Tuesday, February 28, 2006

TPC San Antonio Project Encounters Delays

The Cibolo Canyons Golf Resort project in San Antonio - which will include two golf courses, one of which will be a TPC track - has encountered delays after design plans had to be tweaked as a result of expansion of the planned Marriott resort hotel.

The effect is a several-months delay in the construction start on the two Cibolo Canyons courses. Those courses were expected to become the new homes of the PGA Tour Texas Open (Pete Dye-designed TPC course) and Champions Tour AT&T Championship (Greg Norman-designed course) beginning in 2009. Now, officials say, it will be 2010 at the earliest before the tournaments can move to their new homes.

For more, see the San Antonio Express-News article.

Monday, February 27, 2006

North Regional Four-Ball Opens TGA Season

The year 2006 marks the 100th year the Texas Golf Association has been staging amateur events for golfers in Texas. And the anniversary year's tournament season opened over the weekend with the North Regional Four-Ball Championship at Sky Creek Ranch Golf Club in Keller and the South Regional Four-Ball Championship at River Ridge Golf Club in Sealy.

Joe Owen of Dallas and Stephen Love of Irving were the winners in a playoff over the team of Dru Fenimore of Dallas and Dan Dunkelberg of Fort Worth for the North Four-Ball. The teams had finished regulation at 7-under 65 (the tournament was reduced to one round by rain). Love's 5-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole earned his team the victory. Complete results are available here.

At the South Four-Ball, the Kerrville duo of Trevor Hyde and Sean Westacott posted rounds of 63-68, beating the defending champions David Pocknall of Katy and Tod Hensarling of Houston by two strokes. Complete results are available here.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

amateurgolf.com Expands Into Texas

The website amateurgolf.com provides information on close to 2,000 amateur tournaments around the U.S. and Canada - dates, entry requirements, results. Now the company is expanding into Texas. During 2006, amateurgolf.com will be covering around 100 Texas amateur tournaments, including USGA qualifiers.

The company will also be introducing its Texas Amateur Rankings, which will rank Texas men, women and senior amateurs based on performance in designated points events.

In addition, the amateurgolf.com Tournament Series is adding a stop in our state. The amateurgolf.com North Texas Amateur is scheduled for June 3-4 at The Golf Club at Castle Hills in Lewisville.

This is all great stuff. The catch? Unfortunately, amateurgolf.com is a subscription site, charging (at the time of this writing) $35 a year in dues. But if you want to check 'em out, you can do so at www.amateurgolf.com.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Hobby, Fleckman Win Match Play Titles

The Southern Texas PGA's Match Play Championship was played at The Club at Falcon Point in Katy recently. Here's the report from the STPGA:

San Antonio’s Tim Hobby defeated defending champion Eric Bogar of Houston by a 3&1 margin to win the 2006 United Sports Technologies Southern Texas PGA Match Play Championship, presented by Mizuno, at The Club at Falcon Point in Katy.

Hobby was 1-up on Bogar at the turn of the championship match, moved to 2-up with a birdie on the 14th hole and closed the match out with a birdie on the par-3 17th hole. Hobby’s victory earned $2,000. Bogar took home the runner-up prize of $1,450.

Marty Fleckman of Cypress won the tournament’s Senior Division with a 4&3 championship match win over Spring’s Sammy Borden. Fleckman won the match’s first two holes and maintained that lead at the turn. He moved to 4-up after 12 holes before giving back a hole to Borden’s birdie on the 13th. However, Borden bogeyed the 14th to give the hole back and the match was over when both golfers scored par on the 15th.

Fleckman’s win earned $800, while Borden received a check for $550.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Big Golf Shows Coming Up in Houston, Dallas

A couple of coming golf shows in Houston and Dallas are likely to draw golfers from around the state.

First up is the Golfest Houston, presented by Golfweek magazine. "It's not just another demo day," their marketing goes, it's a "golf lifestyle extravaganza." But what most golfers will be interested in is the demo part of the days.

Golfest Houston takes place March 4-5 at BlackHorse Golf Club. Advance tickets are $10 (get them at Edwin Watts Golf or online at www.golfest.com), or $15 at the gate. All attendees get free balls and one free regripping by Winn Grips.

This "outdoor consumer festival" features dozens of manufacturers presenting their clubs on BlackHorse's double-ended driving range. Suzy Whaley, Marty Fleckman (BlackHorse's director of instruction), Jim Hardy (famed instructor and author of The Plane Truth for Golfers), and trick-shot artist Peter Johncke will appear both days.

Then the following weekend - March 11-12 - it's the Dallas World Golf Expo, billed as the largest golf show in Texas, at the Dallas Market Hall.

The Dallas World Golf Expo will feature more than 100 exhibitors, including manufacturers Tommy Armour (sponsoring the event), Adams, Cleveland, Wilson, Bridgestone/Precept, MacGregor, Nicklaus and Nike. Long drive, long putt and "Best Putter in North Texas" competitions will be held.

Everyone attending will get a free, one-year Golf Magazine subscription and a free, custom-fit rescue club from Magique Golf. Among the presenters at the Dallas World Golf Expo seminars will be 2-time world long-drive champion Art Sellinger, on both Saturday and Sunday.

Admission to the Dallas Golf Expo is $8. A discount coupon can be found at www.worldgolfexpo.net.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

STPGA Junior Programs Ready for Registration

The Southern Texas PGA's junior programs - the Little Linksters and the STPGA Junior Tour - will be open for registration at the STPGA website beginning Feb. 27.

Both programs operate throughout southern Texas and each is administered in six areas: Austin, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Houston, the Rio Grande Valley and San Antonio.

Here are the details from the STPGA:

STPGA Little Linksters

The Southern Texas PGA Little Linksters program is for junior golfers between the ages of 7 and 12 and of any skill level.

Little Linksters is an instructional-based program targeting the Rules of Golf, golf etiquette, the basic fundamentals of putting, chipping, the full swing and on-course play. Little Linksters are also given the opportunity to play in professionally-organized tournaments.

The STPGA Little Linksters program is open to all juniors ages 7-12 as of August 8, 2006. All members must establish tournament eligibility by successfully completing an STPGA Instructional Clinic, Approved Clinic or Advanced Clinic.

The membership fee for the STPGA Little Linksters program is $65— clinic fees vary, depending upon type and location. Individual tournament entry fees are $17.00.

Competition in STPGA Little Linksters tournaments is broken into eight age and skill divisions. Every STPGA Little Linksters event features awards for the top competitors in each division. In addition to instruction and tournament eligibility, all STPGA Little Linksters members receive a USGA Rules of Golf Book, a STPGA Junior Golf Cap and Bag Tag and free admittance to the 2006 Valero Texas Open in San Antonio and to the 2007 Shell Houston Open upon presentation of their STPGA Junior Golf bag tag, and on-line statistical analysis.

Full details regarding the STPGA Little Linksters are available in the STPGA Little Linksters handbook, which may be downloaded from the Juniors page of the STPGA web site (www.stpga.com).

STPGA Junior Tour

The Southern Texas PGA Junior Tour consists of competitive one- and two-day weekly tournaments throughout June and July. It is open to STPGA Junior members who are ages 12 to 18 as of August 8, 2006. Juniors who are 18 are eligible
provided they have not attended a regular semester of college and do not reach their 19th birthday prior to August 9, 2006.

STPGA Junior Tour members are eligible for all STPGA Junior Tour events and receive a USGA Rules of Golf Book, a STPGA Junior Golf Cap and Bag Tag, a USGA GHIN handicap, free admittance to the 2006 Valero Texas Open in San Antonio and to the 2007 Shell Houston Open upon presentation of their STPGA Junior Tour bag tag, and on-line statistical analysis and scoring.

Every STPGA Junior Tour event features awards for the top competitors in each division. Competition is broken into five age and/or gender divisions at each tournament.

The membership fee for the STPGA Junior Tour is $65. Entry fees for individual tournaments range from $25 to $65, depending upon area and length of tournament (18 or 36 holes).

All first-year members, unless exempt due to participation in the HGA Junior Golf Program or the STPGA Little Linksters program, must successfully complete a STPGA Junior Tour Skills Test to establish tournament eligibility— the fee for the Skills Test is $25.

Full details regarding the STPGA Junior Tour are available in the STPGA Junior Tour handbook. The handbook may be downloaded from the Juniors page of the STPGA web site (www.stpga.com).

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Houston's Texas Golf League

The Houston-based Texas Golf League, a competitive league for four-person teams representing businesses or churches (each with its own division), has announced its first-half schedule for 2006.

The league will begin play on March 11 on the Masters Course at Bear Creek. Then follows Kingwood on April 8, Southwyck on May 6 and Tour 18 on June 24. Each tournament is followed by a clinic.

More background on the Texas Golf League is available in our previous post about the league. There's still time for teams to sign up for the first-half schedule. The second-half schedule will begin in September. For more info, shoot an email to TexasGolfLeague@yahoo.com.

Halliburton won the corporate division in 2005. But contrary to rumors, Dick Cheney was not on the Halliburton team and did not hit his playing partner in the face with a ball.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

LPGA Looking for Return to Texas

There hasn't been an LPGA Tour event in Texas since 2001, when the Kathy Ireland Championship was last played in Austin. But Buddy Cook - co-owner of the ultra-exclusive, Tom Fazio-designed Briggs Ranch Golf Club in San Antonio, and former tournament director of the PGA Tour Texas Open - is hoping to change that.

Cook, the San Antonio Express-News reports in today's paper, has been meeting with LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens about bringing a tournament to San Antonio and Briggs Ranch, perhaps as soon as 2007. And Bivens makes clear she wants to return to Texas, and more specifically, is very interested in Briggs Ranch and San Antonio as the place to do it. The article is here.

Follow Up

Following up on my post from last Wednesday about LPGA Tour rookie Christi Cano of San Antonio and the costs associated with playing the pro tours: Cano's debut in Hawaii at the LPGA SBS Open didn't go as she'd hoped. She shot 78-79 and missed the cut. Cano will play next at the LPGA Fields Open this week.

There are two other fully exempt rookies from Texas on the LPGA this year, Brittany Lang from McKinney and Katie Futcher from The Woodlands. Futcher finished in a tie for 36th, shooting 73-70-72 to finish 1-under par. Lang missed the cut along with Cano, shooting 77-71.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Tight Lies' Winter Series Wraps Up

The final event on the Texas-based Tight Lies Tour Winter Series finished on Thursday. The Humble Classic was played at Walden on Lake Houston. Connie Pierce defeated Stephen Reed in a playoff to take the first-place prize money of $4,250. Both had finished at 6-under 210 over three rounds.

The "regular" Tight Lies schedule gets under way with the Victoria Open at the Victoria Country Club March 23-March 26, with a purse of more than $130,000. The Victoria Open is the longest-running tournament on the Tight Lies schedule, this year marking its 12th consecutive year.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

For Sale: One Golfer's Future

There's a story in my local paper this morning (by Richard Oliver, who writes the Oliver's Twist blog) about LPGA Tour rookie Christi Cano's preparation for her first tournament as a Tour member, this week's SBS Open in Hawaii.

Oliver writes:

In addition to intensive practice, Cano has spent most of the past two months drumming up financial and equipment support for her first full professional season. She has selected a management team, settled on clubs and rounded up enough sponsorship backing to keep her on the road through the first three events.

This reminded me of an article I read in Business Week a while back, an article about how many aspiring golfers find the seed money they need by selling shares in themselves. Or shares in their future earnings, to be exact.

I don't know if Cano did this, but it's pretty common for young golfers who aren't named Tiger Woods or Michelle Wie to take this approach. The mini-tour life is a struggle. You're playing for peanuts (compared to the prizes on the big tours) , yet you have all the same expenses: plane rides or long drives, hotels, equipment costs, training costs. And most mini-tours cost quite a bit in tour membership fees and tournament entry fees.

So the golfer gets together a group of friends and family members and makes a pitch: buy a share of stock in my future earnings. Just like regular stocks, there is a share price, and a certain number of shares are offered at a certain price. A contract that conforms with Securities and Exchange Commission rules is recommended, and any contract should spell out the percentage of future earnings the investors are entitled to, and how long the contract stays in place.

A golfer might raise $50,000 to $100,000 this way, but the contracts are often frontloaded. For example, up until the investors have earned back their initial investment, the golfer might get to keep only 10-percent of his tournament winnings.

If the golfer catches his dream, the shareholders will make quite a bit of money on the deal. If the golfer never makes it to the big-time, the investors might lose everything.

The Business Week article, titled "Backing a Tour Pro," makes it clear just how expensive it is for young golfers who are not yet established:

Players once required investors well into their PGA Tour careers. That is no longer true. Minor circuits such as the Hooters Tour are where players start out with financial backers. Many if not most players will also need backing for the next steppingstone: the Nationwide Tour. For women, there is the Futures Tour before going on to the LPGA Tour. While you can figure it costs a minimum of $150,000 a year to play the PGA Tour, $100,000 for the Champions Tour, $75,000 for the LPGA Tour (where players often stay in private homes), and $55,000 for the Nationwide Tour, on the Hooters Tour, it's considerably less. A season consists of about 22 events primarily in the Southeast, with entry fees of $850 per week. Figure the total expense -- travel, meals, motels, caddies -- for a 22-week season at $35,000. This is staying at Motel 6, not the Ritz, by the way, and eating at, well, Hooters.

On the PGA Tour, those expenses can be covered by endorsement deals, pay-to-play equipment deals (some companies play players up to $5,000 to play their driver in any given week), and traditional sponsorship deals (take a company's money, wear its logo on your cap).

But look at what Cano is facing: $75,000 in likely expenses. LPGA Tour players don't have nearly the opportunities for endorsement cash as PGA Tour players do. Pay-to-play equipment deals are exceedingly rare for LPGA players, and sponsorship deals - if they can be found - pay peanuts compared to those on the PGA Tour.

Further, given the much smaller purses on the LPGA Tour, only 94 women earned at least $75,000 on Tour last year. Such familiar names as Hilary Lunke, Se Ri Pak, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, Charlotta Sorenstam, Beth Bauer and Kelli Kuehne were not among them.

Now you know why it's so important for Cano to spend the two months leading up to her debut chasing financial backing, and why after doing so she still has only the first three tournaments of the year covered. A strong finish in one of those tournaments will make finding future financial backing so much easier for Cano. Poor finishes in all three, and she might have trouble finding the money that will keep her on the road for the full season.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Problems Continue for San Antonio Muni Courses

There's an ongoing debate in the San Antonio golf community over what should be done with the city's municipal courses. Should the courses continue to be run by the city, as-is? Should they be owned by the city, but managed by a contracted private firm? Should they be sold off and the city get out of the golf course business altogether?

Deteriorating course conditions, deteriorating service, and deteriorating revenues - the courses lose a lot of money for the city - fuel the debate.

The most recent black eye is this: the city had to fire the vendor responsible for running the snack bars at city courses. So temporarily, the only drinks available at city golf courses were to be found in coolers and ice chests in the pro shops, and those drinks (due to city regulations) could not include beer.

Things like this seem to be typical these days. Staffing at San Antonio city courses is reduced to skeleton crews. Just a couple people to run the pro shop and a few more to do the minimum of course maintenance (most recent years the city has skipped overseeding, for example, to save money).

How bad have things gotten? At historic Brackenridge, for example, there was the Sunday morning when no course staff had shown up by 7:30 a.m. The pro shop and clubhouse were locked; golfers were milling around in a quickly filling parking lot unsure of what to do.

The city seems unwilling to give up control, perhaps because that would be admitting failure. But failure is what they are very close to already - fewer and fewer people bother to play the municipal courses because of the below-par conditions and service. But also because there are plenty of other golf courses in San Antonio that are just as cheap - some even cheaper - than the munis, while offering better conditions and service.

But in some cases, the city's options are limited by deed restrictions on the land on which certain courses sit. The land at Brackenridge and Cedar Creek, for example, was donated to the city but with the condition that the city could never sell the land. If the city did someday decide to divest itself of its golf courses, it simply couldn't do it in the cases of Brack and Cedar Creek.

I've slowly come around to this conclusion: The San Antonio golf scene would be improved if the City of San Antonio was no longer involved in managing golf courses. The city should sell off Willow Springs, Mission del Lago, Olmos Basin and San Pedro Par-3, and should farm out management of Brack and Cedar Creek to private firms whose job will be to return those courses to past glory - and to turn a profit.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

RIP, Dick Harmon

Dick Harmon, one of the best golf instructors in the world and a stalwart of the Houston golf scene, died Friday at a hospital in California. The first AP obituary says the cause of death could not be disclosed; Tom Kirkendall of Houston reports on his blog that Harmon's death was due to complications from a sudden bout of pneumonia. Dick Harmon was 58 years old.

The Harmon family is one of the most famous in golf. Patriarch Claude, the 1948 Masters champ, passed away in 1991, but for the last 10 years of his life had a relationship with Houston's Lochinvar Golf Club. Dick was the pro at River Oaks Country Club for years, then joined Redstone Golf Club just a few years ago. It was Dick who recommended his brother Butch to Lochinvar in the early '90s, the position that set Butch on his road to glory.

Read Tom's post about the Harmon family for many more details about its relationship with Houston.

Friday, February 10, 2006

STPGA Scholarships

Every year, the Southern Texas PGA awards oodles of college scholarships to young golfers in the STPGA's section of the state. In 2006, with the addition of a couple new scholarships, the total awarded now reaches beyond $21,000.

So if you know of a high school golfer who needs a little help paying for college, point them to the STPGA program. Applications for the 2006 scholarships are now open. You can read about the scholarships available, the requirements, and how to apply here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Caruso on the Move

Sounds like San Antonio-based instructor Joe Caruso is onto something big. From the San Antonio Express-News:

In roughly a year, the enterprising head of Joe Caruso Golf Academy has seen his operation evolve in rapid leaps, from simple instruction and driving range offerings to equipment fitting, a junior tour and ambitions for so much more.

"When you take a look at the industry as a whole, this is where you see things heading," Caruso, 42, said Tuesday. "You're trying to build a teaching center, a family center, a place for people to go. You're not only learning how to hit a golf ball, but about all of the technical side of the equipment."

With that in mind, Caruso's academy, located on Blanco Road between Loop 1604 and Bitters Road, has aligned itself with various partners focusing on specific areas of expertise.

Those associations include the recent arrival of Doug Querie (sic) and Andy Ruben, who concentrate on club sizing and repair through Golf Solutions of Texas; nationally renowned instructor Ruben Samaniego, who works with disabled players; and the recent introduction of a unique competition schedule, the Joe Caruso Junior Challenge Tour, for competitors in fifth through eighth grades.

Quirie is one of the top custom clubmakers and fitters in the U.S., having built equipment for the likes of Ben Crenshaw over the years. He's the clubmaker of choice for many current professional golfers.

Caruso's affiliate with pro golfers in the past has pretty much been limited to several Futures Tour players. Now, the Express-News articles goes on to say, Caruso is working with Ogrin and with Cameron Beckman. So things are going very well, indeed, for Joe.

I interviewed Joe several years ago for a publication, and his ambitions at that time - pretty much the same as they are now - were focused on junior golf. More specifically, he wanted to create a Leadbetter-style junior academy - providing golf instruction, boarding, schooling, the works - for junior golfers in Central and South Texas.

At that time, Caruso was working with around 200 area juniors. Many of them lived in small towns in South Texas, where access to golf, period - much less top-flight, modern golf instruction - was limited. We're talking places like Carrizo Springs and Cotulla. Caruso traveled to his students when they weren't able to travel to San Antonio.

I don't know if he'll ever achieve his Leadbetter-inspired dream, but as today's Express-News article shows, it's probably not wise to bet against him.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Top 100 Driving Ranges

Every year, the folks at the industry publication Golf Range Magazine select the Top 100 Golf Ranges in America.

Texas is included in the magazine's Southeast section of the rankings, and several ranges made the grade this year. Here are the Texas ranges that are included in Golf Range Magazine's Top 100 rankings:

  • D.A.'s Spring Creek Golf, Plano
  • Golden Bear Golf Center at the Highlands, Carrollton
  • Golfsmith Golf Center, Austin
  • Hank Haney Golf Ranch, McKinney
  • Leonard Golf Links, Fort Worth

Sad not to see Sundance, in New Braunfels, on the list. Sundance had been included in the Top 100 every year of its existence, but that facility was sold and closed last year, and is probably being turned into a parking lot right now.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Happy Birthday, Lord Byron

John Byron Nelson Jr. was only 34 years old when he retired from full-time competitive golf in 1946. He was just a year removed from winning 18 tournaments. He played a few more tournaments here and there over the years, winning a couple more to make his total 52. But people always asked Lord Byron the same question: Why did you retire so young?

One answer Nelson gave often was that golf - more specifically, 3-foot putts- was killing his nerves. But his usual answer was simple: all he ever wanted from golf was to make enough money to buy a ranch.

By 1946, he'd made enough money. So he quit golf and bought a 550-acre ranch at Roanoke (on the northwest side of DFW - back then way out in the sticks, but today surrounded by communities like Trophy Club and Westlake, Keller and Grapevine).

And it's on that 550-acre ranch at Roanoke that Mr. Nelson still lives. And still lives quite contentedly, from the sound of things:

Byron Nelson has just finished making a mahogany table in his woodshop. He plans to make more, once he completes the wooden clock frames and bases that he gives to his friends as gifts. He says he has plenty of friends, more than he can count. "I feel that I'm the most fortunate man I know," Nelson says. "Everybody likes me, everybody thinks I'm OK. They're probably thinking I'm better than I am, but I do know for sure, I was born under a lucky star."

Byron Nelson turns 94 years old on Saturday. Let's all remember to wish him a happy birthday.

The paragraph quoted above is from a profile of Nelson in the Los Angeles Times. The article is hidden behind a subscription wall, but if you know how to use bugmenot.com, you should be able to get to it. Here's another short Byron Nelson biography that hits the highest points of a career filled with highlights.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

2006 TGA Schedule

The Texas Golf Association has 11 state championships, seven regional tournaments, and more 30 qualifiers on its 2006 schedule, released today. From the announcement:

It is an exciting time for the Association, as it will be observing its 100th anniversary in 2006. To commemorate the occasion, a number ofstatewide championships have been scheduled at clubs that were foundingmembers of the Association back in 1906 including the Country Clubs ofBeaumont, Dallas, and San Antonio.

The complete schedule, along with qualifying requirements and entry deadlines, can be found on the TGA website. Here are the biggies:

2006 TGA Statewide/Regional Championship Schedule
  • Feb. 25-26: North Regional Four-Ball, Sky Creek Ranch GC, Keller
  • Feb. 25-26: South Regional Four-Ball, River Ridge GC, Sealy
  • March 11-12: State Club Team, Pine Dunes Resort, Frankston
  • March 24-26: South Regional Amateur, Walden on Lake Conroe
  • April 7-9: North Regional Amateur, Heritage Ranch, Fairview
  • May 19-21: State Four-Ball, Gleneagles CC (Kings), Plano
  • June 8-11: State Amateur, Dallas CC, Dallas
  • June 22-25: State Public Links, Pecan Valley GC, San Antonio
  • July 7-9: State Father-Son, Beaumont CC, Beaumont
  • July 21-23: West Texas Amateur, The Rawls Course, Lubbock
  • July 27-30: State Mid-Am Match, Bent Tree CC, Dallas
  • Aug. 3-5: State Stableford Handicap, The Hills CC (Flint Rock) Austin
  • Aug. 11-13: North Regional Mid-Am, Buffalo Creek GC, Rockwall
  • Aug. 11-13: South Regional Mid-Am, Woodforest GC, Montgomery
  • Aug. 18-20: State Senior Amateur, San Antonio CC, San Antonio
  • Sept. 15-17: State Mid-Amateur, Champions GC, Houston
  • Sept. 29-Oct. 1: Senior Four-Ball, Stonebriar (Fazio), Frisco
  • Oct 28-29: Texas Shoot Out, Whispering Pines GC, Trinity