Saturday, September 30, 2006

STPGA Junior Winter Tour Series

The Southern Texas PGA has announced the schedule for its Junior Winter Tour Series, an 8-event lineup for boys and girls who are ages 10 to 18 as of March 15, 2007.

The schedule is:

Nov. 4-5 - Onion Creek Club (Austin)
Nov. 18-19 - The Woodlands Country Club (The Woodlands)
Dec. 2-3 - Cypresswood Golf Club (Spring)
Dec. 16-17 - Wolfdancer Golf Club at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines (Bastrop)
Jan. 6-7 - Barton Creek Country Club (Austin)
Jan. 27-28 - Hyatt Hill Country Resort (San Antonio)
Feb. 17-18 - The Club at Comanche Trace (Kerrville)
March 14-15 - The Clubs of Kingwood (Kingwood)

Here is the info on participation from the STPGA:

The Southern Texas PGA Junior Golf Program has schedule eight events for its 2006-2007 Junior Tour Winter Series, sponsored by Academy Sports and Outdoors, for young golfers ages 10-18.

All eight tournaments will consist of 36-holes of stroke play competition and are available to boys and girls ages 10-18 as of Mar. 15, 2007. All juniors who were members of the 2006 STPGA Junior Tour and boys and girls ages 10-12 who were members of the 2006 STPGA Little Linksters (and completed that program while competing in its “9-hole, Red Tee” Division) are fully eligible to play in all 2006 STPGA Junior Tour Winter Series tournaments.

Juniors ages 13-18 who did not participate in the 2006 STPGA Junior Tour program may establish eligibility for the winter schedule by paying a membership fee of $65 and then taking and passing the STPGA Junior Golf Skills and Rules Test (There is a fee of $25 for the Skills and Rules Test; please call the STPGA Junior Golf office at 832-442-2404, ext. 208 for information).

The fields of all eight tournaments will be divided into five age and gender divisions for competitive purposes. Those divisions are: Boys 16-18; Boys 13-15; Boys 10-12; Girls 14-18; and Girls 10-13. The results of all STPGA Junior Tour Winter Series tournaments will be included in rankings compiled by Junior Golf Scoreboard.

The entry fee for each tournament is $150.

For more information about the 2006-07 STPGA Junior Tour Winter Series, including on-line entry opportunities, please visit the “Junior Golf & Scholarships” page of the Southern Texas PGA web site (www.stpga.com).

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Nelson Awarded Congressional Gold Medal

A shame it wound up being a posthumous award.

As we told you before (here), Byron Nelson had been nominated for a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the U.S. Congress can bestow on citizens. Sort of the congressional equivalent of a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The nomination was made in recognition of Mr. Nelson's efforts on behalf of charity. Over the years, the Byron Nelson Classic has raised nearly $100 million for its charities.

The House of Representatives had previous OK'd the award. On Wednesday, the Senate also approved the award. The bill now goes to President Bush for his signature.

Said Texas Sen. John Cornyn: "It is entirely fitting that as we mourn the passing of Byron Nelson this week, we honor his life and tremendous service to his fellow Americans with the passage of this legislation today."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Qualifying Deadline Approaching for Nationwide Tour Permian Basin

Monday qualifying for the Nationwide Tour's Permian Basin Charity Classic in Midland takes place on Oct. 9 at Green Tree Country Club in Midland. The entry deadline for the qualifier is Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 5 p.m.

Fourteen golfers will advance out of the qualifying and into the Nationwide Tour event. Odessa Country Club will serve as the spillover site if more golfers enter than can be accommodated at Green Tree.

Professionals or amateurs who have a USGA handicap index of 2.4 or lower are eligible to play in the qualifier. Entry fee is $350.

More information about the qualifier, along with a downloadable entry form, are available on the Northern Texas PGA Web site here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Byron Nelson Dead at 94

Texas - and the whole world of golf - mourns.

See the AP obit, and more links here.

"Big Break VI" Contestants Have Texas Ties

"The Big Break VI" debuts on The Golf Channel tonight. If you plan on watching the series, and need someone to cheer for, you might consider adopting one of the several contestants with Texas ties. They are:

Annie Mallory - Annie (pictured) is a native of Canada but played collegiately at the University of Texas at El Paso. She was a second-team All-WAC selection twice and three-time WAC All-Academic team member.

Sid Corliss - Sid is a Harlingen native who played collegiately at Odessa Junior College and at West Texas State in Canyon (now West Texas A&M). Sid has played in the U.S. Senior Open and four times in the British Senior Open. He's been a teaching pro in Dallas and San Antonio, among other locales.

Jeff Mitchell - Jeff is from Llano and currently lives in Frisco, where he's a member at McKinney's TPC at Craig Ranch. He played collegiately at Texas Tech. He was the Texas Tech women's golf coach beginning in 1990, then also coached the men's team from 1998-2000. Jeff is the only "Big Break" contestant with a PGA Tour victory, having won the 1980 Phoenix Open. He also once shared The Masters lead with Seve Ballesteros.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Why the U.S. Lost the Ryder Cup

Because American captain Tom Lehman's four assistant captains - Corey Pavin, Loren Roberts, Duffy Waldorf and David Ogrin - are all past Texas Open champions.

I mean, a person would have to be nuts to think that having Texas Open champs on your side would be a good thing, right?

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STPGA Stalwart Honored by Alma Mater

From the STPGA:

Former Southern Texas PGA President Carl Baker was inducted into the Stephen F. Austin State University Lettermen’s Association Athletic Jacks of Honor on Sept. 23, 2006. Baker played golf for the Lumberjacks from 1976 to 1980. He is among six former Lumberjacks to join the school’s athletic hall of fame this year.

“This was something I didn’t expect at all,” said Baker of his selection for the honor. “It’s flattering and very humbling. It’s neat to be remembered with something like this from your university, especially considering I have been gone from there for 26 years.”

Baker graduated in May 1980 with Bachelor of Science degree in business and education. He was a member of the Lumberjack golf team and won 12 college and amateur tournaments, including the 1980 Center Invitational and the inaugural 1980 Temple Cup. In 1979, he was named co-champion of the Lone Star Conference, and he earned first-team, all-conference honors during his junior and senior years at Stephen F. Austin.

He won the 1987 Texas State Open as a professional and was the 1987
Southern Texas PGA Player of the Year. He has been a member of nine Southern Texas PGA Texas Joe Black Cup Matches teams and served as Captain of one of those teams.

Baker, the head golf professional at The Deerwood Club in Kingwood, was elected to membership in the PGA of America in 1985. In addition to serving as the STPGA president in 1995 and 1996, he served two-year terms as the Section’s vice-president and secretary/treasurer, plus six years as a member of the STPGA Board of Directors. He also served on the PGA of America’s national tournament committee in 1994 and 1995.

Baker was the Southern Texas PGA Golf Professional of the Year for 1995 and was the STPGA Merchandiser of the Year for private facilities in 1994. Baker has also received several Chapter awards within the STPGA.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Why the U.S. Will Win the Ryder Cup

Because American captain Tom Lehman's four assistant captains - Corey Pavin, Loren Roberts, Duffy Waldorf and David Ogrin - are all past Texas Open champions.

Ogrin, by the way, is writing a Ryder Cup diary for the San Antonio Express-News Web site. Find it on the Sports front.

This, That and the Other

There's a fancy new private club being built on the shores of Lake Travis between Austin and Marble Falls. The Club at Waterford won't be open until early to mid-2007, but it's already hired one of the top club professionals in Texas.

Allen Wooley, most recently the general manager and director of golf at Plum Creek in Kyle, is now the Head Golf Professional at Waterford. Wooley has served on the Southern Texas PGA Board of Directors since 1995 and was president in 2002-2003. He won the STPGA’s award for Golf Professional of the Year for 2003, and won the Bill Strausbaugh Award for club relations three years in a row.

The Club at Waterford's golf course was designed by the Austin team of Randy Russell and Roy Bechtol. You can view photos of the construction progress on the club Web site, linked above.

Elsewhere:

• The Hill Country Amateur Classic that we wrote about a couple weeks ago has been pushed back to November, and entry fees reduced. Kevin Robbins has the details in his blog on the Austin American-Statesman Web site.

• We've also written a couple times about the Texas Golf League in Houston, a competitive league for four-person teams representing businesses or churches. League organizer Joey Gimenez dropped us a line a few days ago to pass along the URL of the league's new blog, where announcements and results will be posted. You can check it out at texasgolfleague.blogspot.com.

• Longhorns fans will enjoy this article on the UT sports site looking back at the 1971 University of Texas championship golf team that includes Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite.

• And here's an article on how timeshares are gaining in popularity in San Antonio. New timeshare resorts have opened or will open in conjunction with the golf courses at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort and next to the Golf Club of Texas.

Stonebridge Ranch Pro Claims NTPGA Section Championship

The Top 5 finishers at the Fina NTPGA Section Championship, played at Ridgewood Country Club in Waco:

Perry Arthur, Stonebridge Ranch CC-Dye, 70-68-68--206
Lindy Miller, Mira Vista Golf Club, 73-68-68--209
Jamie Elliott, Bridlewood Golf Course, 70-76-66--212
Tom Strueber, Columbian Country Club, 73-68-72--213
Cameron Doan, Preston Trail Golf Club, 75-69-70--214
Michael Henderson, Stevens Park Golf Course, 68-74-72--214

Here's the report from the NTPGA:

Waco, TX – Perry Arthur, director of instruction at Stonebridge Ranch Country Club (Dye Course) not only maintained his over night lead, he increased it throughout the final round of the FINA NTPGA Section Championship at Ridgewood Country Club. Arthur finished the day with 34-34 – 68 (two under par) and a 54-hole tournament total of 70-68-68 – 206 (four under par). With his win today, Perry Arthur becomes only the second player ever to win the NTPGA Section Championship four (4) times, joining PGA Life Member Robert Hoyt with the distinct honor.

Perry Arthur (four under par) and Lindy Miller, director of golf at Mira Vista Golf Club (one under par) were the only players in red figures for the Championship. Arthur and Miller also finished first and second place respectively in the 2006 Cleveland Golf Player of the Year Points Standings.

The FINA NTPGA Championship presented by Art & Stone, Green Grass Golf Group, Straight Down Clothing Company, Sunbirds International and Yamaha Golf Cars was conducted at Ridgewood Country Club, the 6,640-yard, par 70 course located in Waco, Texas. The field consisted of 66 PGA professionals from the Northern Texas Section of the PGA of America competing for the $30,000.00 purse, with the Arthur taking home $5,000.00 and the title of NTPGA champion. Along with the trophy and prize money, Perry Arthur earns an exemption into both the 2007 EDS Byron Nelson Championship and the 2006 Permian Basin Charity Golf Classic scheduled for October 12-15, 2006.

The Championship is the fourth and final individual stroke play championship and Player of the Year points event of the 2006 Northern Texas PGA season. The four events, the Eastern, Western, NTPGA Professional and NTPGA Section Championship are used as qualifying for the year-end Cleveland Golf Match Play Championship and Player of the Year, the Ben Hogan/NTPGA Scoring Average Award and the ten (10) spots for the Texas Joe Black Cup team.
Full results are available on the NTPGA Web site.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Why the Texas Open Has Survived

About a half-decade ago, the PGA Tour Texas Open in San Antonio was on the brink of extinction. There was talk of moving the tournament out of San Antonio, or of doing away with it altogether. The Texas Open, one of the oldest, most historic tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule, could easily have disappeared.

Why? Fields were weak, attendance was weaker, and, most of all, charitable contributions were weaker still. The PGA Tour makes clear to its sponsors and tournament committees that raising money for local charities is a big deal. Run the tournament, make it a good experience for the players, but raise money. How important it is for the Tour was demonstrated last year during the Tour's "Drive to a Billion" campaign. You can argue about what percentage of that policy is good corporate citizenship and what percentage is good PR. The end result is the same: millions and millions of dollars is raised for charity.

The Texas Open just wasn't raising much. It was near the bottom of the heap among all PGA Tour events. And that fact, combined with other factors, put the tournament on the ropes.

Then Valero came on board as the tournament sponsor, and everything changed. In the years prior to Valero's sponsorship, according to the Valero chairman, the Texas Open had raised a total of $4 million for local charities. In five years with Valero as sponsor, the tournament raised $21 million.

And that's why the Texas Open is safe and secure these days, even though field quality, attendance and local interest really never have picked up much.

And that was before Monday's announcement: In 2006, the Valero Texas Open has raised $7 million for charity. That's not just a tournament record - it's a PGA Tour record, the most money ever raised by any one tournament in a single year.

Can you say "moving to a high-profile date in the Spring?" The Texas Open can. And the tournament can thank Valero's money-raising talent not just for keeping the tournament alive, but - as soon as the new TPC course in San Antonio is ready - also for eventually restoring the event to one of the biggest on tour.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

DFW's Bear Creek Changing Owners

Bear Creek Golf Club, which boasts two 18-hole courses on the grounds of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, has a new owner and management company.

CNL Income Properties Inc., a real estate investment trust (REIT) focused on lifestyle properties, announced it has acquired Bear Creek from Bear Creek DFW Associates Ltd., an entity affiliated with Hyatt Corporation and Hunt-Woodbine Realty Corporation. CNL then leased the club’s two courses to an affiliate of Billy Casper Golf, LLC, for operation under a 22-year lease.

Real estate is complicated.

No word on whether the new owners plan any upgrades or changes, although the usual platitudes were bandied about:

“Billy Casper Golf is excited about beginning a relationship with CNL as a solid financial partner in the lifestyle industry and working with the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Board,” said Denny Minami, president of Billy Casper Golf. “The acquisition enables us to provide an enhanced golf experience at Bear Creek, and we are pleased to help create long-term value for our partner CNL.”

Bear Creek's East and West courses are two of my favorite in DFW. I always enjoy playing there, although it can be a nerve-wracking experience for some.

Because the courses are located right on airport property, the landings and takeoffs of the big passenger planes can feel like they are happening right above you ... because, sometimes, they are.

A former pro at Bear Creek once told me that the planes sometimes were so close to the course as they passed over that golfers could feel the "whoosh" of the airstreams and vacuums and eddies created by the planes' wings. They've never gotten quite that close when I've played Bear Creek, but the noise and rumble of overhead planes are never far off.

It's an interesting and even fascinating experience for some. Others just find it very annoying.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

San Antonian Claims State Mid-Am Title

Jonathon Mathias of San Antonio is the winner of the Texas Golf Association 2006 State Mid-Amateur Championship. Mathias rolled to a 5-shot victory over runners-up Darin Newhouse (of Tyler) and Seth Thornton (of Houston) at Champions Golf Club (Jackrabbit Course) in Houston.

Here is the report from the TGA:

Houston, TX: Jonathon Mathias was tied for the lead after each of the first two rounds of the 2006 TGA State Mid-Amateur Championship. He didn’t want to be in that position when the third and final round was completed, so he went out and promptly birdied two of the first four holes on his was to a final round of five under par 66 on the Jackrabbit Course at Champions Golf Club in Houston. That allowed the Air Force captain from San Antonio to separate himself from the field claim and his first TGA state championship. Mathias posted a 54-hole total of 7-under par 206 to finish five shots clear of runners-up Darin Newhouse of Tyler and Seth Thornton of Houston . Thornton had a final round 67 to move into the second place tie, while Newhouse, one back to start the day, had a final round of 70.

“Everything fell into place for me this week,” Mathias said. “My ball striking was awesome. It is the best I’ve hit the ball in a long time, and what a great place for it to happen here at Champions with all of the history and tradition of this place.”

The low round of the day came from Montgomery ’s Ron Schroeder who had a 65 to move into fourth place alone at one under par 212. The 65 matched the tournament’s low round, which John Bearrie of Arlington shot in Saturday’s second round. Bearrie had an even par 71 in the final round to finish fifth. John Dowdall of Houston , who was one shot off the lead starting the final round, tied for sixth with Kip Guidry of Missouri City at one over par. Guidry had a final round 69. Scott Loving of Conroe , who started the day tied for the lead with Mathias, had to a three over par 74 in the final round to drop back into eighth place.

The weather again was a factor, but only for the final group of the day. Shortly
after hitting their tee shots on the 18th hole play was suspended due to lightning near the Champions Golf Club course. The storm quickly passed and the last three players completed the final hole, with Mathias appropriately capping his week off with birdie.
Complete, final results are available on the tournament homepage.

Friday, September 15, 2006

McLean Opens Fort Worth Facility

Jim McLean, one of the most famous golf instructors in the world and the 1994 PGA Teacher of the Year, has opened his latest training facility in Fort Worth.

The Jim McLean Golf Center at Waterchase is a 48-acre facility abutting the Links at Waterchase golf club. The facility includes a fully lit practice range, with seven target greens; a short game area 11,000 sqare feet in size that includes a bentgrass putting green as well as a three-tiered practice bunker; and the Legends Scoring Nine, a short course designed in conjunction with the Tom Fazio Golf Course Design Team.

The Legends Scoring Nine sounds like a very different sort of short course, however. This is how it's described on the facility Web site:

The Fazio team and Jim McLean created a highly imaginative design for this unique practice facility. Although there are nine par-3s measuring 1,478 yards, the idea was not to build a par-3 golf course. The idea was a true practice course. Jim and Tom Fazio talked at length about intersecting holes, back and forth fairways and a central practice fairway. They created four basic driving zones separated by water hazards or mounding. This allows on-course playing lessons that include drivers being hit in different directions to very different fairway designs. The student will face almost any situation. From the central practice fairway iron shots can be played to 7 different greens. In the 22.5 acres, Fazio and McLean designed a practice dream for any golfer wanting real-life situations.


The Jim McLean Golf Center at Waterchase also boasts an 8,000-square-foot clubhouse with a full restaurant; a fully furnished fitness center; mental golf experts; and specialized club fitting.

McLean says:

I am very exited to have a school in Texas since I have so many fond memories of my years at the University of Houston. One of my very best friends, Bruce Lietzke, lives in Dallas. My all-time favorite mentor, Jackie Burke, is a Ft. Worth native. I will be at Waterchase often as my son is attending TCU and is playing on the golf team this year as a freshman.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

STPGA Professional Championship

Congratulations to Brad Lardon on winning the Southern Texas PGA Professional Championship, played at Royal Oaks Country Club in Houston this week.

Here are the Top 5 finishers:

Brad Lardon, Lakeway, 67-66-67--200
Lonny Alexander, New Braunfels, 72-69-69--210
Tim Thelen, Richmond, 67-76-68--211
Timothy Poulos, Tomball, 70-74-70--214
David Lundstrom, Houston, 73-70-71--214

And here is the recap from the STPGA:

Brad Lardon, an assistant professional at Escondido in Horseshoe Bay, powered his was to a 10-stroke victory in the 2006 Southern Texas PGA Professional Championship at Royal Oaks Country Club in Houston. Lardon, who opened the tournament with a front nine score of 7-under-par in the tournament’s first round, posted a 54-hole total of 67-66-67—200, 16 under par for the Royal Oaks track. The victory, his third win in a Southern Texas PGA tournament this year, netted him $5,600 in earnings.

Lonny Alexander, director of instruction at Onion Creek Country Club in Austin, finished in second place at 72-69-60—210 to take home runner-up money of $4,200. Tim Thelen, an assistant professional at Houston’s Bushwood Golf Center, won $3,000 for his 67-76-68—211 third place effort.

Timothy Poulos, an assistant professional at Cypress Lakes Golf Club in Cypress, and Houston’s David Lundstrom, the tournament’s defending champion, finished in a fourth-place tie at 214. Both earned checks for $2,150.

Lardon, Alexander and Thelen will be joined by Ken McDonald of Houston’s BraeBurn Country Club, The Woodlands’ Troy Schleicher, a Cleveland Golf sales representative, Tony Johnson of San Antonio’s Silverhorn Golf Club, John Gibson of Houston’s Bushwood Golf Center, Chip Craig, an assistant professional at The Deerwood Club in Kingwood, and Houston’s Billy Sitton of Club Corp at the 40th PGA Professional National Championship, to be played next June at Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Ore.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Monday Qualifying for the Champions Tour

A pair of Champions Tour events are coming in Texas during the month of October, and that means two opportunities for the over-50 set to take a shot at a Tour event through Monday qualifying.

The Administaff Small Business Classic will be played at Augusta Pines Golf Club in Spring Oct. 13-15. And the AT&T Championship will be played at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio Oct. 20-22.

The Southern Texas PGA is conducting Monday qualifiers for both events. These one-round qualifiers are open to professional golfers ages 50 and over. All entries must be directed to the Southern Texas PGA via FAX, e-mail or through on-line entry procedures. Entry fee for each qualifier is $400 for non-members of the Champions Tour, $200 for current Associate Members of the Champions Tour and $100 for current Regular or Veteran members of the Champions Tour.

The Administaff Small Business Classic qualifier takes place on Oct. 9 at the Tradition Course at Cypresswood Golf Club in Spring. The AT&T Championship qualifier takes place on Oct. 16 at Comanche Trace in Kerrville.

In both events, the fields are limited to 156 golfers, of whom only the top two stroke-play finishers gain entry into the respective Champions Tour event.

The entry deadline for the Administaff Small Business Classic qualifier is 5 p.m. on Oct. 6. The entry deadline for the AT&T Championship qualifier is 5 p.m. on Oct. 13.

For more details or for entry forms, visit the STPGA Web site.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

TGA State Mid-Amateur Preview

The Texas Golf Association State Mid-Amateur takes place this weekend on the Jackrabbit Course at Champions Golf Club in Houston. Here is the preview provided by the TGA:

Champions Golf Club to Host 2006 TGA State Mid-Amateur

The 2006 State Mid-Amateur Championship, conducted by the Texas Golf Association, will be held from September 15 - 17 on the Jackrabbit Course at Champions Golf Club in northwest Houston.

"The club is really looking forward to hosting this year's event and we think Jackrabbit will be a real test of skill for the state's top mid-amateurs," said Tad Weeks, Head Golf Professional at Champions.

Of the 132-players in the starting field for the 23rd State Mid-Amateur, 96 earned their way in through one of eleven qualifiers that were held across the state during the months of August and September. Thirty-six players were exempt from qualifying based on past performance.

A number of former champions will be competing this year including two-time winner Alan Hill (1999, 2004) of Spring Branch, Mike Booker (2003) of The Woodlands, Kyle Coody (2001) of Dallas, Bob Kearney (1998) and Champions member Robert McKinney (1996), both of Houston, and Mike McClung (1987) of Marble Falls.

Also looking to be in the mix come Sunday afternoon are Ron Schroeder of Montgomery and Randy Lance of Lufkin, winners of the TGA South Regional Amateur and Mid-Amateur, respectively, along with back-to-back South Regional Player of the Year Jonathon Mathias of San Antonio.

Some top finishers hoping to improve on last year's performance at Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas are runner-up Mike Healer of Gatesville and Mac McGee of Midland, who finished in a tie for third.

The State Mid-Amateur is open to male amateur golfers who will have reached their twenty-fifth birthday by September 15, have a current USGA Handicap index of 8.4 or less, and belong to a club that is a member of the Texas Golf Association.

Scheduled for 54-holes of stroke play, the field will be cut after 36-holes to the low 54 scores and ties.

Co-founded in 1957 by World Golf Hall of Fame members Jack Burke Jr. and the late Jimmy Demaret, Champions boasts two outstanding courses, Cypress Creek and Jackrabbit, and is considered by many to be one of the preeminent
championship sites in the country.

Designed by George Fazio in 1963, Jackrabbit underwent a major renovation in 2001 by acclaimed golf course architect Tom Fazio, who was an apprentice in his uncle George's design company when the course was first built.

Cypress Creek, which was designed by Ralph Plummer and opened for play in 1959, has hosted some of the biggest amateur and professional events in golf including the 1967 Ryder Cup, 1969 U.S. Open, 1993 U.S. Amateur and 1998 U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur, and the PGA Tour's season-ending Tour Championship.

Tee-times, pairings, as well as live scoring updates will be available once the championship gets under way and will be posted on the Texas Golf Association web site (www.txga.org).

Monday, September 11, 2006

Catching Up With Hal Sutton

We've written quite a few posts since the launch of this blog about Boot Ranch, the upscale golf development and country club under construction outside of Fredericksburg.

Now The Associated Press is writing about Boot Ranch, too, in a lengthy profile of Hal Sutton. (Sutton, who owns a ranch near Junction, is from Louisiana but has been called by more than one Texas publication "as Texan as you can get without being born here.") The profile can be read here on The Golf Channel Web site.

The profile opens discussing how Sutton has all but dropped out of site since captaining the losing American team in the 2004 Ryder Cup. He opened the Sutton Children's Hospital in Shreveport earlier this year, the article says. Much of the profile focuses on Sutton's Ryder Cup experience, but it also includes this bit of info about Boot Ranch:

When he isn’t at the hospital, Sutton can be found at Boot Ranch, the opulent golf club he is building in the Hill Country of Texas, a rugged piece of nature about 60 miles north of San Antonio and 60 miles west of Austin.

Sutton has spared no expense. The name plates on the lockers are made of sterling silver. The benches are covered with hides of ostrich, alligator and longhorn. Each member—former President Bush among them—gets customized boots to be worn on property, much like members in their green jackets at Augusta National.

The only evidence of his Ryder Cup captaincy is in the far corner of a garage below the clubhouse, where the red golf cart he drove around Oakland Hills is collecting dust.

Getting Natural at Concan

In some ways, calling any golf course "environmentally friendly" is a misnomer, since all construction is worse for the environment compared to no construction. But developers can choose to do things with some regard for the natural environment, or without any environmental concerns.

One of the best trends in golf course development over the past 15 years is a greater emphasis on environmentally sound construction and management techniques.

Case in point: Kenneth and Barbara Arthur, owners of the ConCan Golf Course and Country Club resort currently under construction near Concan in Frio County, have hired a staff naturalist.

The Uvalde newspaper profiles naturalist Mike Overton in this article:

“Golf courses can be designed two different ways,” said Mike Overton, Frio Country naturalist, in an interview Thursday.“You can go in an clear everything off, put in your fairways and plant a few trees between fairways,” said Overton. “The other method was what we did. We left the trees, cut fairways through the trees and left as much of the natural habitat as possible intact.”


Sounds good to me.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Public-Private Model Considered for San Antonio Munys

San Antonio's municipal golf courses were once among the best in the state. These days, underfunding, lack of profitability, too few maintenance crew and equipment, and poor leadership from the city have many Alamo City golfers fleeing the municipal courses for the greener (literally) pastures of daily-fee courses.

Really, why play a muni - even the historic Brackenridge or the stunning layout at Cedar Creek - if you'll be hitting off hardpan in the fairway or having to deal with hog damage around spotty, bumpy greens? Especially when there are plenty of daily-fee courses in San Antonio whose price range is about the same (sometimes even better) than the prices for the city courses.

A debate over what to do about the city courses - how they should be managed so that they become both better-conditioned and profitable - has been going on in San Antonio for at least 10 years. But so far, talk is all anyone has done.

Here's the most-recent news on this front: The city hired a consultant from Kalamazoo, Mich., to study the local municipals and suggest a method for improving their performance and drawing back golfers to the city layouts.

The consultant is James Roschek, who is director of golf and maintenance for the Kalamazoo Municipal Golf Association, which is a private group that runs the Kalamazoo golf courses but on a budget and rate structure set by a city commission. In other words, Kalamazoo uses a public-private hybrid model to manage its golf courses.

So maybe it's no surprise that consultant Roschek recommended for San Antonio ... a public-private hybrid model for managing San Antonio golf courses.

The San Antonio newspaper reported:

The city should consider freeing its municipal golf courses from the bureaucracy of the Parks and Recreation Department and move toward a "hybrid" management structure with both public and private oversight, according to a consultant's assessment of the courses.

Under the hybrid model, the city would form an association that would oversee the day-to-day operations of the courses, but the association wouldn't be completely free from city control as it would under full privatization.

...

During a two-day tour of the city's six golf facilities, Roschek found the municipal courses in dire need of maintenance and capital improvements.

"Basically I found the courses to be substantially below any standard that would lead to profitable operations," Roschek said. "They were all 'tired' in appearance, had little or no curb appeal, inadequate concessions and not enough work force to adequately operate effective golf operations."

He also said the management of Parks Director Malcolm Matthews, Assistant Director Ron Smudy and golf operations director George Logan is too top heavy and suggested it would be better to have an operations manager who would oversee individual golf course managers. Roschek recommended that the Brackenridge and Cedar Creek courses and the San Pedro driving range be converted first, then the remaining courses once they are stable, which he said shouldn't take more than 18 months.

I don't have much to say about this idea, really, because not enough is known about how the public-private plan would work, or why it would be better than any of several other plans that have been floated (or even the status quo). However, at least it's something.

San Antonio columnist Richard Oliver is optimistic that this new plan will lead to action. I just think we've been down this road before, and nothing ever seems to happen except more talk from more consultants speaking to more committees.

When it comes to restoring San Antonio municipal golf courses, I'll believe it when I see it.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Top Driving Range Instructors

Golf Range Magazine is a trade publication for the driving range industry. Each year it releases its list of the Top 50 golf instructors in North America who are based at driving ranges.

The 2006 list was just released and here are the Texans among the Top 50:

  • Dana Bellenger, Leonard Golf Links, Fort Worth
  • Lori Brock, D.A.'s Spring Creek Golf Center, Plano
  • Joe Caruso, Joe Caruso Golf Academy, San Antonio
  • Brian Mahon, Hank Haney Golf Center at City Place, Dallas
  • Mark Maness, Golden Bear Golf Center, Carrollton
  • Roy Pace, Alpine Target Golf Center, Longview
  • Scott Robbins, D.A.'s Spring Creek Golf Center, Plano

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

In the News This Week

A few items from around the state:

• The Brenham paper has a nice profile of the new head professional at Brenham Country Club, Don Aken. As these things go ("these things" being profiles of local pros in small-town newspapers), it's much more interesting than most. Aken has been a lot of places and played golf with and against a lot of people (including Crenshaw and Kite). It's a good read.

• San Antonio-based USAA Real Estate has sold the Four Seasons Resort and Club at Las Colinas - home of the Byron Nelson Championship - to a national commercial real estate investment and operations company called BentleyForbes.

BentleyForbes officials say they plan an aggressive improvement program for the entire property, including its two golf courses.

• Here's an article in the McAllen newspaper about the Sharyland High School golf team, which has been and is expected to continue to be a golf powerhouse in the Valley.

• And finally, this article in the Athens newspaper is a good primer on the various red-tape and regulatory issues involved when a major real estate development (this one including a golf course) and a city start negotiating with each other.