Saturday, December 31, 2005

STPGA 2005 Awards

The Southern Texas PGA will have its annual meeting in San Antonio in a couple weeks, and the section will be handing out a boatload of awards for 2005.

The big ones are the sectionwide awards:

  • Professional of the Year: This year, it's Glenn Lee, director of golf at The Hills of Lakeway in Austin.
  • Harvey Penick Teacher of the Year: Jim Hardy, who designs courses with Peter Jacobsen but also is one of the most highly regarded instructors in America. Hardy released a very highly regarded book this year called The Plane Truth for Golfers.
  • Dick Forester Quarter Century Award: Ron Coville, head pro at Walden Golf Club in Montgomery
  • Junior Golf Leader: Steve Hammond, director of golf at Austin’s Jimmy Clay/Roy Kizer Golf Complex
  • Horton Smith Award: Cary Collins, San Antonio
  • Bill Strausbaugh Award: David Findlay, teaching professional at Humble’s Redstone Golf Club
  • Merchandisers of the Year: Miki Goodger, head golf professional at South Padre Island Golf Club in Laguna Vista (Resort Facility); Doug DeSive, head golf professional at Corpus Christi Country Club (Private Facility); and Jeff Strong, head golf professional at Mont Belvieu’s Eagle Pointe Golf Club (Public Facility)
  • Assistant Golf Professional of the Year: Matt Trevino, The Club at Sonterra in San Antonio
  • Amateur of the Year: Ron Kilby, McAllen
  • Junior Golfers of the Year: Eric Durbin, Houston, and Ginny Brown, Austin
  • Media/Public Relations Award: Harry Phillips, Houston
  • Player of the Year: Chip Craig, teaching professional at The Deerwood Club in Kingwood

In addition, the three chapters within the STPGA also name their own slate of award winners. For the complete rundown, including the chapter awards plus more information about the section awards, read the full story here.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Tournaments at Lajitas

There aren't many Texas golfers who get to play The Ambush at Lajitas. And that has more to do with cost than with the remoteness of the property along the Rio Grande. The Lajitas resort is one of the swankiest in the state, and most of us can't afford the few-hundred-dollars-a-night room rates, much less the three-figure green fees.

But there is a way to get in on some golf at The Ambush without having to stay at the resort. The Ambush has announced a series of 10 tournaments, open to resort guests and non-guests alike. The entry fees for non-guests are pricey, but it's still a cheaper option for golf than paying for both a room and a round.

The first tournament, Jefe's Fiesta, takes place Jan. 14-15 and is a two-person blind-draw scramble. Guest fee is $245. Hey, we said it was still pricey.

The Ambush, as we've mentioned before, is being renovated from a green, parkland course into a true desert golf course. Around 50,000 native desert plants are being added, among other changes.

The full schedule of 10 tournaments at The Ambush in 2006 can be found by browsing the resort's events schedule at www.lajitas.com/events.html.

Top 10 Stories in Central Texas

Doug Smith uses his weekly local golf column in the Austin American-Statesman to count down his picks for the 10 biggest stories of 2005 in Central Texas golf.

No. 1 is the PGA Tour victory of Wes Short Jr., a lifelong Austin resident who began work as a club pro in 1983. Go check out the full list.

(If you need a user name/password to access the AAS site, check out bugmenot.com.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Boot Ranch and the Louisiana Police Retirement System

Boot Ranch is the name of an upscale development outside of Fredericksburg, the centerpiece of which is supposed to be an ultra-exclusive golf club with membership limited to 300. The course and its surrounding neighborhood of million-dollar homes are being developed by the company of Louisiana native and Texas resident Hal Sutton.

We've written before about Boot Ranch here, here and here. Read those posts in that order to get some good background on the project and its role in the Municipal Police Employees Retirement Systems (MPERS) of Louisiana.

Here's the latest: an outside accounting firm was brought in to take a look at MPERS' finances, and what they discovered is that all three of the Hal Sutton golf developments in which Louisiana police employees' retirement funds are invested are, so far, losers.

Specifically about Boot Ranch, here is what was reported by the Baton Rouge newspaper, the Advocate:

The audit contains little information about the status of Boot Ranch – a 2,200-acre Texas golf resort for which MPERS guaranteed a $30-million line of credit, none of which has been repaid. A page in the report for detailing revenues and operating expenses lists only $5,470 in unspecified revenues.

According to an initial agreement, the upscale development was to have made $27 million in sales by now. Developers have yet to release any specific sales results, but the last announcement in October indicated they have sold eight of the 61 home sites and fewer than 30 of the 300 golf-club memberships. MPERS officials have blamed the situation on delays by the county government in processing documents needed to begin construction.

Doesn't look like things have picked up much at Boot Ranch, eh?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Balls

The bad news: I didn't get a single golf-related item for Christmas. Not even a 12-pack of golf balls, which is the perfect gift for in-laws to buy for their daughter Birdie McDuff's idiot husband. (On the other hand, I still have about 12 dozen boxes of balls stacked in my "golf closet" from previous Christmases.)

The good news: I didn't get any chocolate-covered cherries, either.

Friday, December 23, 2005

He's Nationwide

Our friend David Fineg, owner of Ten Cups Driving Range in San Antonio, made it into Golf Digest's "Birdies and Bogeys" yearend roundup. Under the headline, "This guy's so tough he even gave Tiger the evil eye before letting him in," Golf Digest writes: "A driving-range operator in San Antonio bans drivers, saying amateurs can't hit them well enough."

Actually, only men aged 16-60 aren't allowed to hit driver at Ten Cups. Women, juniors and seniors can use driver anytime they like. Men in the suspect age range can also hit driver - if they pass the "drivers license" exam. And as many as fairways as Tiger misses these days, he might not pass the test.

See previous post here for further explanation of the Ten Cups drivers license exam.

Aside

The "golf editor" at BellaOnline.com, Letta Meinen, lives in Salado. Her site is at http://www.bellaonline.com/site/Golf. The "golf editor" at About.com, Brent Kelley, lives in San Antonio. His site is at http://golf.about.com.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Walker Set for Early Return

San Antonio's Jimmy Walker, the 2004 Nationwide Tour money leader, is set to return earlier than expected from the medical woes that derailed his rookie season on the PGA Tour.

Walker will tee it up in Hawaii at the Sony Open, the first full-field tournament on the 2006 PGA Tour Schedule, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Walker missed the majority of the 2005 season after injuring his neck at last year's Sony Open. He never recovered, playing just nine events. Walker applied for and was granted a medical exemption for 2006.

The paper reported:

The medical exemption requires that in addition to that 2005 total, he earns another $470,886 and matches the $626,736 earnings of the player ranked 125th on the 2005 money list, Nick Price. If he accomplishes that through exemptions in 20 events, he would play his way out of major medical category and regain full tour playing privileges.

"I know what I can do over the course of a year," Walker said. "Staying healthy is going to be the trick."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Houston's Texas Golf League Draws Corporate, Church Teams

Teams representing Halliburton and Sagemont Church won the corporate and church divisions, respectively, in the recently completed 2005 season of the Texas Golf League. Now the TGL is looking for more golfers and teams for its 2006 season.

Halliburton defeated Hewlett-Packard in its final match (with the help of some favorable rulings from Dick Cheney*), while Sagemont Church beat St. Thomas Episcopal.

Each team must field four players at each tournament. The four person team is split into two two-man teams, which are paired against two-person teams from other companies or churches. The two-man teams then play head-to-head matches using a modified stableford system with handicaps.

Matches are played on some of the best courses around Houston. The 2006 season begins in March. While the league is played primarily for "the fun of the game, corporate networking and church fellowship," there are also some prizes at stake.

If you're in Houston and want to organize a team to represent your company or church for the 2006 TGL season, send an email to TexasGolfLeague@yahoo.com.

(*just kidding)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Odessa Bucks the Trend

Many cities in recent years have sold off their municipal golf courses to private course management companies, or to development firms. Others are discussing the possibility - San Antonio, for example, has an ongoing debate about selling off at least a couple of its city-owned tracks.

Odessa has gone the opposite direction. The Odessa city council voted in its most recent meeting to purchase Ratliff Ranch Golf Course and run it as a municipal golf facility. Odessa golfers should be very pleased.

At least once councilman was not. From the Odessa American Statesman:

After a 13-minute executive session and prior to the open session vote, District 3 Councilman Royce Bodiford said he could not approve the purchase.

Bodiford said that although the golf course would enhance the quality of life for many Odessans, he did not think the purchase was fiscally prudent in light of other city needs.

He specifically mentioned rapidly increasing costs, higher fuel bills and more public transportation as city concerns.

"Fiscally prudent" is the key word. What with all the daily fee golf course construction around the state (and the country) during the past 15 years, many cities have a much tougher time these days making money with their muni golf courses. So the question becomes, should the city subsidize its golf course(s) with funds from elsewhere in the budget, or consider dumping its courses?

I suppose most of the people in the city government in Odessa feel the city can make money with Ratliff Ranch. But to do so, they better manage Ratliff Ranch as a daily fee, rather than applying the same ol' muni management tactics used in so many other Texas cities (you know: skimp on personnel, skimp on maintenance, just plain skimp.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Seminar: Golf Is Fun

We've written before about the Ten Cups driving range in San Antonio and its offbeat owner David Fineg. You remember: the driving test for any golfers who want to use a driver on the range.

When you get right down to the crux of David's philosophy of golf (and of life, too, I imagine), it's very simple, and it is this: golf is supposed to be fun. If you aren't having any, you might want to show up for one of David's twice-daily seminars - titled "Golf Is Fun" - that he'll be giving at Ten Cups beginning on Dec. 21.

But is a seminar fun? I've no doubt that it will be, as given by Mr. Fineg. The seminars are free and held every day, excluding weekends, at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. No reservations necessary, just show up. The seminar is designed to show you how to get more enjoyment out of the game.

If you want a preview of David's philosophy, check out the article "Golf is fun - why aren't you having any?" on San Antonio Golf. Better yet, visit the Ten Cups website and browse for a while.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Comments Back On

I've turned the comments feature back on, since Blogger has been kind enough to add word verification in an effort to stem the rising tide of comment spam.

We're still planning a move to new, improved platform, with expanded features - a move we'll be making when my Forrest Gump-lookalike friend finishes building the new site. Forrest himself would have been finished a long time ago. (Consider me a proto-Gump, since I could build the new site myself, rather than whining about the snail's pace of my buddy, if only I was, well, smart enough.)

Tight Lies Tour 2006 Schedule

A tentative 2006 schedule for the Tight Lies Tour is posted on the tour website. A total of 19 or 20 events is expected, with about half the tournaments taking place in Texas.

I noticed immediately that my hometown of Corpus Christi is without a tournament next year. But these cities will get a visit from the Tight Lies Tour: Victoria, Houston, Garland, Lubbock, Round Rock, Texarkana, Abilene and El Paso. A couple more sites have yet to be determined.

The Tight Lies Tour is one of the best-paying mini-tours in the U.S. and has produced such players as Ryan Palmer, Cameron Beckman, J.L. Lewis and Tim Herron. Tour events are a good mix of young guns looking to get ahead and older pros still enjoying the thrill of competition.

Monday, December 12, 2005

New Book About Texas Golf

"Links, Lore and Legends: The Story of Texas Golf" is the latest book by Texas golf writer Art Stricklin. The book gets a very good review on Cybergolf from Dr. John Wagner, a member of the USGA Green Section and director of the Washington State Golf Association.
Wagner says:
This is a terrific book about the history of Texas golf. It is accessibly formatted, with chapters broken into 10-year increments that illustrate how much the Lone Star State has contributed to the game.

Art Stricklin takes the very beginnings of golf in Texas and makes the people and players come alive. His short stories of the people and their backgrounds help make “Links, Lore and Legends” lively reading.
Art even managed to get Byron Nelson and Lee Trevino to write forewords. I haven't picked up a copy yet, but I probably will now. Or maybe I'll just try to weasel a free review copy ...

Hackers Tour Championship

Congratulations to Barry Barron and Glen James for teaming to win The Hackers Tour 2005 Championship at The Tribute on Saturday.

The Hackers Tour also handed out a few awards:
  • Member of the Year: Mike Gonzales; runner-up, Bill Thomas
  • Player of the Year: Rick Gallardo; runner-up, Mike Bramlett

The Hackers Tour is a large organization that stages a boatload of tournaments around DFW for "average" golfers looking for competition and the chance to compete for cash prizes. The tour has some big plans for the future, too.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Off Topic: The Cooperstown Kid

Just a quick note to give a plug to a new blog (really new: started yesterday) written by a buddy of mine. It's called Cooperstown Hotline. If you're a baseball fanatic, or more specifically, a fantasy baseball nut, check it out. My friend is definitely a nut, but thankfully channels his obsessions in the healthy direction of baseball (while most of us, of course, channel ours into golf).

Now back to regularly scheduled programming.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

HollyHills' San Antonio Vision

HollyHills is a California-based development company that has some big plans brewing in San Antonio. So big that I can't wait to see how they play out. Or, more accurately, whether they play out.

One thing HollyHills is doing is developing the Briggs Ranch area west of Downtown, about halfway between San Antonio and Castroville via Highway 90. Briggs Ranch is probably a familiar name to many of our readers. The Briggs Ranch Golf Club is an ultra-exclusive private course; The Golf Club of Texas, an adjacent public course, was originally named The Golf Club of Texas at Briggs Ranch.

HollyHills recently purchased the public Golf Club of Texas, plus a lot of land adjacent to both GCT and the private Briggs Ranch Golf Club. The developer plans to build another golf course on part of its new land, as part of a resort that will also include a hotel and high-end housing. (GCT would remain a public course.)

And that's the easy part of HollyHills' plan. Here's the hard part: Turning the depressed Eastide area around the SBC Center (home of the Spurs) into a huge sports and resort complex.

Part of that plan calls for the city-owned Willow Springs Golf Course - directly across the street from the SBC Center - to be purchased by HollyHills, refurbished, and re-opened as a resort golf course. Around it will be, the company claims, resort hotels, shopping districts, and various sports venues: a NASCAR-caliber speedway; an NFL-caliber stadium; perhaps an MLB-caliber stadium as well.

And HollyHills claims it can do all that with little or no public money. This all sounds terrific. But put me firmly in the "I'll believe it when I see it" camp, at least on the Eastside project.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Another Graduating Class: PGA PGM

A handful of Texans are among the 89 graduates of the most recent PGA Professional Golf Management program. I'm sometimes asked by an emailer how they can become a PGA professional. Here's the short answer on the best route:

1. Become very good at golf.
2. Find a college or university that offers the PGA PGM program, and go there.

Here are those Texas graduates:

Gordon Bass, McKinney
Stuart L. James, Houston
Jeff P. Langas, Arlington
Alan W. Rasberry, Mansfield
Willie J. Shankle, Houston
James E. Stevens IV, San Antonio

If you're curious, there are currently 14 schools that offer the 4-5 year PGA PGM program. You can see the list, and learn more about the program, here.

Lietzke, Garcia Join TPC San Antonio Team

The PGA Tour announced yesterday that Bruce Lietzke and Sergio Garcia will serve as player consultants to Pete Dye and Greg Norman, respectively, during the design and construction of the TPC San Antonio project. You can read the press release at San Antonio Golf.

Quick aside: The resort's name will be Cibolo Canyons. The Dye-designed TPC Course will almost certainly be named ... the TPC Course. The name of Norman's course is up for grabs.

Back to scheduled post: It must be strange to be Pete Dye - designer of hundreds of golf courses, some of them considered among the best in the world, as well as having been a great amateur golfer back in the day - and have Bruce Lietzke assigned to assist you in your next design. I'm sure that Lietzke - arguably the best golfer of all-time without a major championship victory - will offer insightful, valuable ideas. But I doubt that any of them will be ideas Dye wouldn't come up with on his own. Perhaps Lietzke's true role will be to keep Dye from designing one of his famously difficult tracks (kudos to me for avoiding use of the adjective "Dye-abolical" ... doh! I just used it!), this course being, after all, the future home of a PGA Tour event.

But this is what the Tour does with every golf course it owns. It hires a great designer, or farms the project out to the PGA Tour Design Group, then names a player consultant. The PGA Tour exists for PGA Tour golfers, after all, and one of them will be involved, by gosh.

Garcia has worked with Norman on a course design in the past, but telling Greg Norman that Sergio Garcia will be his consultant is sort of like telling John Feinstein that Bogey McDuff will be consulting on his next golf book. (But if you need some help, John, just drop me a line.)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Byrum Leads Texas Contingent at Q-School

Veteran Tom Byrum, of Richmond, posted three rounds in the 60s and closed with a 70 on Monday in the final stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, earning his PGA Tour card with a fifth-place finish.

Byrum lead three Texans who grabbed Tour cards, and several others who earned status with the Nationwide Tour.

Unlike Byrum, Michael Connell of Richardson and B.J. Staten of Dallas had no status on the PGA Tour entering Q-School. But like Byrum, both now have their Tour cards for 2006; each finished tied for 26th.

Golfers had to finish in the Top 32 to earn exempt status on the PGA Tour in 2006. The following 46 players in the final standings earned exempt status on the Nationwide Tour for 2006; the remaining finishers have non-exempt status on the Nationwide in 2006.

Here are how the Texans fared:

PGA Tour Card
t5 Tom Byrum, Richmond, -17
t26 Michael Connell, Richardson, -11
t26 B.J. Staten, Dallas, -11

Nationwide Tour - Exempt
t33 Jeff Burns, San Antonio, -10
t59 Roland Thatcher, The Woodlands, -6
t73 *Cameron Beckman, San Antonio, -4

Nationwide Tour - Non-Exempt
t79 Craig Kanada, The Woodlands, -3
t102 *Hunter Haas, Dallas, E
138 Keoke Cotner, Bedford, +7
t142 Brad Lardon, Austin, +10

The asterisks (*) next to Cameron and Haas denote that these two golfers went into Q-School with conditional status on the PGA Tour for 2006 already in hand based on their finish on the money list this year. Beckman was 152nd on the 2005 money list, Haas 166th. Both players have non-exempt status on the PGA Tour. What does this mean? It means they'll get into a handful of PGA Tour events next year when players who finished ahead of them on the money list decide not to play; and if Beckman and Haas don't get into that week's PGA Tour tournament, they'll then look to the Nationwide Tour tournament of the week.

That's the same situation that Omar Uresti, a former University of Texas standout who's well-known around Austin, also finds himself in. Uresti was 136th on the money list this year, and he placed 42nd at Q-School finals. So he has non-exempt status on the big tour and fully exempt status on the Nationwide for 2006.

The full Q-School results are available here.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Lang, Cano Eke Onto LPGA Tour

Brittany Lang of McKinney and Christi Cano of San Antonio earned their LPGA Tour cards on Sunday by surviving a 3-way playoff, grabbing the final two of 24 fully exempt tour cards up for grabs at the final stage of LPGA Qualifying School.

Lang is well-known - collegiate phenom at Duke; runner-up performance at the U.S. Women's Open earlier this year - and she probably expected to get her card with ease. It wasn't easy, but she did get her card. Lang posted rounds of 70-72-75-73-73 for a final score of 3-over par.

Cano is not well-known. A high school standout in San Antonio, she was a solid player for four years at Oklahoma State University. She's played a few events on the Futures Tour, but since graduating from college a couple years ago has spend most of her time as a pro in San Antonio. She earned a Futures Tour card for 2005, but played just a couple events because she was unable to find financial backing. Cano won't have that trouble in 2006. She posted rounds of 71-73-74-72-73 to earn her shot at LPGA glory.

My longtime fave Kelli Kuehne didn't fare as well, finishing in a tie for 11th among those golfers who failed to earn exempt status. That means Kuehne has non-exempt status for 2006 - the same status she went into the Q-School finals with. With her name recognition, she shouldn't have too much trouble finding her way into a good number of tournaments next year, but it's very unlikely she'll be able to put together a full season's worth of events.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bowie Helps Out Scholarship Fund

Kudos to LPGA golfer and University of Texas alum Heather Bowie for helping out a fledgling scholardship fund by offering to play in a benefit golf tournament.

The Matt and Adam Haynie Charity Golf Tournament will be played for the first time on Sunday at Fort Worth's Pecan Valley facility. The tournament benefits scholarship funds set up in the names of Matt and Adam Haynie - a pair of brothers who died a year apart, Matt in 2003 and Adam in 2004 - by the brothers' parents.

According to a story in a local neighborhood newspaper, Bowie's involvement came about because her brother-in-law knew the late brothers. Read about it here.

South Claims Joe Black Cup Matches

The Joe Black Cup is a Ryder Cup-style yearly match pitting teams of professional representing the Southern Texas PGA and Northern Texas PGA. This year, the Black Cup was contested in Austin on the Fazio Canyons Course, and the STPGA eked out a 12.5 to 11.5 victory.

The individual match results are available here. And here is the recap from the STPGA:

The Southern Texas PGA’s team of 12 professionals entered the singles competition of the 2005 Texas Joe Black Cup Matches down by a single point to their counterparts and came back to capture seven of the 12 one-on-one matches to win the 25th renewal of the annual competition, held this year on the Fazio Canyons Course at Austin’s’ Barton Creek Resort and Spa.

The Northern Texas PGA, which had won three of the Ryder Cup-style competitions in a row, had taken a 6-1/2 to 5-1/2 point lead over the Southern Texas PGA after six four-ball matches and an equal number of foursome matches. Two of the latter were completed on the final day of the competition after being called due to darkness on the first day.

Southern Texas PGA President Dale Morgan defeated the Northern Texas PGA President Tom Campbell by a 1-up margin in the first singles match of the day to get the southerners off to a fast start. The remainder of the day was a back-and-forth affair, with the Southern Texas PGA finally surging to the win, taking 3-1/2 of the final 4 points available to capture the competition by a 12-1/2 to 11-1/2 margin.

The defending champion NTPGA team had needed only 12 points to retain the trophy; the STPGA captured the minimum 12-1/2 points it needed to take the Joe Black Cup home. The Northern Texas PGA holds a 13-12 lead in the 25-year-old series.

Next year’s Texas Joe Black Cup Matches will be hosted by the Northern Texas PGA at a site to be determined.