Saturday, March 31, 2007

Justin Leonard Leaves Butch Harmon for Old Teacher

justin leonard butch harmonIt's been a bit of a rough patch for Justin Leonard, and little Texan, 10-time PGA Tour winner and major champion. Those 10 wins and British Open victory must seem like they came ages go: Leonard has struggled the past year and a half, missing lots of cuts and not contending once during that time period.

But he's making changes he hopes will get him back on track, starting with firing Butch Harmon and returning to his old teacher, Randy Smith:

Think a fresh slate. As in two fresh faces and one very welcome old one. New ways of looking at things. And, he laughed, new baggage.

He's left Butch Harmon and is back with Royal Oaks pro Randy Smith, the man who taught him the game. He's got a new caddie, too, in Brian Smith (no relation to Randy) and he's working with Dick Coop on his mental game. All this happened in the last three weeks. Actually, since the night he missed the cut at the PODS Championship.

That was when his agent, David Winkle, asked him a simple question about the team surrounding him, including Harmon. "Are you getting all that you need?" Justin's answer was no. He wasn't.

"Nothing against Butch,'' Justin said. "I wouldn't change our relationship for the world because I learned a lot with him, but... ''

Like Butch's dad Claude used to say, you never blame a guy for wanting to get more information and trying to get better. And, Justin said, "That night I was just looking (at where he was and thinking) I've tried to stay patient, I've tried to stay the course. That's not working.''

The hardest calls, he said, were to Harmon and caddie Brent Everson. And the one to Smith? Justin had dialed the number a few other times in the last six months, but only to ask if he could drop by for putting help.

"That was the easy call,'' he said. "But actually it was a little hard because there was this little thought in my mind that he's going to say, 'You know what, Bud, I just ain't got time for you.' ''

What did he hear? "No problem."


There's a good article on PGATour.com about Leonard and what he's going through now.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Zagat Course Ratings

Zagat Ratings are more associated with restaurants than with golf, but the Zagats do put out a book every year cataloging their picks for the best public golf courses in America. You can click on the Amazon box at right to purchase the new book, released this week.

The Zagat book doesn't rank courses state-by-state, but it does include regional rankings. Texas is in the book's Southwest rankings, and these are the top-rated Texas courses in the region:

1. Barton Creek, Fazio Canyons, Austin
2. Barton Creek, Fazio Foothills, Austin
3. La Cantera, Palmer, San Antonio
4. The Tribute, The Colony
5. Cowboys Golf Club, Grapevine
6. Augusta Pines, Spring
7. Texas Star, Euless

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Houston Open Qualifying

The Shell Houston Open tees off on Thursday. But on Monday, a slew of golfers - some of them veteran PGA Tour players - scratched and clawed after four spots in the field available in the Monday Qualifier. A ritual that takes place on the Monday prior to every PGA Tour tournament.

Here are the four golfers who played their way into the Houston Open:

Jeff Brehaut, 66
Corbin King, 67
Tommy Armour III, 69
Adam Rubinson, 69

If you've wondered just how hard the PGA Tour is, consider that the guy who holds the PGA Tour scoring record (Armour) is having to Monday qualify to get into tournaments.

Some of the recognizable names among golfers who failed to qualify:

Marco Dawson, 70
Guy Boros, 70
Tag Ridings, 70
Skip Kendall, 71
Larry Mize, 72
Willie Wood, 72
Mark Brooks, 73
Bryce Molder, 74
Emlyn Aubrey, 77

Monday, March 26, 2007

TGA South Amateur

michael whitehead tga south amateur
Michael Whitehead of Sugar Land is the winner of the Texas Golf Association South Amateur regional championship. Here is the report from the TGA:

Michael Whitehead of Sugar Land started the final round of the 2007 TGA South Region Amateur six shots behind leader Rodney Thompson of Katy. The 18 year old, who is home schooled, shot the low round of the tournament with a six under par 66 to catch and pass everyone in front of him and earn a three shot victory. Whitehead finished the 54-hole championship at six under par 210, easily outdistancing veteran Robert McKinney of Houston who had his second straight 69 to finish second at 213.

Last year’s runner-up and defending TGA State Mid-Am Champion Jon Mathias of San Antonio shot 72 to come in third at two under par 214. First and second round leader Rodney Thompson of Katy struggled a bit during the final round with a 77 to finish fourth at 214.

Whitehead, who plans to enroll at Rice University and play on the golf team this fall, caught an early break with a chip in birdie on #4, then followed that up with birdies
on both front nine par five’s and added a fourth at the ninth hole for a four under par 32. With Thompson falling out of the lead behind him, Whitehead got frustrated with himself for a bogey on the par five 15th. He had no idea he was actually leading the tournament, and thought he needed to make something happen to have a chance. He did just that with an eagle on the short par four 17th when he holed out from a greenside bunker after trying to drive the green.

Asked when he knew he was leading, Whitehead replied, “When I got finished someone told me. I had no idea. I figured Rodney was eight or nine under.”

With the victory Whitehead earned an exemption into this year’s Texas State Amateur, which will be played June 7-10 at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity. The top three finishers earn exemptions, but both McKinney and Mathias were already exempt.

Full results available here.

TGA North Amateur

justin fraley - tga north amateurJustin Fraley of Rowlett is the winner of the Texas Golf Association North Amateur regional championship. Here is the report from the TGA:

Wylie, TX - Former Oklahoma University golfer, Justin Fraley of Rowlett decided to get in a little more competitive golf before joining the workforce after graduation in May. Fraley played a solid front nine but was trailing by a shot to eventual runner up, Rob Couture before taking the lead for good on the back nine at the challenging Woodbridge Golf Club located in Wylie. Justin finished
his last four holes in 2 under par to card a one under 71 for the day, and a 54 hole total of 1 over par (217) to win by three strokes

Rob Couture of Dallas finished in second place for the second consecutive week. Rob was runner up in the first Medalist Series North event held at Tierra Verde last week and continued his fine play again this week at Woodbridge . After three bogeys in a row, Rob got the wheels back on in time to make a key birdie on the 17th hole
then finish strong with par on the difficult 18th. By doing so, Rob stayed out of the tiebreaker for the final state am exemption and took the runner up honors.

Tied for 3rd place were John Bearrie of Arlington , Steve Galko of Dallas , Bart Goodwin of Flower Mound, and former Kansas State golfer Nick Schumacher of Lubbock . The 2005 TGA Player of the Year, Steve Galko earned the final state am exemption via a tiebreaker using his final round score of 71, then his Round 2 score of 74 which bested Bart Goodwin’s Round 2 score of 76.

Roger Marcincuk of Ft. Worth and TCU golfer Jordan Woolf also of Ft. Worth finished T7. David Benner of Frisco had the best round of the day with a blistering 68. Until Sunday not a single red number had been posted.

Woodbridge Golf Club proved to be an excellent test of golf for this championship. The Texas Golf Association extends its gratitude to Paul Kenney, Director of Golf, Eric Askier, Head Professional and their entire staff for being such gracious host and going the extra mile to make this a great event.

Complete results are available here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Course Roundup

Lots of stuff happening across the state in the way of golf course news:

  • The City of San Antonio is converting its municipal courses to be run by a nonprofit organization called the San Antonio Municipal Golf Association. SAMGA will oversee the San Antonio municipal course operations with only limited oversight from the city itself, which the people involved in setting up the arrangement believe will lead to better course conditions and better service at the courses.

  • Gleannloch Farms Golf Club in Spring has a new owner and new name. The 27-hole facility was purchased by nearby Augusta Pines Golf Club (site of a Champions Tour event every year) and is renamed as Gleannloch Pines Golf Club.

  • Weeks Park Golf Course in Wichita Falls is getting a $3.67 million renovation to be led by Arlington architect Jeff Brauer.

  • Construction is ongoing in Cleburne on the Cleburne Golf Links. It is being built on the east side of Lake Pat Cleburne, on the site of the old Cleburne Municipal Golf Course but with additional land. The 7,160-yard, par-72 course is expected to open in the fall.

  • The only public golf course in Denton is the one on the campus of Texas Women's University, and TWU has announced a 2-year "revitalization plan" to enhance the course.

NTPGA Pro-Assistant Championship

Here's the recap from the NTPGA:

MESQUITE, Texas – The team of Cameron Doan and Travis Johns from Preston Trail Golf Club in Dallas captured the 2007 NTPGA/Srixon Pro-Assistant
Championship contested on the blue course at Dallas Athletic Club.


Doan and Johns shot rounds of 67-66 for a two round total of 133 (-11). The championship is an unprecedented sixth in a row for Preston Trail Golf Club and third in a row for the team of Doan and Johns. This marks their fourth overall Pro-Assistant Championship with victories in 2003, 2005, 2006 and this year. Simon Buckle teamed with Cameron Doan to claim the other two victories for Preston Trail Golf Club in 2002 and 2004. For their victory Doan and Johns pocketed $2,500.00 from the $17,340.00 purse.

A total of 70 teams of head golf professionals teamed with their assistant golf professionals for the 36-hole four-ball stroke play event. The 2007 Srixon Pro-Assistant Championship presented by FILA, FST Shafts, Golf Club Demo.com, Southern Shots Photography and Yamaha Golf Cars was conducted at Dallas Athletic Club in Mesquite.

View the final leaderboard

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Check Out CW's Photoblog

Friend of Texas Golf Carlton Wade is a man of many interests: he's a photographer, webmaster, writer, publisher. Now he's also a blogger.

Check out Carlton's photoblog, called hdr golf, at http://hdrgolf.wordpress.com/. Not all the images Carlton will be sharing there are of golf courses, but many will be. And if you know anything about Carlton's work, you know he's one heck of a golf course photographer.

You can also check out more of Carlton's photography at his main site, http://www.carltonwade.com/.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Notebook: Clubfitter of the Year, etc.

Former PGA Tour pro Donnie Massengale is the Ping National Clubfitter of the Year, the company announced. Massengale founded the Massengale Golf Academy in Spring, at Augusta Pines Golf Club, with his father, the recently deceased Don Massengale Sr.

Massengale beat out more than 2,000 eligible clubfitters for the award.

"The Massengale Golf Academy personifies PING custom fitting," said John A. Solheim, Ping Chairman and CEO. "Their commitment to custom fitting excellence is second to none. They invest the time to educate golfers about the benefits of properly fit clubs. This time and effort, combined with the proven results of custom fitting, leads to lower scores and loyal customers. The Massengale Golf Academy is the total package; their outstanding service and commitment to game improvement is an example for all."

Elsewhere:

  • The City of Missouri City is considering purchasing the struggling Quail Valley Country Club and turning it into a municipal facility. Quail Valley has two 18-hole courses, plus a clubhouse, tennis course, swimming pool and fitness center.

  • US Kids Golf, a manufacturer of junior equipment, has selected its Top 50 Kids Teachers of 2006. The following Texans make the list:
    -Joe Caruso, Joe Caruso Golf, San Antonio
    -Ann Marie Gildersleeve, Austin Country Club
    -Kevin Johnson, D.A.'s Spring Creek, Plano
    -Roy Pace, Alpine Target Golf Center, Longview

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Waterford Texas

waterford texas golf club

Waterford Texas is the name of a new, master-planned community alongside Lake Travis outside Austin. And the community announced a few days ago that its private golf course, known as The Waterford Club, is now complete.

The photo above shows Hole No. 3. There are many more photos on the Waterford Web site, but most of them are construction photos.

The course was designed by the Austin team of Randy Russell and Roy Bechtol. It's a par-72 that plays to 7,310 yards according to the scorecard, 7,350 yards according to the press release.

Here is an excerpt from the press release, with the usual this-is-the-greatest-course-in-the-history-of-the-world hyperbole you expect from a press release:

Waterford's private course, located along the banks of Lake Travis, offers a world-class golfing experience to serious and casual golfers alike. This 7,350 yard course features pristine creeks, oak-lined hillsides, and spectacular views of Lake Travis. Waterford's dramatic and challenging course creatively blends the Hill Country's authentic Texas terrain with bent grass greens, Zeon Zoysia fairways, and density buffalo roughs.

waterford texas golf club

"Randy Russell and I were thrilled to have the opportunity to design and develop for Waterford what we believe is arguably one of the most beautiful and interesting courses in Texas," said Roy Bechtol of Bechtol & Russell. "With water views from nearly all 18 holes, eye-catching elevated vistas, three holes playing along Lake Travis, five tee boxes at every hole, and a landscape that graciously combines the native Hill Country terrain with the highest-quality grasses, Waterford will provide all players a fun and memorable golfing experience."

Bechtol added that Waterford's golf site was especially unique for the Hill Country because rather than encountering rock, the site was lush with usable soil. While Bechtol credits SIMA Golf's crews for skillfully constructing the course, he says the
landscape allowed them to "gently lay in" every hole.

"Waterford's fairways, greens and bunkers follow the site's natural rolls, elevations and obstacles to create a course that seems to have existed there for decades," said
Bechtol.

The photo in the middle of the excerpt is of No. 5, the one below is of No. 6.

waterford texas golf club

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Houston Open Qualifying

Tom Thelen of Richmond and Lonny Alexander of New Braunfels claimed the two spots up for grabs in the Shell Houston Open at the Southern Texas PGA Member Qualifier on Wednesday.

The qualifier was played on the Tournament Course at Redstone Golf Club in Humble, the site of the Houston Open March 28-April 1. This qualifier is not to be confused with the Monday qualifier that will be played tournament week. On a Monday.

Thelen shot 70 and Alexander 72 to get into the Houston Open. First and second alternates were Brad Martin and Billy Sitton, each with 73s.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Big Plans for Texas Open

The San Antonio Business Journal has an article on its Web site headlined "Texas Open setting sights on big names, network TV." Unfortunately, the article is hidden behind a subscription wall, but the first two paragraphs certainly tease a great story:

There is no bigger name in the world of golf than Tiger Woods, whose appearance at tournaments brings the promise of crowded galleries and a heightened level of national media exposure.

Now, more than a decade since Woods last played in the Texas Open, local tournament officials are working with the PGA on a series of important changes that could help lure Woods, other top marquee names and major network television exposure back to the Alamo City.
Hey, that's a story I've got to read! So I visited a few newsstands and bought a print copy of the Biz Journal (what? paying for news? who's ever heard of such a thing?).

I paid a whole buck-fifty for the issue, quickly turned the article in question, and learned .... absolutely nothing. Turns out the article includes nothing in the way of new information. Zero. Zip. Nada.

Everything in the article has been reported before by Bogey's friend Richard Oliver in the San Antonio Express-News (and subsequently cribbed by yours truly for Texas Golf). In fact, Richard has been reporting this stuff for close to two years now. Good of the Biz Journal to finally acknowledge that something in happening in the world of San Antonio golf, but they're a little late to the party.

At any rate, here are the keypoints:

  • The Texas Open has the right-of-first-refusal for any spring date that opens on the PGA Tour schedule, and so should soon be moving to the spring.
  • A spring date makes it likely that the quality of the field will improve, and perhaps even some big names will play the Texas Open again.
  • The move to a new date will be accompanied by a move to a new golf course, the TPC course currently under construction in San Antonio.

Man, that's a buck-fifty I'll never get back ...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Lardon, Fleckman Winners in STPGA Match Play

Congratulations to Brad Lardon, winner of the Souther Texas PGA United Sports Technologies Match Play Championship title, and to Marty Fleckman, winner of the senior division.

Here's the report from the STPGA:

Brad Lardon of Lakeway defeated defending champion Tim Hobby of Boerne by a 1-up margin to win the 2007 Southern Texas PGA United Sports Technologies Match
Play Championship at San Antonio Country Club.

Lardon, who was recently named Director of Golf at Miramont Country Club in Bryan, earned $2,000 for the victory. He took a one-hole lead in the championship match with a birdie on the first hole, and, despite Hobby’s best efforts, never trailed,. The match was squared up three times, the last coming at the par-3 15th hole when Hobby scored a birdie to Lardon’s par.

Lardon regained his 1-hole margin with a birdie on the 16th hole and both golfers scored pars on the final two holes to settle the competition.

The win was Lardon’s third consecutive victory on a “major” Southern Texas PGA tournament. The former PGA Tour professional won the Club Car Memorial Championship last August and the STPGA Professional Championship in September.
He also won the 2006 STPGA TaylorMade-adidas Assistants’ Championship, just two weeks prior to winning the Club Car Memorial tournament.

Hobby earned $1,200 as the runner-up. Semi-finalists Jason Alexander of The Woodlands and New Braunfels’ Lonny Alexander took home $700. The golfers who
lost in the quarterfinals received $400 each and those losing in the second round earned $175 each.

Marty Fleckman of Cypress won the tournament’s Senior Division for the second year in a row, this time with a 2&1 championship match over reigning STPGA Senior Professional Championship winner Garry Rippy of Austin.

Fleckman led most of the match, holding a 1-up margin after 10 holes. Rippy, however, won the next two holes to take his own 1-up lead. Fleckman birded the 13th hole to even the match up. Pars on the 16th and 17th holes gave Fleckman his final margin of victory.

Fleckman earned $1,200 for the win, while Rippy took home an $800 runner-up check. San Antonio’s Chuck Westergard and Jim Dickson of The Woodlands earned $500 for reaching the semi-finals. The four golfers who lost quarterfinal rounds received $350 each.

Notebook: UT Club, Course Rankings

In the news:

  • In his blog at the Austin American-Statesman Web site, Kevin Robbins reports that the UT Golf Club in Steiner Ranch is due for some changes:

    Work has begun to lengthen the University of Texas Golf Club, soften some of its slopes, add some trees to its edges and renovate its bunkers.

    The 7,154-yard course, designed three years ago by Bechtol-Russell Golf, will measure more than 7,425 yards when the work is complete. The club hopes to have the $1-million improvement project done by August.

    “We’re just shining up a proud warrior,” said Roy Bechtol, who designed the course with his partner, Randy Russell.

  • The San Antonio Express-News' annual golf guide was out over the weekend. The newspaper ranked courses around the Alamo City and around the state. Of the broadest interest is the ranking of the top public courses in the state:

    1. Pine Dunes, Frankston
    2. Horseshoe Bay - Ram Rock, Marble Falls
    3. Cypresswood - Traditions, Spring
    4. Pecan Valley, San Antonio
    5. Tribute Golf Club, The Colony
    6. Barton Creek - Fazio Foothills, Austin
    7. Memorial Park, Houston
    8. Texas Star, Euless
    9. Crown Colony, Lufkin
    10. (tie) Cowboys Golf Club, Grapevine, and Waterwood National, Huntsville

    One oddity in these rankings is that the newspaper's local panel rated Pecan Valley behind two other courses in San Antonio, while the statewide panel rated Pecan Valley No. 4 in the entire state.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Eidolon President Launches Blog

terry koehler - eidolon golfPort O'Connor isn't the first place you expect to be home to a golf club manufacturer. But it is, and Eidolon Golf is the company. Eidolon V-Sole wedges have drawn many good notices over the past several years from club reviewers and equipment aficionados.

Which, given the pedigree of Eidolon's founder, president and wedge designer, probably shouldn't be suprising. That man is Terry Koehler (pictured).

Koehler, a lifelong Texan, entered the golf industry through the marketing side, but by the early 1980s had designed his first putter. By the late '80s, a putter Koehler independently developed was being used by a dozen or so PGA Tour players. He went on to develop putters and wedges for Merit Golf, then the "Sure-In" line of putters for Ben Hogan Golf.

In 1994, Koehler became Director of Marketing for the Hogan Company. Koehler then became president of the Reid Lockhart golf company, developing wedges that are still talked about today by some hardcore equipment gurus. Reid Lockhart eventually purchased the Ray Cook Company - are you still with me? - and Koehler's wedges went with him to Ray Cook.

Then finally, a few years back, Koehler settled in Port Arthur and launched another startup, Eidolon Golf.

That's a lot of experience, almost all of it focused on the short game. And that's what makes Koehler a great person to talk about equipment.

And that's what Koeler is now doing with his own blog, called The Wedge Guy. Check it out. It's only a few days old, just two posts as I write this, but you'll get a sense of what's to come.