Monday, March 31, 2008

Sikes Claims Adams Tour Opener

Week 1 on the Adams Pro Tour Series is behind us, and Scott Sikes of Bedford is the first Adams champion of 2008.

Sikes closed with a 65 in the Adams Golf Kick-Off Classic at Hearthstone Country Club in Houston, catching and passing third-round leader Michael Boyd of Tulsa. Sikes finished at 20-under 264 (67-67-65-65), two strokes better than runner-up Boyd (67-64-66-69).

Top 5 Finishers
Scott Sikes, Bedford, 67-67-65-65--264 (-20), $15,000
Michael Boyd, Tulsa, Okla., 67-64-66-69--266 (-18), $6,625
John Elizondo, San Antonio, 70-64-66-70--270 (-14), $4,795
Edward Loar, Dallas, 63-67-71-69--270 (-14), $4,795
Tyler Leon, Dallas, 70-68-66-67--271 (-13), $3,800
Full Scores

The next tournament on the Adams Series schedule is the Firewheel at Garland Classic, April 17-20 in Garland.

Weather Cooperates - Finally - with TLJT

For the first time this year, the Texas Legends Junior Tour was able to get in a full 36-hole tournaments. Its previous starts in 2008 were limited to 18 holes each outing due to inclement weather.

But the TLJT's Heart of Texas Championship in Waco, played at Twin Rivers Golf Club, went the distance. And so did its three champions, Johnathan Sustaita (Boys 15-18), 11-year-old Scott Scheffler (Boys 14-under) and Jinny Kim (Girls 15-18).

Here's the recap from the TLJT:

For the first time this month the Legends Junior Tour was able to complete a 36-hole tournament. The previous two events – Spring Preview and Charles Coody Junior Championship – were shortened to 18-holes due to bad weather. But the sun came out in Waco and a new star was born. Johnathan Sustaita fired rounds of 70-75 to win the Heart of Texas Championship by three-strokes over Alex Ellis of Austin.

"I kind of kept to myself, didn’t pay attention to anybody else," said Sustaita, 17. He made only one birdie, to go along with three bogeys, in windy conditions. The victory earns Sustaita an exemption into this year's EDS Byron Nelson Junior Championship and Texas State Junior Championship. When told about the EDS exemption, the quiet Sustaita cracked his first smile of the day.

Scott Scheffler, 11, continued his dominant play in the Boys 14 & Under division. His second consecutive 77 earned him a one-stroke victory over Jake Gorman. The win is Scheffler's third on Tour this year and earns him another AJGA JAS tournament exemption.

In the Girls division, Jinny Kim of Coppell also notched her first career Legends Junior Tour victory. Her two-round total of 157 was good enough for a four-shot victory over Chelsea Mocio of Ft. Worth. Kim, 16, said she tried not to think about her lead or how her fellow-competitors were playing. "I wasn't nervous, I tried not to care," said a smiling Kim.

The victory earns Kim an AJGA tournament exemption as well as 1000 Player of the Year points.

Click for full scores

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Els Withdraws from Houston Open

Bad news for fans heading to the Shell Houston Open this week: One of the biggest names has had to withdraw. Ernie Els announced Sunday he has withdrawn from the tournament due to a virus:

"I am very disappointed to have been forced to make this decision because I was really looking forward to playing this week," Els said in a statement. "The Shell Houston Open was going to be an important part of my buildup toward the Masters, but I have been advised that it would not be in my best interests to play."

Els said it was a similar virus to the one that caused him to arrive late at the CA Championship at Doral, where he failed to break par all four rounds and finished at the bottom of the pack.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Aussie Aussie Oi

Here's a fact nugget, indicative of absolutely nothing, but an interesting data point: According to the PGA Tour, the Houston Open boasts more Australian winners than any other event on Tour.

Aussie winners in Houston are:

  • Bruce Devlin - 1972
  • Bruce Crampton - 1973, 1975
  • David Graham - 1983
  • Stuart Appleby - 1999, 2006
  • Robert Allenby - 2000
  • Adam Scott - 2007

Watch out for Steve Elkington next week. He's playing well, and he's a Houstonian now.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Next Round in Battle Over Protective Nets for Homes On Courses

An interesting story is emerging out of Plano that appears to be the next round in battles between golf courses and homeowners who live on those courses over who is - or whether anybody is - responsible for protecting those homes from wayward golf balls.

Some homeowners in Plano have taken matters into their own hands, erecting safety nets to protect their homes (and potentially themselves), when those homes are very close to a course. Sounds reasonable enough.

But other homeowners object - they say the nets are an eyesore and want them down. What to do?

The Plano city council came up with an ordinance that would give golf courses the right to decide whether a home was in danger, and therefore OK the homeowners' desire to erect a safety net. Needless to say, the homeowners who have the nets don't like that idea at all.

Can't we all just get along?

DFW TV station NBC-5 has a report here. Click to watch the video.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

STPGA Selects Joe Black Cup Captain

steve bowmanCongratulations to Steve Bowman of Houston, a teaching pro a Matt Swanson School of Golf, on his selection to lead the South team at the Joe Black Cup in October.

The Joe Black Cup pits teams of golfers representing the Southern Texas PGA and Northern Texas PGA in a North vs. South Texas golf throwdown. It's a Ryder Cup-style competition and this year's tournament - Oct. 12-14 at Crown Colony Country Club in Lufkin - will be the 28th playing of the event.

Bowman was a top junior player from Tyler in the mid-1970s, went on to be both a JUCO All-American (McLennan College) and NCAA All-American (Texas A&M); and played professionally on the PGA Tour, Asian Tour and European Tour.

Here is the announcement from the STPGA:

Steve Bowman, a veteran of a dozen Texas Joe Black Cup Matches, has been named Captain of the Southern Texas PGA team that will meet is Northern Texas PGA counterpart at Crown Colony Country Club in Lufkin to determine the 2008 champion from Oct. 12-14. This year will mark the 28th renewal of the tournament.

A victory in this year’s competition would mark an accomplishment neither Section has achieved since the Matches began in 1981 ... maintaining possession of the Cup for four consecutive years.

The Southern Texas PGA won the 2007 Texas Joe Black Cup Matches by a 15-1/2 to 8-1/2 margin to maintain possession of the Cup for the third year in a row. The STPGA had retained the Cup in 2006 following a 12-12 tie after winning the 2005 Matches 12-11.

Bowman, a member of the PGA of America since1986, is a teaching professional at Houston’s Matt Swanson School of Golf. He was the Section’s Eastern Chapter Junior Golf Leader in 2003 and currently serves on the PGA of America’s President’s Council. He served as the chairman on the STPGA Tournament Committee for four years.

“I was thrilled to be asked to be our team’s Captain,” said Bowman. “When you look at the names on the list of past Captains, you know you’ve been honored. It will be a challenge, though, since we’ll be making history as the first Section to hold the Cup four years in a row if we win."

Bowman played on nine Southern Texas PGA Texas Joe Black Cup Matches teams (from 1998 through 2006, while he was the head golf professional at Corpus Christi’s Pharaohs Golf Club), compiling an overall record of 13-12-2. He is the seventh leading point winner, with 16.5 points, in STPGA team history. Five of the Southern Texas PGA teams on which he played won the Matches.

He played on three Northern Texas PGA teams (from 1995 through 1997, when he was the head golf professional at Briarwood (now Cascades) Country Club in Tyler), earning 2.5 points with a record of 2-5-1. The 1995 NTPGA team on which he played beat the STPGA by a 15-9 margin.

Bowman’s playing experience includes two years on the PGA Tour (1985 and 1986) and five years (1990 through 1994) on the European PGA Tour.

The Ryder Cup-style Texas Joe Black Cup Matches began in 1981 and was named in honor of Joe Black, a native of Snyder, Texas, who was then serving as president of the PGA of America. Black is currently living near Austin.

The annual event pits teams of Southern Texas PGA Professionals against a team of professionals from the Northern Texas PGA. The two teams consist of nine professionals who win spots on the teams through year-long “points” competitions, a senior representative, the respective Section president ands a Captains’ pick on both sides. The makeup of both teams will be determined following the completion of the respective Section Professional Championships.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Carol Mann Honored by PGA of America

carol mannCarol Mann wasn't born in Texas, but she got here as fast as she could. As the saying goes. The LPGA Hall of Famer and longtime Texas resident now teaches out of The Player Course at The Woodlands. And she was recently named the 2008 recipient of the PGA of America's "First Lady of Golf" honor.

And it's a prestigious honor, as you can tell by looking at the list of past recipients. Nothing but the best:

1998 - Barbara Nicklaus
1999 - Judy Rankin
2000 - No recipient
2001 - Judy Bell
2002 - Nancy Lopez
2003 - Renee Powell
2004 - Alice Dye
2005 - Carol Semple Thompson
2006 - Kathy Whitworth
2007 - Peggy Kirk Bell
2008 - Carol Mann

Mann won 38 times on the LPGA Tour, including two majors. She was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame in 1977 and the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1998. She's a past president of the LPGA, and a trustee and past president of the Women's Sports Foundation. She is a special ambassador for and consultant to the World Golf Hall of Fame. And she played a role in winning passage of Title IX.

Read the announcement.

Texas Open Tea Leaves

A short Associated Press item on the PGA Tour's search for companies to take over sponsorship of two tournaments caught my eye for what it says about the Texas Open's chances of moving to the Spring part of the schedule.

And what it says about those chances is this: The chances are good. As noted here several times previously (as first reported by San Antonio Express-News golf writer Richard Oliver), the Texas Open has a commitment from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to move to a Spring date as soon as one becomes available.

The PODS Championship, played a couple weeks ago in Tampa, Fla., is losing its sponsor. So is the AT&T Classic played in a couple weeks in Atlanta. The AP item notes:

The PGA TOUR is trying to save two tournaments that no longer have sponsors, with the priority on Tampa, Fla., because it comes first on the 2009 schedule, part of the Florida Swing in March. The other is in May outside Atlanta, where AT&T will bail out after this year.

PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem said he would know something about Tampa in the next 90 days.

"We're getting close to a point where we've got to move forward," he said. "We're still focused heavily on Tampa and Atlanta."

One prospective sponsor was at Innisbrook two weeks ago and said to be enthusiastic.

The item then mentions the Texas Open as a tournament that could move to the Pods' spot on the schedule should a new sponsor not work out.

"It would be awkward to leave Florida," Finchem said. "But I don't think it's the most important thing."

That might be the first public quote I've seen from Finchem acknowledging that another tournament might take the place of the Tampa stop on the schedule. That "other tournament" would clearly be the Texas Open, based on everything we know.

Are you ready for the Texas Open in March? It might happen as soon as next year.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring Pro Takes STPGA Club Car Memorial

Ray Richmond, manager of the Willow Creek Golf Shop in Spring, was the victor in the Southern Texas PGA's Club Car Memorial Classic, completed March 11 at Meadowbrook Farms Golf Club in Katy. Here's the recap from the STPGA:

Sometimes, Mother Nature has impeccable timing, as was precisely the case for this year’s Club Car Memorial Classic at Meadowbrook Farms Golf Club. She managed to blow in a couple of inches of rain just in time for the first day of the tournament, and, as a result, the field played both rounds on Tuesday, March 11.

Ray Richmond, manager of Willow Creek Golf Shop in Spring, handled the 36-hole challenge best, posting a score of 4-under-par 71-69—140 to finish 2 strokes up on Tim Hobby, teaching professional at The Club at Sonterra in San Antonio, and Wes Skaggs, the head golf professional at Leander’s Crystal Falls Golf Course. Richmond took home $3,200 for his championship play. Hobby and Skaggs earned $2,150 each.

The victory was Richmond’s first in a major STPGA tournament.

"I’ve been hitting the ball very well lately, but I haven’t been putting too well," said Richmond. "My game plan was just to hit fairways and greens. Meadowbrook Farms is a tough course and the conditions were very difficult, so there wasn’t a lot of pressure to make a lot of birdies."

With the weather delay forcing a shotgun start for both rounds, Richmond began his second round on the 16th hole.

"When I chipped in for birdie on the 12th hole, I was 4-under-par with three holes to play." Richmond said. "I was 2 shots ahead at that point, but I thought I was behind. That helped me stay aggressive for the rest of the round."

Tim Thelen, director of instruction at Bryan’s Traditions Club at Texas A&M, turned in a score of 73-70—143 for fourth place and $1,400 in winnings. John Gibson, head golf professional at Houston’s Bushwood Golf Center, and Chris Borgen, an assistant professional at Bushwood, tied for fifth place at 144 and won $1,100 each.

The total purse for the Club Car Memorial Championship was $21,700, and the STPGA wishes to express its appreciation to title sponsor Club Car and supporting sponsors Ahead, Antigua, The Green Grass Golf Group, Laser Link, the PGA Tour and the PGA of America for their sponsorships of the tournament.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

TPC Four Seasons Ready for the Nelson After Renovation

The Byron Nelson Championship, since 1994, has been played on two courses: the Cottonwood Valley course shared play in the first and second rounds, then the third and fourth rounds were played entirely at TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas.

But the TPC Four Seasons course was never a favorite with PGA Tour players, and last year its greens were atrocious. Low grumbling turned into loud badmouthing.

Enter D.A. Weibring. Weibring, long a friend of Byron Nelson's, had his design company start renovating the TPC layout almost as soon as the 2007 Byron Nelson Championship ended.

And a couple days ago, after careful consideration, the PGA Tour announced the refurbished layout ready to host all 72 holes of the Nelson in 2008.

"In redesigning the course, our goal was to honor the legacy of Byron Nelson," said Weibring. "To that end, we created a cleaner, more defined course that incorporates traditional tee, bunker and green elements throughout."

"PGA Tour players will be faced with more shot options from tee to green, creating additional drama for spectators and TV viewers. At the same time, for resort guests and Sports Club members, we created a very playable layout for all skill levels," he said.

Utilizing input from dozens of PGA Tour players, Weibring and his partner, Steve Wolfard, redesigned every hole on the ... course, including all tees, fairways, and green complexes. The course is now distinguished by traditional square tee boxes, softer mounding, better sight lines and dramatic white faced bunkers framing the fairway and green complexes. PGA Tour professionals Harrison Frazar and J.J. Henry served as player consultants on the project.

"The changes didn't require us to dramatically lengthen the course. We added just 200 yards overall," Weibring said. "Instead, PGA Tour players will see the biggest impact in the realignment of tee shots and better contouring of bunkers and greens."

In the Dallas Morning News article on the changes, player-consultant Henry added:

A lot of the complaints were about the awkwardness of some tee shots," Henry said at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Fla. "I think the guys will be really excited about the bunkering and contours. We also have a lot of runoff areas where there is a lot more variety and shotmaking. Players will have a lot of options to think about."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

More Course Rankings: Top Resorts

The latest batch of golf course rankings are actually resort rankings - as in rankings of the full resort (hotels, restaurants, golf course, the works) - and they come from Golf Magazine. The magazine's rankings consider resorts in North America and the Caribbean and are split into three levels: Platinum, Gold and Silver.

Alas, Texas failed to land any resorts in the Platinum and Gold lists, but several made the Silver list:

  • Barton Creek Resort & Spa, Austin
  • Four Seasons Resort & Golf Club at Las Colinas, Irving
  • Westin La Cantera, San Antonio

In other words, the usual suspects. (Except that I'm surprised Horseshoe Bay doesn't make the list.)

The magazine also has a list of "Green Resorts," facilities it singles out for environmental stewardship. Barton Creek makes that list, with this blurbage:

In 2001, Barton Creek received the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) National Environmental Steward Award. And the efforts of all four courses to provide sanctuary for wildlife led to Audubon certification.

Something that's important to note: When you hear a golf course brag about having "Audubon" certification, they are not referring to the National Audubon Society, but to a completely separate, unaffiliated group whose sole purpose seems to be giving golf courses this certification. In other words, take that certification with a major grain of salt (which in no way is meant to diminish the genuine efforts of many golf courses and resorts and the golf industry in general to institute more environmentally friendly practices).

Here's a good photo of Barton Creek:

barton creek resort

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Better Field at Colonial Starts with Mickelson

The Colonial - now the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial - has seen its field strength dissipate over the past decade, a thinning that actually dates to the death of Ben Hogan. And Colonial Country Club - Hogan's Alley - has turned off some PGA Tour players, too. While Colonial is one of America's classic courses, it's not a PGA Tour-favorite anymore. It's short by Tour standards and demands precision off the tee.

Phil Mickelson is one player who, in the past, has noted that Colonial is a course that's not advantageous to big bombers such as himself.

So how does Colonial - which had one Top 10 player in its field in 2007 - go about bettering its field and, therefore, its TV ratings? Well, the tournament sponsor came up with a great idea: Start by targeting Phil Mickelson. Crowne Plaza did just that, wooing Mickelson with an endorsement deal and a new set of television commercials built around Mickelson, like their previous commercials had been built around David Feherty.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram tells the story:

But the folks at Crowne Plaza, who serve as title sponsor of Fort Worth’s annual PGA Tour event, seek more for their millions than a few memorable one-liners from their on-air talent during golf telecasts. They want big TV ratings to enhance their brand in a global marketplace.

That didn’t happen during last year’s Colonial. Weeklong rains prompted endless weather delays, forcing networks to air ratings-killing file footage instead of showing live golf. A field that included only one of the world’s top 10 golfers, Jim Furyk, did not help, either.

But instead of dwelling on what did not work, the Crowne Plaza folks devised ways — in concert with Colonial Country Club officials — to enhance the event. The results, thus far, have been encouraging.

By building this year’s marketing campaign around Phil Mickelson, the No. 2 player in the world golf rankings, the Crowne Plaza folks opened the door for Lefty’s return to Fort Worth. As things stand, he’ll be joined during the May 22-25 tournament by three other top-10 golfers (Furyk, K.J. Choi and defending champ Rory Sabbatini, a Fort Worth resident).

Don’t be surprised if Steve Stricker, the No. 4 player in the world rankings, joins the list of confirmed competitors in the near future. All of that brightens the outlook of Kevin Kowalski, Crowne Plaza’s senior vice president for worldwide brand management.

Read the full article.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Golfweek's "Best Of" Courses

Texas doesn't get much love in the various golf publications' annual best courses rankings. But perhaps there's hope on the horizon for better showings in the future. Golfweek's rankings emerged this week, and six Texas courses are sprinkled among the 200 listed in the magazine's 100 Best Classic Courses and 100 Best Modern Courses lists. Don't laugh. That's better than we usually do.

Here are the Texas tracks that made the lists:

Best Classic Courses
53. Colonial Country Club, Fort Worth
90. Champions Golf Club (Cypress Creek Course), Houston
92. Brook Hollow Country Club, Dallas

Best Modern Courses
23. Dallas National Golf Club, Dallas
36. Briggs Ranch Golf Club, San Antonio
93. Crown Colony Golf Club, Lufkin

It's especially encouraging to see Dallas National and Briggs Ranch, courses that opened this decade, climbing so high. Both clubs have aspirations to host major tournaments. And while the PGA of America and the USGA don't base decisions on where to place events on a magazine's course rankings, it certainly doesn't hurt to have this arrow in your quiver. Especially taking into account how far ahead of some major championship venues these courses placed: Valhalla at No. 96, Oak Tree at No. 83, Crooked Stick at No. 77, Shoal Creek at No. 70.

As I write this, the rankings do not appear to be posted yet on the Golfweek Web site. Check back in a few days.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

So Long Pods, Hello Texas Open?

Just a thought: While you're watching the PGA Tour Pods Championship this week, imagine what it would be like to see the Texas Open in this spot on the schedule. Because it's something that could happen in 2010 ... perhaps even 2009. More here.