing local fundraising “golf days” complete with hole sponsorships, silent auctions, advertising and a host of other exciting and creative ways to fundraise. A small group of committed individuals at an Arizona retirement community recently raised over $40,000! My hat is off to them!

Please join our campaign and take action in the following ways:

  • Call my colleagues at Arnie’s Army today to discuss how you can help.
  • Call your golf pro or golf committee chairman and tell them you want to hold a contest. Then advise us how to follow-up.
  • Or simply refer us to the contact at your club. We’ll take it from there.

Thank you, in advance, for your assistance and helping us in any way to find a cure for this insidious disease.

Yours truly,

Arnold Palmer
http://www.arniesarmybattles.com/

P.S. Please call Arnie’s Army at 866-586-5585.

Monday, June 27, 2005

New Blog: Austin Course Conditions

Don't you hate it when you show up to play a course, pay your money, tee off and discover at the first green that the greens have just been aerated? Or nobody in the pro shop told you, as they were taking your money, that the greens have been sanded or overseeded, or that two of the par-5s are playing as par-3s today due to construction?

Sure you do. We all do. There's a brand new blog that aims to help Austin golfers keep track of which courses are in the best shape ... and which aren't. It's called Austin Golf Course Conditions. Like we said, it's brand new so there's not much there yet. But it could turn out to be a great resource for Austin golfers.

Time for the USGA to Ease Up a Bit

Congrats to Brittany Lang of McKinney on her U.S. Women's Open showing. The Duke sophomore tied for second with Morgan Pressel behind Birdie Kim.

I've never been one to complain about the way the USGA sets up courses for its Opens. I think the best golfers in the world should be challenged, and I enjoy seeing a tournament where par rather than 25-under might be the winning score.

But I'm starting to think the USGA is going just a little overboard. Not so much in the overall difficulty of its course setups, but rather in the difficulty of the holes on the final day, and particularly down the stretch.

Think about what happened at Pinehurst a couple weeks ago for the men's Open, and what happened this past weekend at Cherry Hills for the women's Open. What we saw in both cases was great golfers sliding backwards all day. Again, I don't mind watching great golfers struggle with an extremely difficult course. But this is what I'd like to see: a few birdies down the stretch to win a tournament.

Augusta puts its pins in birdie positions on the final day of the Masters because they want to see charges down the stretch. At the U.S. Opens, a charge down the stretch is a bogey instead of a double-bogey, or a fluke chip-in on the final hole for the only birdie all day on that hole.

The USGA could have made the Women's Open more exciting by moving the tees up on the par-5 17th to give players the thought of going for the green in two; or by moving the pin to the back of the No. 18 green so some players might actually have a shot at a well-earned birdie.

Keep it tough, keep it challening, keep par as your ideal score. But create a few holes for the final round where birdie is a realistic possibility down the stretch.

"People vs. the Pros" at Barton Creek

The 2005 version of the "People vs. the Pros" golf extravaganza - you know, the one where two regular guys earn the right to face off against two touring pros in a nationally televised finale - is being played at Austin's Barton Creek this year. Make it to the finals and beat the pro and you win $100,000; even if you lose to the pro, you still get $50,000.

The pros this year are Justin Leonard and Ben Crenshaw. Before you can play one of those guys, you have to win a 54-hole final qualifier in September. So how do you get into that qualifier?

There are four ways: find a local qualifier and play your way in; buy a guaranteed spot; buy a VIP package; or enter (and win) a sweepstakes.

For most of us, given those choices, that means entering the sweepstakes! You can check out the tournament and send in your sweepstakes entry at the 2005 PVP website.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

El Paso's "Phenom"

Here's a cute story in the El Paso Times about Tye Beall, whom the paper calls "El Paso's 13-year-old golf phenom." Beall just returned from DFW, where he won - by 10 strokes - the 49th International Texas-Oklahoma Junior Golf Tournament.

Beall says, "The trophy is huge. It barely fits in the car." Keep it up, kid, and someday you might get checks that barely fit in the car.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Texans Shine So Far at U.S. Women's Open

brittany langWell, look at that: Just a few days after posting about Texans on the LPGA Tour - and how there isn't much to get excited about - a pair of Texans shared the first-day lead at the U.S. Women's Open.

That would be Angela Stanford and Brittany Lang. Stanford most golf fans know - the University of Texas grad who was part of the memorable 3-way playoff at the 2003 U.S. Women's Open (the one eventually won by Hilary Lunke).

Lang might be an unknown for most fans. But she won't be unknown for long. She's the real deal, and likely to turn pro soon. For now, she's still an amateur, but one of the best around. Lang was a great junior player growing up in McKinney, and now she's a great collegiate player for the NCAA women's powerhouse Duke.

Lang was named NCAA Freshman of the Year following a 2004 season in which she won three times. And she's won three more college tournaments this year.

Keep an eye on Lang. She plans to enter the next LPGA Qualifying Tournament and she might well be a rising star on the LPGA by next season.

(Photo of Brittany Lang courtesy of Duke Athletics)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Wie on the PGA

On the PGA Tour website, actually. PGATour.com re-launched a couple days ago with a new design (whether it is improved or not will take some time to tell). One of the interesting things I've stumbled across so far is that there is a Michelle Wie stats/results page on PGATour.com. This is interesting because the LPGA does not yet include Wie amongst its player bio pages (because she is not an LPGA member). So the PGA Tour might actually be more forward-looking on the subject of Wie than the LPGA.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Mind Over Matter

Sports psychologists have been the rage among tour players for a couple decades now. It's rare to find any tour player these days who does not work with a sports psychologist.

One of the best happens to be based in Texas. At the Westin La Cantera Resort & Spa in San Antonio, to be exact (it's just a coincidence that this is my second post in a row about La Cantera - a note about the academy's good doctor happened to hit my in-box this morning).

That would be Dr. David Cook, who runs his "Mindset Academy" from The Academy at La Cantera. Cook's next "Mindset Seminar," a shorter version of the Mindset Academy, takes place this Saturday, June 25 (and again on July 30, Aug. 27, Oct. 1 and Oct. 22).

Dr. Cook is very well known in the San Antonio area because he used to work with the San Antonio Spurs. He's also worked with the Washington Wizards in the NBA. In 2004, Golf Digest ranked him among the “Top 10 Mental Side Experts” in golf. Dr. Cook works with many PGA Tour players, including Stan Utley, Paul Stankowski, Matt Gogel, Tom Pernice, Pat Bates and Steve Lowery. He's been a featured speaker at two National PGA Teaching and Coaching Summits, he's appeared on The Golf Channel, and he's written articles for Golf Magazine, Golf Illustrated and Golf Tips.

In other words, the guy knows his stuff.

The Mindset Academy is a multi-day experience geared to companies and corporations. The Mindset Seminar is a condensed version intended to be of greater use to individual golfers. Here's how La Cantera touts the Mindset Seminar:

"Mindset Seminar is a comprehensive mental game improvement program that has been experienced by more than five thousand PGA golf professionals across the country and over 100 PGA TOUR players. The seminar has one purpose: to improve your competitive play. Topics include cutting edge training in the areas of mental toughness, confidence, concentration, pressure management, course management, practice management, etc. This 2.5 hour indoor program includes The Psychology of Tournament golf CD and a Mindset Workbook."


Anyone interested in taking advantage of Dr. Cook's mental game expertise can call The Academy at La Cantera at (210) 558-5500 or (888) 603-4653.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Top 50 Courses for Women

The latest issue of Golf For Women magazine includes the publication's annual "Top 50 Courses for Women" rankings. There is only one Texas course on the list, and it's one that has appeared on every GFW list I've seen: The Resort Course at La Cantera in San Antonio. It's ranked at No. 40, and GFW says, "Built on an abandoned limestone quarry, this hilltop course offers great yardages and a variety of exciting holes (check out the 80-foot drop from the seventh tee to the fairway)."

A variety of exciting holes is, of course, an important factor in judging any golf course great. But what makes a golf course great for women? It used to be pretty simple: The fact that women were allowed to play, and could reserve any tee time they wanted, made a course a great course for women. Thankfully, the days in which women are restricted from courses or from the best tee times are mostly a thing of the past (alas, not completely).

So a welcoming atmosphere (including things such as a selection of women's clubs and apparel in the clubhouse pro shop) still matters.

More important, however, are those yardages. A golf course should offer tees that are appropriate for recreational women golfers, for whom distance is often the biggest challenge. And if not distance, then carry: Annika Sorenstam can bomb a drive way past most men golfers, but most recreational women golfers don't generate the clubhead speed necessary to deal with a lot of forced carries. Getting the ball up in the air is an issue for many higher-handicapped women.

So, two keys: Make sure a realistic distance for higher-handicapped women is available, and don't throw a bunch of forced carries out there off the tee or in front of the greens. Give those players (whether women or men) whose ball flight is shallow and includes a good deal of roll the chance to run shots up to the green.

And for goodness' sakes, get more than one set of tees rated for women. It's very frustrating for low-handicap women to tee off from the middle tees only to discover that the golf course has rated only the forward tees for women.

Texans at the U.S. Open

Following up my earlier post about how the Texans were faring at the U.S. Open, here's how things wound up:

Bob Estes was the highest finisher about the Lone Star boys, shooting a final-round 70 to earn an 11th-place tie (8-over par). Justin Leonard was 23rd at 10-over and Chad Campbell 42nd at 13-over. There's your Top 3.

Expect Leonard, at least, to do better at the next major, the British Open. Leonard was won one Open Championship and lost in a playoff in another. He's a great wind player and the run-up conditions at Open courses suit his flat swing.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Tripping

In my previous note, I remarked that I've never understood why Trip Kuehne hasn't attempted to make it on the PGA Tour. He's retained his amateur status all this years, but he's probably the best golfer in the Kuehne family these days. Here's an article about Trip that goes into the issue. What it seems to come down to: He's making lots of money already, and he doesn't want to work that hard.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Tough Going for Top Texans at U.S. Open

The top 3 on my list of best Texans currently on Tour (posted a while back - look through the archives) were Chad Campbell, Justin Leonard and Scott Verplank. How are our best hopes for U.S. Open victory doing at the halfway point? Not so good.

Justin Leonard is tied for 57th at 7-over par, although he did much better Saturday than on Friday, improving from a 76 to a 71. Chad Campbell made it to the weekend right on the cutline, at +8 (77-71). And Scott Verplank is heading home for the weekend at 10-over (76-74).

First-round co-leader Brandt Jobe, a native Oklahoman now living in DFW, is tied for 10th after the second round at 1-over. Texan Bob Estes has posted two solid rounds, 70 and 73, and is tied for 20th at 3-over.

I was disappointed to see Trip Kuehne miss the cut at 10-over. I'm not sure why Trip has never tried to go pro. He's probably the best golfer in the Kuehne family these days.

The full scoreboard is here.

"When It's Breezy, Swing Easy"

Texas golf great Kathy Whitworth does a Q&A column in Golf Fore Women magazine every magazine. One of the questions she answers in the most recent installment is about playing golf in windy conditions. Kathy says this:

... heed an old golf cliché: When it's breezy, swing easy. Why? Into the wind, the harder you swing, the higher the ball will fly; the breeze will catch it and you'll lose distance. Downwind, the ball will come off the club lower and faster and you'll have less control on shots into the greens.

Growing up in Corpus Christi, I played in wind that would knock you over if you weren't braced for it. And I can tell you that I always tried to hit the ball harder into the wind, or into a crosswind. It's the intuitive thing to do. According to Kathy, it's the wrong thing to do.

Read her full reply here.

Aces in the Hole

Why is it that stuff like this nevers happens to people I know? Like, say, me. I mean, I live a good life, I give a lot back to the game, don't I deserve to make two aces in the same round?

I'd settle for any ace in any round, actually, because I've never made a hole-in-one. I thought I'd made one once - watching from the tee, the ball rolled straight at the hole and seemed to drop into the cup. Actually, it had only rolled into the shadow of the flagstick, but I had started hopping around the tee box - shouting "it's in the hole! it's in the hole!" - before I realized that. My golf buddies still tease me about that "Bogey shuffle."

Anyway, the gist of the story linked above: Earlier this week, 16-year-old Chase Williams of Aledo, playing the Hawks Creek Golf Club in Fort Worth, made two holes-in-one in the same round.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

New Blog About Golf, Texas and Otherwise

More and more newspapers are discovering the power of blogs to attract readers to their websites. The San Antonio Express-News is among them, and has recently added a new golf blog. It's written by the E-N's excellent golf writer, Richard Oliver, and cutely named Oliver's Twist. Oliver writes about local and national golf, including the Tour events he covers for the newspaper. Unfortunately, Oliver's Twist is hidden behind a registration wall, but if you already have an ID with mysa.com (or are willing to register), check it out.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"Donald Ross Greens?" Not So Fast

One thing you'll hear a lot of this week during the U.S. Open is the phrase "Donald Ross greens." Ross, of course, is one of the greatest of the old masters of golf course architecture, and he is responsible for the gem that is Pinehurst No. 2.

And Pinehurst No. 2 has some of the most famous - or infamous, depending on who you're talking to - greens in the world. They are often called "turtleback" greens. Nick Faldo (and many others) say they are like "upside-down saucers," highest in the middle, sloping down to edges that fall off into chipping areas. So while many of No. 2's greens are huge, the area into which you can place your approach and expect to hold the green might be tiny.

"Donald Ross greens." But here's a little secret: Donald Ross probably wouldn't recognize or like these greens. Ron Whitten, the great golf course architecture writer for Golf Digest, spilled the beans in GD's U.S. Open preview issue. Whitten looked at schematics of the original greens, historical photos, and spoke to old-timers. And what he discovered is that the original greens designed by Ross weren't turtlebacks at all.

Whitten's article begins like this:


Pinehurst No. 2 has the greatest set of greens in all of golf.

They're the epitome of what generations of Donald Ross fans have called the crowning achievement of the legendary golf architect, a one-of-a-kind set of crowned greens that slope in every direction, with roll-offs that propel balls down into closely mowed chipping swales.

Pinehurst's greens are turtlebacks. They look wide but play narrow. They're less about putting than they are about hitting a perfect approach shot, or an outstanding recovery shot, to an ideal spot, regardless of where the flag is.

Green for green, there are none more challenging than those at Pinehurst No. 2.

And they're nothing like Donald Ross intended. Not in size, not in slope, and certainly not in speed. Not even in the shapes of the bunkers that guard them.

It's a great read. Go check it out.

(Note: Photo courtesy of About.com Golf.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Texas State Amateur

The Texas State Amateur finished up last weekend:

Austin, TX: The finish of the 2005 Texas State Amateur Championship couldn’t have been scripted any better, at least for the gallery around 18 green - and especially for Kevin Schultz. Knowing he had to make birdie on the final hole to
win, Schultz, of Richardson, hit his approach shot on the par five 18th hole to within ten feet of the hole. He then sank the birdie putt to claim the championship and have his name etched on the H.L. Edwards trophy.

For the full story, visit the Championships section of the Texas Golf Association website. Also note that the Texas Publinx is coming up June 23-26 at Blackhorse in Houston. Info also available on the TGA site.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Texas' Best Women Golfers

We posted a while back our list of the best Texans on the PGA Tour. While I was watching the phenomenal Annika Sorenstam - and the phenomenal-in-her-own-way Michelle Wie - over the weekend, I started wondering who the best Texans on the LPGA Tour are right now.

So I put together a list. The pickings are pretty slim, alas, for Texans on the LPGA Tour these days. But here's how I rank the top 5 at the time of this writing:

1. Wendy Ward
2. Dorothy Delasin
3. Angela Stanford
4. Jamie Hullett
5. Kelli Kuehne

Ward is solid and sometimes better than that; Delasin and Stanford are above-average; Hullett and Kuehne are journeymen (or is it journeywomen?).

The all-time list of Texans on the LPGA is much more impressive. I rank them like this:

1. Kathy Whitworth
2. Babe Didrikson Zaharias
3. Sandra Haynie
4. Sandra Palmer
5. Betty Jameson

That's just the list of natives. If you include non-natives who have become strongly identified with Texas, then Carol Mann and Judy Rankin come into the picture.

What about Nancy Lopez? I'm not sure how to classify her. She's not a native (born in California) and she's not a resident (lives in Georgia). But she did spend some teen years in Houston, and that's where she was living (and was identified with) at the time of her greatest fame. Maybe we can consider Lopez and honorary Texan.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

A Texas Golf Great You've Never Heard Of

I was leafing through the LPGA Tour media guide when I ran across the entry for Bettye Danoff. I knew the name - she was one of the 13 founding members of the LPGA - but didn't know much else about her. I'd guess that 90 percent of golf fans out there have never heard of her.

She was born in Dallas in 1923, and currently lives in DeSoto. And she had some pretty remarkable accomplishments. "Remarkable" in the sense that some of her accomplishments were great, and "remarkable" in the sense that some of her accomplishments were, well, worth remarking upon! What do we mean? Check this out:

In 1962, Danoff made an ace at the LPGA Austin Civitan tournament ... and got a case of beer for it! Ah, the good ol' days.

Some other remarkable stuff about Danoff:

  • She was one of the first mothers to travel with her kids on the LPGA Tour.
  • She was the first grandmother to play on the tour.
  • When she won the 1947 Texas Open, she ended Babe Didrikson Zaharias' streak of 17 tournament victories in a row.
Combine with her role in founding the LPGA, and "remarkable" truly fits Bettye Danoff, one of the greatest Texas golfers you've never heard of.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Birdie Kisses

A few days ago me and buddy headed out to the course. On the first tee, we were paired up with another twosome, and man and a woman. They were together, but weren't a couple - just coworkers who enjoyed playing golf together. Both were in their 50s. The woman was an old golf broad. You know the type. Weathered from too much time in the sun on the golf course; big gray hair; loud, and smelling slightly of beer. An old golf broad.

None of us got off to a particularly good start. I was easily the best player in the group, but wasn't making anything. Finally, after 8 holes, someone makes a birdie. And it's the old golf broad. When the putt falls, she yells out, "Birdie kisses!" And she and her coworker/golf buddy exchange a kiss on the lips.

Hmm, that's interesting, I thought. Then the old golf broad walked over to my friend. Smack on the lips. Hmm, that's interesting, I thought ... that's kind of strange ... that's ... wait, is she coming after me now? She was! It was like a car wreck - everything in slow motion. She appeared like the runners on the beach in "Chariots of Fire" as she got closer to me. And then, smack, a birdie kiss (complete with sweaty upper lip and Banana Boat scent).

I spent the rest of the round intentionally misreading putts.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Another Lake Charles Destination

I've been meaning to post about this for a few weeks and keep neglecting to do so. Today I stumbled across my note to myself again, and this time I'm doing it before I forget.

Lake Charles, La., is a popular destination for Texans, especially East Texans, for its casinos. There are a couple great golf courses in the area, too: Grey Plantation on the south side of the city, and Koasati Pines in Kinder about 20 miles north (Koasati Pines is part of the Grand Coushatta Casino family). (I think Koasati Pines is the better of the two, but Grey Plantation is the one that gets most of the national acclaim.)

Now there's a new casino and golf course in Lake Charles. L'Auberge du Loc Hotel & Casino opened about a month ago. From the looks of it on its website, the hotel and casino are a bit more upper crust than Grand Coushatta and other casinos in the Lake Charles area.

One of the amenities offered by the hotel/casino is a golf course called Contraband Bayou Golf Club. Its calling card is that it was designed by Tom Fazio, and it is built on what was once marshland. If it's like most Fazio-dezigned resort courses, it will have wide fairways and large greens to acommodate us resort hackers. With the Fazio name attached, you know it will be pretty and in great shape.

If you've already visited L'Auberge du Loc, post a note in the comments and let us know what you thought of the place.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Woman Dies after Being Thrown from Golf Cart; Husband Charged with Manslaughter

Another cautionary tale about golf course safety. Or in this case, golf cart safety.

A husband and wife were driving along neighborhood streets in their golf cart, returning home after a round of golf at a Sugar Land country club. The husband, driving, made a sharp turn and his wife was thrown from the cart. She hit her head on the pavement and later died as a result of the injury. When police arrived, they gave the husband a sobriety test and he failed.

The man is being charged with intoxication manslaughter. The story is here.

Let's be careful out there. Don't drink and drive, even if it's only a golf cart you're driving.

Monday, June 06, 2005

RIP, Bunker Mulligan

Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of Bunker Mulligan (of www.bunkermulligan.net), who passed away after suffering a heart attack several days ago. I didn't have a chance to take up Bunker on his offer to play golf at NorthShore in Portland, but I'll surely play a round there in his honor soon. As a relatively recent joiner of the ranks of bloggers, I didn't have a chance to get to know Bunker very well, but he was very kind in linking to Texas Golf early on, in dropping me some encouraging emails, and in posting some insightful comments here. Of course, insightful comments are what his own blog was all about.

RIP, Bunker Mulligan.

From the family's post about his passing, funeral arrangements:

Bunker will be laid to rest on Friday, 10 June, at the San Antonio National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, we request any memorials for him be made to Homes For Our Troops. Further information can be found at www.homesforourtroops.org.

Deadline Approaching for Texas Golf Blog Classic

The registration deadline is nearing for the Texas Golf Blog Classic, part of the Lone Star Series of the National Golf Tour. The tournament will be played on June 13 at Barton Creek Resort (Palmer Lakeside Course) in Austin.

The National Golf Tour is a developmental circuit for aspiring tour pros, head and assistant professionals, collegiate and other top amateurs. Entry fee for the Texas Golf Blog Classic is $320. Payouts are determined by the number of entries, but with a minimum of just 25 golfers the tournament purse is a guaranteed $5,000. The 2005 NGT national champion receives entry into the 2006 PGA Tour Qualifying School.

If you are interested in playing in Austin, visit www.nationalgolftour.com for more details or to register; or call 214-460-9914.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Hill Country's New Nine

Hill Country Golf Club, part of the Hyatt Hill Country Resort in San Antonio, has added nine new holes to its existing 18. The new nine opened in early May, and I had a chance to play the new layout last week.

Verdict: Bravo!

The Hyatt course now has three nines called, respectively, the Lakes Nine, Creeks Nine and Oaks Nine. The nine new holes do not make up one of the nines, however; seven of the new holes are incorporated into the Creeks Nine, and the remaining two are part of the Lakes Nine.

If you've played the Hyatt Hill Country before, the Oaks Nine is the former back nine, unchanged. The two best holes at the Hyatt were the former Nos. 5 and 8 which are now, respectively, Nos. 3 and 6 on the Lakes Nine.

Those are still the best two holes on the course, but they get some competition from several of the new holes (the new holes were designed by Arthur Hills, artchitect of the original 18, and some re-jiggering of the former front nine was necessary so that all three of the new nines would begin and end at the clubhouse).

Most of the new holes are on the Creeks Nine, and several of them are short, risk-reward par-4s. No. 2 is 344 yards from the tips and is pretty much straight-away, a nice birdie opportunity. The fourth hole of the Creeks is a great one, a 538 par-5 whose green is tucked behind a pond that features a rock-wall face. Going for this one in two takes guts. A layup to the left on your approach takes the water out of play, but brings a deep front bunker into play.

The sixth hole is only 301 yards from the blacks (it was playing only 244 yards from the blues on the day we played it), but it's not easy. Sure, you can try to drive the green, but to do so you'll have to carry some tall oaks on the left of the fairway, plus a creek, to reach the elevated green. The trees are only about 50 yards in front of the green. Most will want to play to the left, where the creek is a much shorter carry. The fairway, taking this route, doglegs about 70 degrees to the right for a short approach.

The seventh is another winner among the new holes, a strong dogleg left with a wide, rocky creekbed down the entire left side until the green appears. The creek then cuts in front of the green, which sits on a tiny ledge behind the creekbed (a rock wall fronts the green as well). It's a tricky approach to a very shallow green.

The new holes are, in short, a terrific addition. I've always thought the Hyatt Hill Country to be the most underrated course in San Antonio. The locals aren't crazy about it because, to be blunt, it's not an easy course. It's one of the tighter, more challenging courses in San Antonio - yet it also contains about a half-dozen short, risk-reward par-4s that are a ton of fun. And also what is quite possibly the best par-5 in the Alamo City. If you are "long and wrong," you might not enjoy the Hyatt course. If you enjoy a challenge, this course is for you.

Either way, it costs around $135 to play (unless you are staying at the resort), which might also explain why it doesn't get as much local traffic!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Fawning Over Deer

White-tailed deer are a staple of Texas wildlife, especially in the Hill Country where the population is "one of the highest naturally occurring densities of white-tailed deer in the world." Golfers usually love catching glimpses of deer on golf courses, in the brush around the holes or even scampering across a fairway. It's not an unusual site on golf courses located out in the country.

The Kerrville Daily News reports that now is the time of year when does are dropping their fawns, and the article contains come good info on what to do if you come across a fawn that appears to have been left all alone: nothing.

“The majority of doe deer will have twin fawns. A doe will try to hide fawns while feeding nearby.“If danger appears, she will run away in an effort to lure the cause of danger away,” he said. “The fawn’s spotted pattern and lack of scent assist in keeping it safe.”

Where this doesn’t work so well is when the approaching danger is human.“Humans happen across single fawns and incorrectly judge them as abandoned,” Kasberg said.

“Although she may not be seen, the doe is usually nearby. The best procedure is to walk away from the fawn. If the doe is capable, she will return and continue nursing the fawn through weaning.”

The folks at Scott Schreiner Municipal Golf Course in Kerrville often run across fawns left in the middle of the fairway at this time of year:

“(The does) bring the fawns out on the course, then come and get them about noon and bring them back into the brush,” Cullins said.

“We tell the golfers to leave them alone. Usually the moms have told the fawns not to move.”When a fawn is lying on the course, maintenance staff sometimes put a traffic cone on the fairway “just so nobody runs over it,” Cullins said.

So remember: If you see a baby deer on or around the golf course, look but don't touch.

It Runs in the Blackmar Family

Great golf, that is. The Corpus Christi Blackmars are led by Phil Blackmar, a 3-time winner on the PGA Tour. Phil's father, Fred, was a legendary club professional and teacher for decades in Corpus Christi, based at Gulf Winds Golf Course on the Naval Air Station base.

And then there's Carol Blackmar, Phil's wife, who just keeps racking up city titles. She's the women's golf coach at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi now, and she recently won her ninth Women's City Match Play championship. Carol has won quite a few city stroke-place titles, too. In fact, she's dominated women's golf in Corpus Christi for about 20 years now.

Is there any question that the next generation of Blackmars will be winning titles on the links?

Play with SWC Coaching Legends in Burnet

The old Southwest Conference is gone but not forgotten in Texas. Although its teams scattered to the Big 12, WAC, Conference USA and other conferences, the football glories of the SWC are still celebrated. (The SWC, with Texas and Houston, was also one of the dominant golf conferences in the U.S.)

In August, four coaching legends whose careers started (and in some cases ended) in the SWC will help raise money for children's medical care in Burnet and Llano counties by taking part in the Emory Bellard-Spike Dykes Kid's Care-A-Van Classic.

If you guessed that Emory Bellard (Texas A&M; he also invented the wishbone while coaching at the Texas high school level) and Spike Dykes (Texas Tech) are two of the coaches, good eye! It's the second year that Bellard and Dykes have teamed up to host this tournament, which will be played at Delaware Springs in Burnet on Aug. 6. It benefits the "Care-a-Van," "a specially equipped recreational vehicle featuring exam rooms and an immunization area" according to the Marble Falls newspaper.

The day before the tournament, a "tailgate party" is held and two more coaching legends - including the biggest (in Texas, at least) of them all - will be auctioned off. Those coaches are Darrel Royal (Texas) and R.C. Slocum (Texas A&M).

You can read the article to learn more about the event. Or, if you already know you want to play, call 512-715-3004.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Radio Silence

Just a quick note to apologize for the dearth of posts over the past few days. Unlike most instances in my life where I fail to meet a daily goal, this can't be blamed on laziness. If only it could be. Alas, I've been battling a sudden and unexplained infestation of viruses. On my computer, not in my body. And my computer is in the shop right now (don't you hate it when you're reduced to having to turn to your wife's stuff?) getting cleaned up. I hope to get it back tomorrow, so regular posting will resume soon.