Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Brack

Last week, the San Antonio Express-News' annual golf section came out with a cover story on the 90th anniversary of the city's famed Brackenridge Park Golf Course. Brack, as it's called by, well, just about everyone, was the first 18-hole municipal golf course built in Texas, designed by A.W. Tillinghast; hosted the Texas Open numerous times; and hosted golfers over the years ranging from Walter Hagen to Byron Nelson to Ben Crenshaw.

It's funny what some of those golfers recall about the course. For Bruce Lietzke - and apparently many others - it's a backyard snack bar. One Elizabeth Schriever lived in a house that backed up to Brack's 12th hole. She set up a snack bar in her backyard sometime in the 1920s, and through into the 1960s was serving sandwiches, tacos and more to passing golfers. And most golfers waited to visit with her, rather than enter the clubhouse between the 9th and 10th holes.

Lietzke told the Express-News: "She had the greatest lemonade. ... and the sandwiches were delicious."

After the article appeared, sportswriter Richard Oliver apparently got quite a reaction from readers, because he wrote about that backyard snack stand again in today's paper. Check out the article - it's good stuff.

Also in the article about Brackenridge were such quotes as these: "(Brackenridge is) like the home of golf in Texas," said Bill Rogers.

Rogers also talked of a recent visit he received from Ben Crenshaw. Crenshaw wanted to go see Brack, so Rogers and Crenshaw drove to the course. "We walked around in the cold and the mist and rain," Rogers told the Express-News. "(Crenshaw) was like a kid in a candy store. It brought back great memories."

There are so many great memories at Brackenridge, and that's what makes the course's deterioration - which we touched on last month in this post - so sad. All the history that lives at Brackenridge could be celebrated, and the course restored, to make it a destination again not just for San Antonio golfers but for visitors who'd like to walk the fairways walked by Hagen, Hogan and Nelson.

The course can never be what it once was, completely, because in the mid-1960s it lost a chunk of its acreage when U.S. 281 was routed around the back nine. Brack was short (by today's standards) to begin with, but when 281 went in, numerous holes were shortened, re-routed, and crammed together.

Still, there are rumors from time to time of big plans for Brackenridge. For example, last year I was told by a golf pro who himself was told by one of the principles that Ben Crenshaw and a partner were preparing a proposal for the city: let us take over the management of Brackenridge. Ben and his partner wanted to renovate the course, turn part of the clubhouse into a museum, place historical markers around the layout. They wanted a return to glory.

Sounds like a fantastic idea to me, and perhaps Crenshaw and his partner are still considering this, but nothing ever came of it.

Another big idea for Brackenridge has been floated: extend San Antonio's famed River Walk all the way to the golf course. River barges would pick up golfers at the Downtown River Walk hotels and transport them to and from the course.

These big ideas are great, and maybe someday something like this might even happen. In the meantime, there are dozens of small steps that can and should be taken to prop up Brackenridge.

And in the meantime, we can all enjoy the memories.

2 comments:

  1. Such a wonderful story of past history and your idea of extending the river walk sounds like an excellent idea. This course is something that should be saved.

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  2. Great post. There is a bright side though, the course still exists.

    Here in southeast Houston, the historic Clear Lake Golf Club has closed. While there may not have been many golf greats to play this course, many of our astronauts played regularly there. I missed my chance to play there, and to walk the same ground where Alan Shepard, Niel Armstrong, Gus Grissom, Buzz Aldrin, and many, many of the men and women that have contributed to our history in space.

    I hope Brack never finds the same fate.

    -Greg

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