THE STATE OF YOUR GAME
PRIME TIME From Journeyman to the Top of the Money List
Jimmy Walkerâ€™s Rise has been Meteoric
Texas Legend Willie Nelson Shares His Wisdom TRAVEL ESCAPES: Central Florida, Mississippi Is Scottie Sheffler the Next Jordan Spieth?
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6/5/14 11:28 AM
HOMEGROWN GOLF GEAR We check in on the latest product offerings from Texas-based companies. VOLUME 31, NUMBER 1 SPRING/SUMMER ISSUE
GEARED UP: page 30
PRIME TIME Jimmy Walker may have his head in the clouds, but the #1-ranked played in the FedEx Cup Standings has his eyes on the prize.
20: Regional News: Houston Tiger Woods will design Bluejack National in Montgomery, an exclusive club that aims to be the top private destination in Greater Houston.
28: Checking In: Lake Charles Charms With a wealth of gaming activities and an ever-improving golf scene, Lake Charles is luring fun-hungry travelers east of the border.
4 11:28 AM
Spring / Summer 2014 Texas Golfer 1
VOLUME 31, NUMBER 1 SPRING/SUMMER ISSUE
The Philosopher King Country music legend Willie Nelson shares his captivating wit and wisdom gleaned from a longtime love affair with golf. His book the Tao of Willie (written with Austinite Turk Pipkin) is a heartwarming and enlightening collection of the Red Headed Stranger’s unique insights on life. PAGE 14
IN THIS ISSUE:
8: Dallas’ Scottie Sheffler The UT commit rose to the top of American junior golf scene. How much farther can he go? 19: 2014 Texas Amateur Dallas’ famed Brook Hollow GC played host to an epic final-round battle of rising teen stars, Plano’s Will Zalatoris (pictured) and Austin’s Stratten Nolen.
2 Texas Golfer Spring/Summer 2014
36: The Lesson Tee: Mike McCabe, Dave Pelz and Tom O’Brien, Jr. offer practical fixes for the shots that trouble you most. 39: TRAVEL: Most golfers don’t think of Northern Mississippi as one of the South’s premier travel destinations, but they should. 44: The Architect’s Digest Houston-based golf course architect Mike Nuzzo offers his special perspective on the game he loves and the earth he loves to shape.
A N d
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Big Creek Golf and Country Club, Mountain Home 2 Eagle Crest Golf Course, Alma 3 Glenwood Country Club, Glenwood Harbor Oaks Golf Club, Pine Bluff 5 Hot Springs Country Club, Hot Springs (two courses) 6 Mountain Ranch Golf Club, Fairfield Bay 7 Red Apple Inn and Country Club, Heber Springs 8 The Ridges at Village Creek, Wynne 9 Sage Meadows, Jonesboro 10 Stonebridge Meadows, Fayetteville 11 Tannenbaum Golf Club, Drasco 1
APT 23647_Texas Golfer_March.indd 1
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Everything’s Better in the Summer One of my favorite parts of traveling is discovering incredible golf courses in the places I visit. Some people travel in pursuit of the best food or shopping experiences, but trying out a new course is definitely my thing. Zane Russell
Kenny Giannini G-4 No-Neck Putter
During a recent trip to Costa Rica, my colleague and I got the opportunity to play the La Iguana course at Los Sueños Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort. It was definitely a much needed refresher after the way Mother Nature had treated us this past winter. The18-hole, par 72 La Iguana course neighbors a lively rainforest and provides stunning views of the brilliant blue ocean. Yet, the challenge of the course was probably the best surprise. The greens were very fast towards the ocean and slower away from it, which made putting from the side tricky depending on the break. Designed by Ted Robinson Jr., the layout put my skills to the test and catered to my competitive side. It was a very enjoyable round of golf and I learned a lot about the area. I look forward to playing the course again sometime. Costa Rica may not be in your travel plans, but the great thing is that you don’t have to go far to find a golf escape. While you’re flipping through this issue, be sure to check out the Travel section where we highlight two up-and-coming golf travel destinations. In addition, you can find reviews on some of the best gear for the game, like the finely crafted Kenny Giannini G-4 No-Neck putter that can be a major game-changer for your short game. I also recently learned of a golf shirt designed to sync your upper arms with your body for a more consistent swing, which is featured in our section Geared Up (p. 30).
Los Sueños Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort
We’re also pleased to share insights from two Texas legends in this issue: one a golfer and the other from the world of music. If you like family stories and want to see beyond Ben Hogan’s steely persona, check out our review (p. 25) ofThe Brothers Hogan , a fun book by Hogan’s niece Jacqueline Towery and Austin’s own Peter “Save Muny” Barbour. Also, take time to read the words of the immortal Wille Nelson (p. 14) as he shares his passion for golf and his easy, heartfelt approach to life. I’m excited to be back out on the course in this warmer weather and I hope you’re enjoying it too. Thank you for your continued support ofTexas Golfer! Hit ‘em straight!
The Swing Shirt
Zane Russell firstname.lastname@example.org
4 Texas Golfer Spring/Summer 2014
VOLUME 31, NUMBER 1 SPRING/SUMMER
Chief Executive Officer/ Publisher
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Mike Kern, Brad Lardon, Don Mahaffey, Mike McCabe, Willie Nelson, Mike Nuzzo, Tommy O’Brien, Dave Pelz, Turk Pipkin, Art Stricklin, Jeff Williams, Howard Dunbar Contributing Photographers
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Copyright 2014 by Texas Golfer Magazine. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reprinted or otherwise reproduced without written permission from Texas Golfer. Texas Golfer Magazine is published by Texas Golfer Magazine, Inc., 15721 Park Row, Suite 100 Houston, TX 77084. ISSN #0889-4825
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MIRAMONT TO TEST TOP JUNIORS
MIRAMONT COUNTRY CLUB, BRYAN
TEXAS BECOMES CENTER of JUNIOR GOLF UNIVERSE THIS SUMMER
his summer, two of golf’s most prestigious junior events are coming to top-ranked clubs in the Greater Houston area. The U.S. Junior Amateur Championship will be contested on the Nicklaus Course at The Club at Carlton Woods (The Woodlands), July 21 -26. The following week, the Junior PGA Championship (presented by the PGA of America) will be conducted from July 29 - Aug. 1 at Miramont Country Club in Bryan. Both events will be televised by Golf Channel and will bring top junior talent from around the world. Dallas’ Scottie Sheffler won the 2013 U.S. Junior, defeating David Riley 3 and 2 in last year’s Finals match at Martis Camp Club, Truckee, Calif. “The USGA is excited to bring the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship to The Club at Carlton
6 Texas Golfer Spring/Summer 2014
Woods, returning this championship to the state of Texas for the first time since 2001,” said current president of the USGA Thomas J. O’Toole Jr. “The Jack Nicklaus Course will be a tough examination for the players and will help determine the best junior golfer in the United States. In addition, the Houston area is a vibrant golf community that will add to a great life experience for the players.” The Club at Carlton Woods hosted the 2007 USGA Men’s and Women’s State Team Championship as well as qualifying rounds for the U.S. Open and U.S. Mid-Amateur. Visit usga.org and www.carlton woods.com for updates on the field and tee times.
The PGA Junior Championship has also been a stepping stone to both collegiate and professional careers for many of golf’s past and current performers. Past competitors who have gone on to successful professional careers include: Cristie Kerr, Phil Mickelson, Inbee Park, Dottie Pepper, Jordan Spieth, David Toms, Alexis Thompson and Tiger Woods. In the 2013 PGA Junior Championship (which annually features a Boys and Girls division), Tyler McDaniel of Manchester, Ky., and Amy Lee of Brea, Calif., captured titles in thrilling fashion, sinking championship-clinching putts on the 72nd hole at Trump National Golf Club in Washington D.C. Brad Lardon, Miramont’s director of golf, says he is eager to host the Junior PGA Championship. “We have always wanted to support amateur and junior golf,” said Lardon. “Everyone associated with Miramont is thrilled to host this event for the next two years (Miramont will also host the Junior PGA in 2015).” The Junior PGA Championship will also serve as the final qualifying event to make the 2014 U.S. Junior Ryder Cup Team, which will be contested Sept. 22-23, at Blairgowrie Golf Club in Perthshire, Scotland. Visit www.pga.com for more information.
How Can We Grow?
BY C A R L M I C K E L S O N
The golf industry has come face to face with a legitimate crisis. For most of this century, golf participation has been declining at what is starting to seem like an unsustainable rate. Meanwhile, viable, heavy-hitting solutions appear to remain just out of reach. TaylorMade Golf CEO Mark King founded “Hack Golf” with renowned business strategist Gary Hamel as a crowd-sourcing initiative that engages anyone and everyone from anywhere to suggest ideas that might help effectively grow the game. The www.hackgolf.org site features a rolling feed of user-submitted ideas that range from silly to feasible to downright chin-stroking. It’s a healthy exchange of ideas, and that’s the point. King’s experimentation with a 15-inch cup has caused some stir and while it’s not the magic-bullet solution for saving the game, his greater point is that our guidance in seeking solutions is that the game is supposed to be fun. And, for the millions who’ve retreated from the game, it just wasn’t. “People who play golf once a year, they still play once a year,” King says. “But the people who play all the time, that’s who we’re losing. And the even bigger number is in the 18-34 demographic, where participation has declined by 30 percent. That means we don’t have kids coming out of high school and college playing golf. If that trend continues, fast forward twenty years when all the Baby Boomers are extinct, who’s going to play golf?” The initiatives in place, like local junior golf, The First Tee and Get Golf Ready do tremendous work, but the misconnect exists just beyond the scope of these programs. Golf does not have enough affordable and appropriate facilities designed to foster the continued maturation of beginning and developing players (you probably called them Hackers or Chops). We have neglected decades of opportunities to construct more pitch-and-putt and executive courses in favor of long, penal tracks with difficult rough and
fast greens, all designed to help sell real estate. So, now millions of golfers are telling us 1) it’s too hard, 2) it’s too expensive and 3) it takes too much time. Moving up a set of tees doesn’t solve fast, diabolical green complexes, forced carries and other elements that can make the game overwhelming for a developing golfer. Keep tough courses for good players, but create spaces where other can develop.
There is no equivalent in our present infrastructure for an aspiring avid golfer to graduate from the “Bunny Slopes” to the “Green Circle or Blue Square Slopes.” What straits would the ski industry be in if every alpine resort built in the last half-century only had Black Diamond slopes? And in golf, we’re by and large smart people, right? How did we let this happen? More importantly, what practical methods can we employ to climb out of this dilemma? Here are a few possible thoughts that might help push the business in the right direction:
1. More courses need to embrace a “Pathway” program that makes golf dirt cheap for juniors who want to play and develop once they’ve been taught the game. First Tee? Awesome. Where’s The Third Tee and the Sixth Tee Program? 2. The same enormous effort and application of resources that has been dedicated to junior golf should be replicated at the top 75 university graduate programs in the U.S. These people are about to be top earners. Groom them to be your future members and customers. Fish where the friggin’ fish are! 3. Change mowing practices. There’s a time and place for fast greens. Everywhere else, let’s improve pace of play and lower maintenance costs by dialing back speeds. 4. Repurpose dying courses as innovative teaching facilities with manageable, enjoyable golf holes that can be played by a variety of golfers in a short amount of time. If you need guidance on how to do it affordably, pay attention to our friends Mike Nuzzo and Don Mahaffey who have written an enlightening column in the back of this magazine. 5. Partner with companies like TopGolf who have tapped into a whole new model of presenting golf to the public in a fun, unintimidating environment and marry their approach with traditional PGA instruction, junior golf programs and league play. If you have practical ideas for growing the game we love to hear them. Please feel free to email us at info@ texasgolfer.com. Go to www.hackgolf.org and submit your ideas so the world can see them.
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Haven’t We Seen This Before? SHEFFLER’S SUCCESS BECOMING “SPIETH-ESQUE”
8 Texas Golfer Spring/Summer 2014
cottie Sheffler’s golf career is on a trajectory eerily similar to some players who have gone on to collegiate and professional success at historically young ages. Fellow Dallas residents Jordan Spieth and Justin Leonard and five-time major winner Phil Mickelson come to mind when considering the decorated 18 year old’s play in top junior and amateur events. In late April, Sheffler, the top-ranked junior in the country, won the prestigious Junior Invitational at Sage Valley (Sage Valley Country Club, Graniteville, SC) by one shot over long-hitting Texas A&M recruit Cameron Champ of Sacramento, Calif. Sheffler’s final-round 71 at Sage Valley may have been his last in a national junior event, but don’t expect the University of Texas commit to have a quiet summer. In May, the reigning U.S. Junior champ won his third straight UIL State Championship and finished an impressive 4-under
and tied for 22nd at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. The 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur champ will likely compete in the U.S. Amateur in August (he was a quarter finalist in the event last summer) before joining his teammates at UT this fall. Sheffler follows Spieth, a two-time U.S. Junior winner who also competed in the Byron Nelson twice as a high school student (in 2010 and 2011), as one of the Dallas area’s (and the nation’s) most decorated juniors. Spieth helped the Longhorns win an NCAA team title in 2012 before turning pro and winning the PGA Tour’s 2013 Rookie of the Year Award and competing on the Presidents Cup team. While Sheffler would more than happy to continue following in Spieth’s footsteps, it might not be long before we’re asking “Who will be the ‘Next Scottie Sheffler?’”
TEXAS GOLF’S HISPANIC HERITAGE
Before Trevino Broke Through, Elgin’s ‘Brickyard Kids’ Made History BY H OWA R D D U N B A R
R O C H E S T E R , N E W YO R K , J U N E , 1 9 6 8 .
The site was the Oak Hill Country Club. The hero was 28-year-old Texan Lee Trevino who captured the U.S. Open with a blazing four-round score of 275. It was a record-tying total for the championship up to that point. Trevino’s ascendancy in professional golf is a great success story for Hispanics in America in the 1950s and 60s.
Spring / Summer 2014 Texas Golfer 9
rowing up in Texas for the “Super
tion was finally made Unconstitutional in
by the time these boys were in their mid-
Mex” Trevino in Dallas was not
1954 by the US Supreme Court.
teens, they were champions.
easy, but he excelled at golf as a
The move to allow the Latino children
Prewitt was a visionary. He supplied these
member of the United States Marine Corps
into Elgin public schools was the one of
four promising youngsters with modern
golf team. He grew up in poverty living with
the keys to producing a cadre of the skilled
clubs, formal training and suitable golf
his mother in a modest barrio dwelling with
young golfers and friends that would forev-
clothing. On his golf course that wound
no running water. Like most Mexican-Amer-
er to be known as the “Brickyard Kids.” They
around the brick factory, the Brickyard Kids
icans of that time, Trevino would have been
were Robert Sanchez, Oscar Sanchez, Rudy
found jobs as caddies for the businessmen
expected to work on golf courses, not to
Limas, and Ray Limas.
who came to visit and play. In off hours,
play the world’s best golf courses for top
they practiced and improved well enough
to make the high school team. Robert, Os-
Long before the world of pro golf was
car, Rudy and Ray were not one-dimension-
set abuzz by Trevino, there was a group of
al athletes. They were standouts in football
young friends in rural Central Texas who
and baseball, but their main love was golf.
had already made their mark as the State
Prewitt encouraged the Elgin School
High School Champions of Texas in 1959.
Board to allow Robert, Oscar, Rudy and Ray
These four golf champs came from the
to participate in UIL golf competition in
ultimate Central Texas small town of Elgin,
the Spring of 1959. They entered the UIL
tourneys, played all the brackets and came
Elgin in the 1950s was very unlike today
home from the Texas State Golf tourna-
(a thriving Austin suburb). Back then, it was
ments winners in two consecutive years.
a poor and isolated farming town. Main
These 1959 and 1960 UIL Texas State
Street resembled a movie set in 1900. It
Championships in golf were the first by any
was a nice place to live but a bit lacking cul-
team sport from Elgin High School.
turally. There was one small movie theater,
The State plaques were huge and beauti-
no community center, no city swimming
ful. The kids wanted only that the teacher
pool, little to do except hang out or watch
they ever had (Buddy Prewitt) to have
TV. But something else set Elgin apart from
them but, due to UIL rules, the school got
much of Texas: the local population with a
the plaques. The school had full student
Hispanic/Spanish heritage was well accept-
assemblies each year in 1959 and 1960 to
ed into the mainstream of the town. When I moved to live in Elgin with my fam-
Why the Brickyard Kids? The Elgin Stan-
honor the golf teams. After 1960 Elgin High
dard Brick Company has a large factory on
had many golf teams and some did quite
ily from Southern California, I was fourteen.
the outskirts of Elgin which makes building
well but no other team would ever reach
I was surprised at diversity of the people in
products for use all over North America.
the State finals.
Elgin. Many of them were just a couple of
The company became known as simply
generations from ancestry in Europe, and
“The Brickyard” to all who live in the area.
All are respected retired Los Angeles Police-
Latin America. I saw the mainstreaming of
The plant was built on a large expanse of
men and Police Detectives. Theirs is a great
minority groups, especially Latinos, to be
flat Texas prairie back in the early 1900s.
life journey for four friends who came to-
even wider than in the many other places I had lived in the 1950s. Outside factors also influenced life in
Fortunately for the Brickyard Kids, owner Buddy Prewitt was an avid golf lover who had built a nine-hole golf course on the fac-
All four of these men are successful adults.
gether as young kids for the love of a sport enjoyed by millions of us. From time to time these golfers have a
Central Texas back then. The Supreme Court
tory property. Prewitt was also very caring
chance to come home to Central Texas and
issued an order to nullify state laws that
of his employees. The Brickyard Kids were
play a round. In several cases, the City of
mandated educational separation of the
a special project for him. He would care-
Elgin has welcomed them back to formally
Mexican and Hispanic children in public
fully tutor them in all of golf’s finer points.
thank them for the great recognition which
schools from whites. This ruling was made
Stance, club speed, shots to the green and
they brought to Elgin in their High School
in 1949. It did not apply at the time to black
putting were drilled into the Brickyard Kids
years and in their adult lives.
children. Separation of all races in educa-
by Mr. Prewitt. He knew his golf talent and
10 Texas Golfer Spring/Summer 2014
LEARN. IMPROVE. MASTER.
TCU’s Brun, Texas Team Capture Big 12 Championships
ulien Brun’s second-straight 66 made him the runaway individual medalist at May’s Big 12 Championship at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity. Brun’s 9-stroke win over Iowa State’s Sam Daley tied for the third-largest margin of victory in Big 12 Championship history. Brun’s 72-hole score of 277 was just one stroke behind the Big 12 record of 276 by Oklahoma State’s Morgan Hoffman in 2009, while setting a new Whispering Pines course record. Brun’s 66 tied the Big 12 Championship mark for the lowest fourth-round score. “I had a good start (in the final round) and it helped me build momentum,” Brun said. “This is a really stressful golf course. I couldn’t relax until the end, but it feels great.” A junior from Antibes, France, Brun extended his TCU career record to eight tournament victories. On the team side, Texas captured its fifth Big 12 team title and first back-to-back win in the conference tournament since winning the 2002, 2003 and 2004 titles. The Longhorns came into the final round at 3-overpar, trailing Texas Tech by a single stroke. Texas took advantage of the Red Raiders seven-over-par day final round with a three-over finish with an overall score of six-over, securing a three-stroke victory. Longhorn freshman Beau Hossler tied for third, finishing even par, 11 shots behind Brun. “This was hard fought. This whole entire season has been a mixed bag for us in regards to overcoming a lot of obstacles,” said Texas head coach John Fields. “I’m super excited for them. I’m excited for our program.”
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THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP AND LINKS GOLF :
The Ultimate Love Affair
hil Mickelson, who won his first
ly much easier even though they played
Throw Open conditions and pressure
British Open last year at Muir-
very long because it was nearly impos-
into the mix, and you have created the
field will be back to defend
sible to control where a shot downwind
ultimate test of golf. For myself, I fell in
his Championship at Royal Liverpool.
would end up. I also figured out that
love with links golf on my first trip and
For Phil, the love affair with links golf did
the trajectory you hit a shot meant ev-
hope to go back as often as possible.
not come easily. As a matter of fact, prior
erything and was the key to having any
Whether in Ireland, England or Scotland,
to his victory last year his record in The
chance of scoring.
links golf is just too much fun! The atmo-
Open Championship was poor. Links golf
During the British Open, as in any major
does not come easy for some because
championship, these problems are only
the game is played so differently than
exaggerated. With finer cut fairways and
Even though Phil’s season has been
here in the states.
faster greens than usual, you have to be
very inconsistent it would not surprise
a magician and very creative to get a ball
me if he found his game again at Liver-
to finish where you would like it to.
pool. There is just something about go-
Several years ago, I started taking groups from Miramont overseas. I have
sphere, people and historic nature of the venues make these trips epic.
now played most of the great links cours-
Sounds like fun!! We have not even
ing back to “the links” that brings out the
es in Scotland and Ireland. The first thing
touched upon the severity of the bun-
best in those that have embraced the
I noticed on my inaugural trip was the
kers. Bunkers are truly a penalty in links
beauty of the game as it was originally
firmness of the ground under my feet
golf. In many cases, the penalty is just as
and the thin seaside grass which does
severe as hitting a ball into a lateral pond
not provide much friction to slow a roll-
here in the states. Many times the only
ing ball. The second thing I became aware
option is sideways and that does not al-
of was how different holes played from
ways mean back into the fairway either.
Brad Lardon, PGA
one day to the next based on the wind
The reality of the penalty plays tricks
Director of Golf,
conditions. I quickly became aware that
with the minds of all who traverse the
Miramont Country Club
into the into-the-wind holes were actual-
great links courses.
12 Texas Golfer Spring/Summer 2014
Brad Lardon is the well-respected Director of Golf at Miramont Country Club. His ongoing series of articles, "From the Pro," will appear in each issue of TEXAS GOLFER. Brad can be reached at: Lardon@Miramont.com
Spring / Summer 2014 Texas Golfer 13
YESTERDAY’S NINE An Excerpt from THE TAO OF WILLIE by Willie Nelson & Turk Pipkin G OT H A M B O O K S
illie Nelson, one of Austin’s greatest treasures and one of music’s true originals, recently turned 81. He also recently earned his fifthdegree black belt in GongKwon Yusul, a martial art which he’s been practicing for 20 years. His wit and wisdom is timeless and might just give you a deeper appreciation for the game of golf. Enjoy his words: A note from Willie’s co-author: When Willie and I set out to write a book together, the first working title was “Wednesdays With Willie”, and would focus on what I’d learned from Willie during the regular Wednesday golf game I’d played with him off an on for twenty years. Much like our friendship, we started with golf. But as the rest of the book grew to encompass Willie’s wonderful philosophy of life, the golf part shrunk down to one great chapter. If this excerpt gets you started, I highly recommend the full book – The Tao of Willie - or a look at the great interview with Willie in my feature doc, One Peace at a Time. May the Tao be with you! - TURK PIPKIN
GOLF ISN’T JUST A GAME — IT’S AN ADDICTION.
Think of it as the crack cocaine of sports. Like most addictions, doing it more doesn’t necessarily make you any better at it — it just makes you want more. Start with a few holes and the next thing you know, you’ve worked up to 36 a day. If the golf club manufacturers were smart, their advertising slogan would be, “The first one’s free.” It’s a difficult game to learn, and then it gets harder.
14 Texas Golfer Spring/Summer 2014
I’ve been playing thirty-something years and have learned the hard way that just when you think you’ve figured it out, that’s when you’re really screwed. My longest running game has been at Pedernales Country Club, the 9-hole course I own in the hills outside of Austin. The course is a little rocky, but the greens roll true, and no one’s ever going to tell you to tuck in your shirt-tail. I first saw Pedernales playing in a celebrity tournament in the mid-seventies, and a couple of years later, another guy and I bought it. Then I let him have it, but later I bought it back. Then I lost it to the IRS, so Darrell Royal and Jim Bob Moffett bought it back for me. But the Feds said my pals didn’t pay enough for it, so the IRS took it back and sold it to an Iranian fellow. We didn’t get along so I convinced a theater owner in Branson, Missouri to buy it for me and I did six months of shows to pay him back. So I guess I’ve paid for the course several times. For years, the standard game at Pedernales was somewhere between five and fifteen of us in an equal number of carts, all of us racing from shot to shot claiming whatever ball we found as our own. The general philosophy in this game was, “May the man with the fastest cart win.” Needless to say, I had a pretty fast cart. We used to play for a million pesos a hole, double on birdies. We didn’t know what a million pesos were worth, but losing was considered catastrophic. HIT TILL YOU’RE HAPPY.
For big money or small, the rule from the first tee at Pedernales is “Hit till you’re happy.” If you don’t use your mulligan on number one, you can’t take it with you. Or you
I’ve been playing thirty-something years and have learned the hard way that just when you think you’ve figured it out, that’s when you’re really screwed. WILLIE NELSON
Spring / Summer 2014 Texas Golfer 15
can. You don’t have to take golf too seriously to have a good time. If you never have a bad lie, you never have to tell a bad lie. If you’re unhappy with your lie at Pedernales, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. That’s because we also another local rule called the Pedernales Stroll, which lets you lift your ball from a rocky lie and stroll it some place greener. Ireland would be a little far, but otherwise I recommend that you drop the ball within one length of your arm. Many years ago, some writer quoted me as saying, “Par at my course is whatever I say it is. Today I made a fourteen on the first hole and it turned out to be a birdie.” The only problem is, I don’t remember saying it, and anyone who’s played with me knows I’d pick up my ball long before making a fourteen. I’m not there to waste your time. Pedernales has calmed down a bit in recent years, and I’d say I play more now for the love of the game than the thrill of the party. I must have been asked a thousand times what my handicap is. It’s really high, but I can’t tell you exactly because we might want to gamble some day. For starters, let’s just say it’s higher than yours. WIVES COME AND GO, BUT A GOLF PRO IS FOREVER.
Whether you own a golf course or just a golf habit, everyone needs a golf pro. For twenty years, Larry Trader and I took on all comers in marathon matches for actual dollar amounts that my accountant requests I not mention. My game sucks, but when the shot is worth a thousand dollars, I tend to hit the ball a little better. First, you’ve got to pick the right partner. Then make sure you win nine and eighteen. We once played a nine-hole match against Lee Treviño, the two of us picking our best shot against the Merry Mex playing solo. Lee shot a six-under 30 on his own ball and we had to shoot 29 to beat him. Way to go Larry. It’s always better if you get a pro to tell you everything you’re doing wrong. You can still keep doing it, but at least you’ll know it’s wrong. People want to know everything about the golf swing, but Trader always told me to ‘just hit the ball.’ It’s not anything special. Little kids usually hit it great the first swing. Lots of people do. But when they start getting instruction, they go all to hell. One of favorite rules on the scorecard at Pedernales is: “No bikinis, mini-skirts or skimpy see-through attire. Except on women.” A lot of musicians turn into golf fanatics, and that’s because golf and music rely on tempo. Playing golf is a better high than most drugs, so sometime in the eighties, the rockstar’s motto should have been changed to “sex, golf, and rock-n-roll.” It’s also easier to get a tee time for golf than it is for sex. And that’s okay with most golfers, because once in a blue moon all the different parts of the golf swing come together perfectly and you hit a golf shot that is so beautiful that it’s better than an orgasm. Tempo, a natural high, and deep, primal satisfaction — maybe sex, drugs and rock-n-roll have all been replaced by golf.
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GOLF IS THE LAST THING YOU SHOULD GET MAD ABOUT.
The way I see it, if I play well, I’ll have bested my opponent. If I want to play better, the way to do it is through positive thinking. Talk to yourself, be your own best friend; be the coach you always wanted in school. If I continue to play bad, then what the hell — maybe I’ll make my opponent feel better about his game. Either way, we’ll be out under a beautiful sky, and my enjoyment of the hole, the game and the day is not going to be dictated by something as haphazard as a golf swing. A few years ago, I made a hole-in-one on at the beautiful Dunes at Maui Lani Course. It wasn’t a very long hole, and with the wind it took me a 2-iron to get there. Does that make me a short hitter or a really good golfer? Which would you choose? With that in mind, I’ll offer the two essential secrets of golf 1. Don’t lunge before you lurch. 2. The game of golf is not that different than the game of life. Play to your strengths and try not to get too wrapped up in the outcome. Let things happen and someday you’ll make a hole in one. I’m the living proof of that. Like I always say, you can’t lose ‘em all.
“Please leave the course in the condition you’d like to be found.”
WILLIE’S RULES OF GOLF
LOCAL GE ED KNOWL
News & Notes
DEANE TAKES GAME TO A HIGHER LEVEL Stuart Deane is on an exciting run. He’ll play in the PGA Championship in August thanks to a third-place finish at the PGA Professional National Championship and also competed in May’s HP Byron Nelson. Deane, the teaching professional at the Rolling Hills Country Club in Arlington, completed a “Grand Slam” on the local level in 2013 when he won all four of the NTPGA’s major stroke play events and then repeated as the Match Play champion. He has now won eight of the last 10 majors. Deane earlier noted that it was indeed a major accomplishment to win all five events in one season since the Section is noted for having some very good players. “I’ve been lucky enough
to play well at the right time,” he said. He’s no stranger to playing for million-dollar prizes as he won a winner-take-all event sponsored by Donald Trump with a $1 million first prize back in 2006. Earlier this year, Deane said he was prepared for the challenge, suggesting his game was good enough to be competitive in the Nelson. “It hasn’t been a birdie fest since the renovations on the course and I’m capable of one- to three-under rounds,” he noted. Deane also is an assistant golf coach at the University of TexasArlington and says playing with the college golfers definitely keeps him on his toes.
Deane previously played in the Nelson in 2008 and 2012, earning the spots with 65s in Monday qualifying at Sherrill Park Golf Course and Lantana Golf Club. He was in 12th place after 54 holes in 2008, but dropped to 49th with a closing 75. He missed the cut in 2012. Looking back, Deane noted that a wrist injury in 2009 did curtail his game for about 18 months, but he slowly got his game back in shape, allowing him to regain confidence and reaffirm the fact that he can still play at a high level.
Spring / Summer 2014 Texas Golfer 17
LOCAL GE ED KNOWL
NORTH TEXAS News & Notes
Ben Hogan Club Brand Set for Re-Launch, New Fort Worth Headquarters After a seven year absence from the equipment scene, it was recently announced the Ben Hogan Company will return to the business of club-making in 2015.
scar Feldenkreis, president of Perry Ellis International and Terry Koehler, president of Texas-based Eidolon Brands (makers of the innovative SCOR4161 wedge/iron line) recently commented on a partnership between their two brands that will bring back a golf equipment brand with a truly loyal fan base and a wealth of history.
true hero, so I did, too. I grew up with Power Golf and Five Lessons as my golf textbooks, and always played Hogan irons from my very first cut-down 5- and 9-iron. To be in a position to assemble and lead a team of equally committed Hogan disciples is an honor I could not even have imagined.”
This re-introduction of Ben Hogan golf clubs coincides with the 60th anniversary of the introduction of the first Ben Hogan irons in the fall of 1954.
According to Koehler, who was once the Ben Hogan Company’s director of marketing, an R&D team has already been working on the new Ben Hogan club designs, and the first offerings are targeted for introduction in 2015.
For Koehler, creating the ‘new’ Ben Hogan Company represents an opportunity to honor the legacy of two of his heroes – his father and Mr. Hogan. “My golf life began with an introduction to Mr. Hogan’s values and principles from my father,” Koehler reminisced. “He played with Mr. Hogan before the war and considered him a
“We are studying all the things Mr. Hogan believed about golf clubs, and dissecting early Ben Hogan designs to understand his performance principles and knowledge of what a golf club should do,” explained Koehler. “There was a wealth of genius in those early clubs. Our commitment to the Ben Hogan legacy is to ensure that every
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product delivers unmatched precision and dedication to the art of shotmaking, providing equipment that allows golfers of all abilities the opportunity to optimize their skills.” Koehler says Fort Worth was the most appropriate choice for the home of the “new” Ben Hogan Company. “Ben Hogan and his golf company were, and always should be, Fort Worth treasures,” explained Koehler. “We even recently moved our SCOR4161 production facility to Fort Worth (from Victoria) in anticipation of returning the Ben Hogan Company to its rightful and historic place in the top tier of golf equipment brands.” Watch www.benhogangolf.com to track developments in this evolving story of a Texas legacy being brought back home.
Plano’s Will Zalatoris (who joins the Wake Forest golf team this fall) outlasted Ausinite and Oklahoma State Cowboy Stratton Nolen to claim the 105th Texas Amateur by three shots. Zalatoris finished 10-under after three rounds at historic Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas.
THOMPSON VISITS TOPGOLF IN THE COLONY Lexi Thompson, winner of the LPGA season’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco Invitational, took time recently to meet with local golfers at the TopGolf in The Colony. Hot off a T-6 finish in the North Texas Shootout at Las Colinas Country Club, Thompson hosted a Red Bull-sponsored event called “Tee Time With Lexi”. Attendees got the chance to engage Thompson in a live question and answer session, see her hit shots onto the TopGolf range and then compete in a skills tournament. The 19-year-old LPGA star gave juniors advice on practicing, shared some details about her workout regimen and discussed some of the ways that she’s become a more aggressive player. Thompson burst on to the national golf scene at the age of 12 when she became the youngest player in history to qualify for the U.S. Open (this year, 11-year-old Lucy Li played qualified and player in the event at Pinehurst). She played in the final group during the third round of this year’s U.S. Open (with eventual champion Michelle Wie) before slipping into a tie for seventh.
PGA Pro Carey Receives Overdue Honor
It took 43 years, but PGA Life member Michael (Mickey) Carey of Frisco was finally recognized for his heroism beyond the call of duty while serving as a Marine during the Vietnam War, receiving a Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device— with Combat “V”—last fall. “Walking point, the most dangerous position, I tripped a land mine,” Carey recalled. “I ran backwards to alert others who might have walked into it.” Carey refused evacuation, noting that his unit was short of men. The Marine directly behind Carey wrote in a supporting
letter that Carey’s actions saved his life. “If Mick hadn’t alerted us so quickly, I would have walked into the brunt of the blast, surely causing my death.” Carey was praised for his actions by his Echo Company commander at the time, but the letter was lost when Carey transferred to the Hotel Company. He did receive three Purple Hearts after being wounded three times while serving in the jungles of Vietnam. While going through his military records 39 years later, Carey came across the original letter from his commander. It
took almost three years for him to get more supporting letters from his fellow Marines that were needed for him to actually be recognized with the belated honor. Today, Carey, 63, quit working full-time as a teaching professional in 2010 after receiving full disability from the Department of Veteran Affairs. He still does a little teaching and plays golf when he gets the chance. “I know I’m lucky to be alive,” Carey admitted.
Spring / Summer 2014 Texas Golfer 19
LOCAL GE ED KNOWL
HOUSTON News & Notes
TigerWoods to Design Bluejack National in Montgomery Former Blaketree Site to Become Luxury Lifestyle Club After already announcing one of the most ambitious and newsworthy private club community developments to hit in Southern Texas in many years, Beacon Land Development sent the buzz off the charts in May by revealing that Tiger Woods and his company, Tiger Woods Design, will be designing the 18-hole golf course at Bluejack National. The luxurylifestyle club and residential community are being constructed in Montgomery, on the site of former 18-hole daily-fee property Blaketree National Golf Club. It would be difficult imagine a project more symbolic of the blossoming business climate and resultant growth emerging in the corridor northwest of Houston (between Spring and Lake ). With developments like Spring’s 385-acre Exxon-Mobil campus, which is expected to be employing 10,000 people by 2015, indicators suggest upscale home and luxury recreational amenities will soon be in greater demand in the area. And Bluejack National’s developers are preparing to be ready when that happens. Beacon Land’s founding partners Michael Abbott and Casey Paulson have a combined 50 years of experience leading the member and guest experiences in innovative directions at acclaimed upscale properties like Vaquero Club in Dallas, Madison Club in Palm Springs, California, as well as El Dorado Golf & Beach Club and Diamante in Mexico.
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hardwoods, Bluejack National is reminiscent of the pinelands of Georgia and the Carolinas,” says Woods says. “The opportunity is here to create a golf course unlike any other in the Houston area, and our goal is for it to be among the best in the nation.” So what is Woods’ design sensibility? What does he like to see in a golf course? “Spending time with Tiger, you’ll see he likes his golf courses large. Not long necessarily, but generous in the landing areas and very strategic,” says Paulson.
Planned amenities in addition to golf include an area called The Fort, which will feature a bowling alley, movie theater, game room, pottery room and a classic American “burger joint.” Outdoors, members will have access to zip lines, a ropes course, an archery range, sport courts and additional outdoor fun. The Blake Fishing Dock will provide everything members need to enjoy catching bass and other game fish from the club’s private, stocked fishing ponds. “Our goal is to create a truly distinctive environment where families and friends can reconnect, enjoy their time together and create lasting memories and traditions they’ll cherish for years to come,” says Paulson. The championship golf course will be a completely new design on an excellent, mature expanse of pine forest. “With its changes in elevation, the beautiful pines and
Woods says the golf course will “require players to think and make decisions throughout their rounds. Green contours will be kept simple to allow for fast speeds, and the areas around the greens will be maintained firm and tight to promote shot options and creativity from the chipping areas.” In addition to the 18-hole golf course, Woods will design a Short Course for Bluejack National, providing “a creative, high-quality alternative to the 18-hole golf experience.” Construction of the golf course is expected to this summer with its completion slated for the fall of 2015, putting Bluejack National on pace to be the first golf course designed by Tiger Woods to open in the U.S. Bluejack National membership opportunities will be available by application and invitation only. For information about Bluejack National, visit www.bluejacknational.com.
KATY JUNIOR TAMES AUGUSTA NATIONAL
Treed Huang Brings Home Drive, Chip & Putt Title
erhaps you can call nine-year-old Treed Huang of Katy the ‘Cinderella boy’. His first trip to Augusta National, and he comes home a champion. Huang, an easygoing third grader who has played the game since the age of four, won the Boys 7-9 division in the first-ever Drive, Chip & Putt Championship. Held the Sunday before The Masters at Georgia’s Augusta National Golf Club, the historic event was televised by Golf Channel and made news worldwide. Huang amassed a cumulative score of 27 points in the three skill challenges to win his age division by two points. He placed first in the driving competition, third in chipping and fifth in putting. “Just to be on the grounds at Augusta National, to get to ride down Magnolia Lane and take in the experience was a
great honor, but to see him win was really special,” says Treed’s mother Yanmei Huang Li. Other Texans who qualified and
made the memorable trip to the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship include Andrew Petruzzelli (Dallas), Sky Sudbury (Spring), Shaheen Momin (Sugarland), second-place finisher in the Girls 10 – 11 division Jacqueline Nguyen (Houston), Emma Costa (Southlake), Kyle Cox (Carrollton), second-place finisher in the Girls 12 – 13 division Christine Wang (Houston), Trinity King (Arlington), Major Gammill (Austin), Kolton Pepper (Amarillo) and Johanna Alberto (Kingwood), who finished second in the Girls 14 – 15 division. In all, 88 juniors (from 110 local qualifiers around the country) competed in the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals. Qualifying for the 2015 event begins this summer. Go to www.drivechipandputt.com for registration and information.
TopGolf Opens Second Houston Location
he entrepreneurial juggernaut that is TopGolf expanded its Texas presence recently with the opening of a new 65,000-square-foot location north of Houston, just off of Hwy 249. TopGolf marries driving range, sports bar and energetic nightlife components to serve as a truly unique entertainment destination. In April, the first 230 Houston residents to sign up for a Platinum or Gold membership at the new location received invitations to a VIP Party featuring appearances by Houston Texans running back Arian Foster; Olympic athlete and world champion for ice speed skating Chad Hedwick and pro texasgolfermagazine.com
golfer Shannon Fish from the television show “The Big Break.” TopGolf Houston North is the company’s eleventh location worldwide and sixth in the state of Texas. “The people of Houston have been so incredibly supportive and welcoming of TopGolf since we (opened a west Houston location) in December 2012,” said TopGolf Houston North Director of Operations Don Bachman. The company estimates that its second Houston location will serve 400,000 visitors its first year of operation, with a 10-year economic impact of more than $264.5 million. Spring / Summer 2014 Texas Golfer 21
LOCAL GE ED KNOWL
HILL COUNTRY News & Notes
Grey Rock to Begin New Era as Austin-Owned Municipal ‘Club’ This summer ushers in a new era in Austin municipal golf. In June, the City of Austin finalized the purchase of southwest Austin’s Grey Rock Golf Club, a property that has operated as a high-end, daily-fee property since 1992. In March, Austin City Council voted to purchase Grey Rock’s 292-acre golf and tennis club for $9.6 million. Sara Hensley, director of Austin Parks and Recreation says the purchase secures park space in an area where the city had very little and protects the land, which sits on the environmentally-sensitive Edwards Aquifer, from future private real estate development. “The owner of the land was very willing to work with us, but was also very clear, ‘If you don’t buy it, I’m going to sell it and sell it for development,’” Hensley said. “With the purchase, watershed protection can play a role in preserving the land.” The City of Austin will almost certainly lose the beloved Lions Municipal in 2019 when the University of Texas (which owns the land where Lions sits) is expected to not renew the course’s lease and begin the process of repurposing the acreage. Hensley said the purchase of
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Grey Rock will fill that void and offer the city park space in an ever-growing section of southwest Austin. Transitioning a well-maintained daily-fee property (Grey Rock’s current 18hole rates range from $69 to $100) to municipal status has raised many questions from golfers as well as from residents near the course who are concerned about the possibility of deteriorating conditions or reduced maintenance budgets. City officials maintain the goal with this property is to maintain as much of the “luxury, daily-fee” luster as possible and to change as little as possible about the daily operation of the respected club. “We’ll take a unique approach to managing Grey Rock. We want to completely keep the quality of golf and conditions and the other amenities the property has.
From a pricing and maintenance perspective, Grey Rock will be in tier all its own. It will be positioned as a step above anything in the city’s existing portfolio,” says Kevin Gomillion, Austin’s Golf Division manager. Currently, the highest-priced 18-hole round among Austin’s municipal courses is $35 (cart rental is an additional $13) at Roy Kizer Golf Course. Gomillion says Grey Rock’s current management company, Austin-based Touchstone Golf Management, will remained involved in the course’s day-today operations for an undetermined period of time to help maintain continuity of service and operations. Gomillion adds that having a high-end public-access course will help the city secure more tournament and outing revenue than it does with its existing stable of courses. “Grey Rock also has a healthy membership and we value that,” says Gomillion. “We want current members to enjoy the same experience they’ve always had at Grey Rock and we’ll always look at ways to enhance things for members. They’ll be a vital part of the club moving forward.” The 18-hole golf course was built in 1992 as part of the Circle C residential community’s master plan. The property also includes eight tennis courts, three maintenance facilities, a driving range and a well-appointed clubhouse. Grey Rock has served as the host course for U.S. Open and Web.com qualifiers, the Texas Women’s Amateur Championship and the Canadian Tour’s Texas Challenge. Keep an eye on www.greyrockgolfclub.com for developments.
KINGSLAND’S LIGHTHOUSE COUNTRY CLUB Hill Country Setting, Small Town Appeal
n the new golf economy, we’re seeing fewer and fewer “from-the-groundup” developments but a growing number of repurposed, renovated and re-imagined projects in which new owners of existing properties are creating their own legacies. In 2011, Rick and Mercy Howe took over the fading ghost of a golf course Kingsland’s Packsaddle Country Club had become and it’s been both a commitment and an adventure ever since. “When we told our banker and attorney we were buying a golf course, they both looked at us like we were crazy, but after they saw our long-term plan and considered the potential for growth in this area, they realized maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all,” owner Rick Howe says. As Austin and its surrounding communities grow at an unprecedented rate, shrewd developers are banking that it’s only a matter of time before second-home buyers, empty nesters and clever real estate investors start looking deeper into the Hill Country and beyond popular Highland Lakes communities like Horseshoe Bay. Just 17 miles from Horseshoe Bay, near both Lake LBJ and the Llano River, Howe’s course (now called Lighthouse Country Club) and surrounding acreage is situated in the scenic foothills of the Packsaddle Mountains. “My wife and I always liked playing here and we decided we wanted something the people of Kingsland could take pride in, from the golf course to the restaurant to the beauty of the place,” Howe says. “It’s taken some time but we have a great team in place and people are starting to respond to this place the way we thought would if we got it right.” Chief priority since assuming ownership has been improving the conditions of the TifEagle greens and 419 Bermuda fairways and Howe says that’s the category that draws the most raves from players these days. “You hear the term ‘goat track’ about courses in tough shape and I’m not even sure the goats would have stopped for the course we started with,” jokes Howe. “Now under the guidance of our superintendent Jarrett Eledge, we’re seeing conditions we’re really proud to offer.” Lighthouse plays to a manageable 6,558 yards with water coming into play on texasgolfermagazine.com
five holes and unique features like granite outcroppings coming into view near some green surrounds. The biggest change to the scorecard was converting the 18th hole from a decent par 4 to a thrilling, uphill 181-yard par 3 that plays directly toward the clubhouse and trademark lighthouse/ tower feature. “It’s the toughest par 3 on the course and, in a lot of ways, maybe the most important swing of the day,” says Howe. Home offerings in what will be a custom-home gated community range from 1,400-square-foot villas to large single-family homes with good-sized lots. A small pool of well-appointed golf villas are available for visitors looking for a stay and play package. While on property, guest will enjoy the revamped Lighthouse Bar and Grill which offers a wide range of American classics (including steaks and seafood) in
a family-friendly atmosphere. “The food experience is a cut above anything else in Kingsland,” says Howe, adding that changes have made the restaurant a popular destination for golfers and non-golfers alike. A double-ended driving range and solid practice area round out the golf amenities and a newly-completed RV park was constructed to entice the seasonal influx of golf-hungry Winter Texans with access to shower, dining and laundry facilities. Rates with cart at Lighthouse are $42 on the weekend and $32 during the week. Take a scenic drive and a classic “change of pace” course in a charming Hill Country setting awaits in Kingsland. And, if you happen to fall in love with this renovated layout, single memberships start at $140 per month. For more information, visit www.lighthousecountryclub.com. Spring / Summer 2014 Texas Golfer 23
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THE BROTHERS HOGAN SHOWS the LEGEND’S
any books have explored with awestruck reverence the Ben Hogan “mystique” and the legend’s remarkable record inside the ropes. The Brothers Hogan: a Fort Worth History endeavors to humanize and demystify the golfing icon in a way few golf fans have ever seen. With details collected and shared by Hogan’s niece Jacqueline Hogan Towery, her late husband Robert Towery along with Austinite Peter Barbour, this book reveals Hogan, the family man while lovingly recalling what a sweet life could be had in the boom years of early- and mid-20th century Fort Worth. Towery, the daughter of Ben Hogan’s brother Royal, was aware her uncle was one of golf’s most successful and captivating figures but she also knew his fun and compassionate side. Jacque, as she’s referred to in the book, shares this insight: Uncle Ben was much more social than folks realize… When not at Shady Oaks, Uncle Ben loved listening to Bing Crosby records, going out to romantic movies, and dancing. When he was delighted by something, he would clap his hands together like a child. Hogan enthusiasts who think they’ve heard every story or every angle in the legend’s history will enjoy this fresh perspective. The familiar tales are all there: Hogan overcoming the hooks to become the game’s most proficient ball-striker and the best player of his generation, Hogan’s majors and incredible comeback after his near-fatal auto crash in 1949. Along with those, readers also get a glimpse into Hogan’s private world, his dearest relationships and how he enjoyed city he called home. texasgolfermagazine.com
Plenty of golfers know the 16th hole at Lions Municipal in Austin is known as the “Hogan Hole” and probably even know the story of Hogan remarking the par four was the only one he’d seen with “no fairway” while playing an exhibition match at Lions in 1950. That day, Hogan partnered with Harvey Penick to take on then-collegians Morris Williams and Ed Hopkins. He gave the crowd a show, not only by firing a 67, but by clowning, taking pratfalls and playing a character completely unlike his steely public persona. “He showed up late for the schedule tee time (Editor’s Note: Ben Hogan was never late for anything), staggered on to the first tee box with his famous white golf cap on sideways. He swung at the ball and whiffed it,” recalls the late Robert Towery. Hogan goofed his way down the fairway, stumbling, clowning and duffing his way to 7 before returning to character and finishing the round well under par. Weeks later would capture the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion, considered by many as his signature victory. The Brothers Hogan also lets readers in on the card games at Shady Oaks, the family dinners at Joe T. Garcias and respective offices and board rooms of Ben and Royal Hogan, two men who overcame tragedy and left legacies that still bear weight and inspiration in Fort Worth and beyond. If you enjoy the flow and precision of a history book with the warmth of a family memoir, pick up The Brothers Hogan. Order the book from TCU Press: http://www.prs.tcu.edu/ book-pages/barbour_brothers_hogan.asp.
Spring / Summer 2014 Texas Golfer 25
LOCAL GE ED KNOWL
NEW MEXICO News & Notes
Black Mesa Inspires Awe (And a Little Fear) BY J A M E S M C A F E E
olfers accustomed to playing parkland courses, where they see their challenges all in front of them, will likely find Black Mesa Golf Club (a gem on the Santa Clara Pueblo, north of Santa Fe) very daunting from a playability standpoint and stunning visually. Count me among that number when golfing buddy Ray Mullins and I ventured out the first time without the benefit of knowing where we should hit many of the shots. After getting more chances with the benefit of “Tom’s Tips to Taming Black Mesa” by golf professional Tom Velarde and being willing to sometimes play “position golf”, the course became a little more player-friendly and an exciting challenge. In the final analysis, we both agreed that Black Mesa definitely deserved all the accolades it has received, including being No. 2 in New Mexico and being one of the top 100 public course in the United States as ranked by Golf Digest since its opening 10 years ago. Very little earth had to be moved for the design by Baxter Spann of Finger Dye Spann as it traverses through dramatic sandstone ridges with fairways framed by arroyos. There are more than 150 bunkers, some strategically placed to catch errant shots and others used as alignment indicators and to define the fairways. Most are deep and unkept around the edges like ones in Scotland or Ireland. Adding to the challenge are large undulating greens that demand approach shots be kept on the right shelves if you want to avoid three putting. The scenic beauty of Black Mesa is enhanced by the fact there are no man-made distractions, offering dramatic views of the sprawling valley and distant mountains, including a few of Black Mesa, the course’s namesake. There were times when I felt like we were the only ones on the course. You do get occasional glimpses of other golfers, but there are really no holes parallel to each other. Each hole is shaped by the surrounding landscape; much like an artist does in 26 Texas Golfer Spring/Summer 2014
making a piece of pottery, and presents a uniquely different experience, something you can’t say about a lot of courses. Black Mesa could have the best set of four par 3s on any course I’ve ever played. The green on No. 3 is tucked in between natural peaks in the sandstone foothills with plenty of rough landscape awaiting errant slices. There’s a false front on No. 8, making it important to find the right putting zone from four possibilities. The green on No. 11 sits in a natural box canyon with a 30-foot cliff very close on the left side. Owner Eddie Peck convinced Spann to change the routing to work it into the design. No. 15 plays downhill and slopes left to right, leaving some shots either in bunkers or in the only pond on the course. The par 5s, varying from 536 to 603 yards, are challenging, especially for those playing for the first time. You sometimes don’t know how far to hit your second shots, which are semiblind in most cases. With the right wind conditions, long hitters can get home in two and have chances for eagles, but most players should be happy to get their third shots on the slippery slopes for birdie chances. No. 16, called “Stairway to Seven,” plays uphill and may the most photographed on the course. There’s a great variety of par 4s, including No. 5 that can be stretched to 496 yards and a pair of short ones (Nos. 7 and 14) where leaving the driver in the bag might be the best bet. No. 17 doglegs left and demands a long and accurate tee shot followed by an uphill approach that usually calls for a little more club because of the wind. Black Mesa concludes with a dogleg right where players have to decide how much they want to cut off and go over a dry creek bed with their drives. Then the downhill approach must be hit to a narrow green protected on the right by deep bunkers and surrounding high grass. Mullins summed up our Black Mesa experience: “The altitude is not the only thing that will give you a high.” See www.blackmesagolfclub.com for more information. texasgolfermagazine.com
The scenic beauty of Black Mesa is enhanced by the fact there are no man-made distractions, offering dramatic views of the sprawling valley and distant mountains, including a few of Black Mesa, the courseâ€™s namesake. There were times when I felt like we were the only ones on the course.
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Lake Charles Combines Gaming With Golf BY J A M E S M C A F E E
ased on the number of cars with Texas license plates in the parking lot at the L’Auberge Casino & Resort in Lake Charles, LA, it’s obviously a place that Texans from the southeastern part of the state like to visit to try their luck on games of chances not available back home. For golfers, there is the added bonus of three quality 18-hole championship golf courses with some great rates available. In addition, hunters and fishermen coming to Calcasieu Parish aren’t overlooked. Just across the parking lot from the luxurious 26-story, 1,000-room L’Auberge, with its 70,000 square foot casino, sits the Tom Fazio-designed Contraband Bayou Golf Club. It’s located on an old bayou with eight lakes, including some with alligators. There is a ‘do not approach” warning on the scorecard. From the back tees at 7,077 yards, it can be a challenging test that could hold its own against the game’s best. It does offer ample room off the tees and even higher handicappers can enjoy it as my media group did, playing the greens at 6,015 yards. Women will like playing the forward silver tees at 5.091 yards. Contraband Bayou was ranked No. 3 in the state by Golfweek. New cart paths were added in 2013 and the 9s were reversed so that the No. 1 tee can now be viewed from the golf shop. It costs a little more to play here, especially in the spring and summer when green fees climb over $100. The semi-private Gray Plantation Golf Club, a Rocky Roquemore design that is part of the Audubon Golf Trail, offers some great risk and reward options like the par 4 Nos. 11 and 16 where the big hitters can go for the greens with their drives. Playing from the whites at 6,309 yards, Brandon Tucker of golfchannel.com accomplished it on the 16th during a run of three straight birdies, but Danny Scott didn’t make it with his 3 wood. I took the safer route and had a putt for a birdie, but settled for a par. The par 5 No. 7 also offer a chance for the big hitters to get home in two by clearing a water hazard, but the safer play is to play to the right and have a short iron approach. Water comes into play on 12 holes, adding to the challenge, espe28 Texas Golfer Spring/Summer 2014
Obviously a place that Texans from the southeastern part of the state like to visit to try their luck on games of chances not available back home.
cially on the par 3 No. 6 with its island green where my ball got wet. For those long hitters wanting a challenge, move to the back tees at 7,191 yards with a rating of 74.6 and a slope of 140. There is Texas connection here now as Dennis Thomas and Tyler Kuhn have assumed duties as general manager and golf professional after moving from the Waxahachie CC. Green fees range from $49 to $59. Louisiana National Golf Club, a Dave Bennett design in nearby Westlake, also is a must play. It’s routed through a wooded swamp with stately pines. There are 14 lakes and 80 bunkers plus some challenging greens to test golfers. The new head professional, Ben Clemmons, was formerly an assistant pro at Bear Creek Golf Club near the DFW Airport. Green fees are only $34 in the winter. We also played the city-owned Mallard Creek Golf Course and found it a fun test and a great value for locals and visitors. However, we were told later it is closing. Other courses in the area include the Pine Shadows Golf Course, Frasch Park Golf Course and the Bayou Oaks Golf Club. A new golf course and the 715-room Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino are in the process of being added adjacent to L’Auberge and Contraband Bayou sometime in 2014. Our group also got to experience an afternoon out on the Calcasieu Lake with Calcasieu Charter Service as our guides. I didn’t catch anything, but others in our group did and we enjoyed them as appetizers at dinner that night. Speaking of food, Lake Charles offers some true Cajun culinary creations like gumbo, fried gator and boudin, a spicy sausage, that visitors don’t get back at home. The “Tomahawk,” a 40-ounce rib eye carved at tableside, at Ember at L’Auberge should be on the menu for most of the steak-loving Texans, especially ones who have been lucky in the casino and can afford the $99. For a change of pace for those wanting to do a little gambling, there’s also the Delta Down Racetrack and the Isle of Capri Casino, where I stayed on a previous visit and came home with a little added cash after hitting three 7s on a slot machine. texasgolfermagazine.com
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GEARED UP TEXAS EDIT ION
eâ€™re all for keeping it in the family around here, so we thought it would be cool to focus on golf products that
originate in the Lone Star State. Sure, Adams is owned by California based TaylorMade Golf and Nike headquarters is in Oregon, but both companies conduct research and development in the D/FW Metroplex, keeping some awesome jobs in Texas. Nikeâ€™s famous Oven is in Fort Worth while Adams proudly maintains its Plano. You can find great golf gear anywhere, but next time you tee it up with these items, do so with an added dash of Texas Pride.
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Justin Golf Shoes (and Boots) If you’re a fan of cowboy boots from legendary Fort Worth-based bootmaker Justin, you’ll want to check out the brand’s foray into golf shoes. The styles are traditional and the materials and craftsmanship are best-in-class. This is statement golf shoe with a rich Texan heritage. Available in exotic and non-exotic leathers, this shoe just might be your best splurge all year. www.JustinGolf.com
Edel Golf Custom Wedges There are custom wedges and then there’s the incredible degree that David Edel takes the customization process. If you go through the ultimate process with a custom fitter, you’ll hit a battery of shots to determine the appropriate grind and amount of bounce you need for your swing type, the kinds of divots you take and the conditions you play on a regular basis. Dozens of customizations can be made on the Edel web site’s Online Fitting module if there’s no fitter in your area. Custom engraver that turns your wedge into a work of art is the latest option from one of the most innovative putter and wedge company’s in the game. www.edelgolf.com
Adams XTD Irons It looks like the “Distance Iron” is here to stay. Adams Golf XTD iron boasts an industry-first cross-cavity technology that helps tighten misses. Adams moved the center of gravity off the iron’s face to generate gear effect similar to a hybrid. The XTD series houses the company’s thinnest cast-iron face to date, promoting hot ball speed. www.adamsgolf.com
The Swing Shirt Longtime Houston-based PGA professional Fred Collins has discovered a practical way to help his students keep their upper arms in sync with their “to develop the connected swing they’ve always dreamed of having.” Collins says his Swing shirt helps with almost any swing problem because it promotes bringing the arms and body back to the ball squarely. Zippers help restrict movement so a golfer can truly experience what a connected golf swing feels like. Endorser Chris O’Connell, swing coach for Matt Kuchar, says “The Swing Shirt ties your upper arms into your body for a simpler more repeatable golf swing.” www.getswingshirt.com
SCOR Scoring Irons Just as hybrids revolutionized the top end of irons, SCOR4161 offers a custom short game scoring system with lofts ranging from 41 to 61 that optimize distance control, gapping, shotmaking and forgiveness. Both high-and-low bounces are featured on the SCOR V-Soles. Four different shafts with varying degrees of flex are offered. www.scorgolf.com
Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Driver How does Nike’s Covert Driver get even more covert? Reduce glare and add sex appeal with a matte black finish to the clubs that features High-Speed Cavity Back technology that redistributes weight to the heel and toe allowing for increased distance and stability across the face of the driver. The Covert’s FlexLoft adjustability features customized settings for loft and face angle positions. www.nikegolf.com
Believe the hype. Not every golf product lives up to its billing, but here are a handful that impress and also pass the test out on the fairways.
1. COBRA BIO CELL DRIVER Perhaps overlooked because of its many color options-- including Rickie Fowler’s bright orange preference—Cobra’s Bio Cell driver might be the sleeper club of the year. Club testers remark that it’s one of the most forgiving drivers they’ve hit and the distance the club produces is effortless. The Bio Cell features a light crown and face that promote a very low center of gravity for ampedup ball speeds and reduced spin. Lofts can be adjusted between 9° and 12°. If you like a hot, high-launching ball flight without excess spin, this might be the next driver you should try. WWW.COBRAGOLF.COM 2. THE LAST BAG BY CLUB GLOVE If you travel enough with your clubs, you’ll agree there’s no reason to cheap out when it comes to your golf travel bag. Clunky wheels, uncooperative and ill-fitting zipper compartments can make travel misery. The Last Bag Club Glove is the standard among PGA Tour players for good reason. It’s durable, the creature comforts are excellent, the zippers are large and the wheel base and wheel construction prevent that annoying twisting, tipping, leaning thing that happens with other bags. It’s worth the splurge to get the best travel bag in the industry. WWW.CLUBGLOVE.COM 3. TRUE LINKSWEAR TRUE GENT WINGTIP We stand corrected. And we stand comfortably. After proclaiming another shoe the most comfortable on the market, we heard from several readers who suggested we try a pair of TRUE Linkswear shoe for comparison. This shoe provides comfort galore. Recently, our tester played an 18-hole round, went out for dinner and was home for an hour before he realized he hadn’t had the urge to kick off his TRUE gent wingtips. This style takes the classic wingtip template, widens the upper and features a zero drop sole to enhance your stability, traction, and ability to feel the course. It’s as close as you’ll ever want to be to barefoot on the golf course. WWW.TRUELINKSWEAR.COM 32 Texas Golfer Spring/Summer 2014
4. BIRDIE BOX Who doesn’t like getting “stuff”? When it’s golf stuff, that’s even better. The folks at Birdie Box have jumped on the retail trend of offering customer’s memberships to receive a monthly swag box filled with items geared toward their special interest. Each month, Birdie Box subscribers. The items include a selection of popular golf products from major brands – plus the current issue of Golf Digest – all packaged in a stylish gift box. Offered in one-, three-, six- and 12-month options, the retail value of each delivery is nearly double the cost. WWW.BIRDIEBOX.COM
5. KENNY GIANNINI G-4 NO-NECK PUTTER Work of art... or golf club? Luckily for us, we found one that is both. This center-shafted putter is as good looking as it is well-crafted. The clean, simple design, flat face and carbon steel head make the G-4 really stand out on the course. When Texas Golfer went out to test it in the field, many of our friends asked us about our new putter. We could definitely feel the G-4’s quality in action. The Soft Slotted Face Technology promotes solid, responsive feel. The ball rolls off the putter smoothly, with total control and no bounce. It is understandable why several touring pros have recently switched to this putter. It’s not cheap, but for such a game-changer, it’s worth the price. KENNYGIANNINIPUTTERS.COM
FEET ON THE GROUND, HEAD IN THE CLOUDS
Jimmy Walker Finds Comfort at the Top
or 188 PGA Tour starts, San Antonio’s Jimmy Walker was a man on the brink. For the better part of a decade, the question wasn’t whether Walker possessed the talent to be one of the best players in the game, it was more a matter of when he would put it all together for four rounds. Now, with three wins this season alone and a spot atop the FedExCup Standings and the Tour’s money list, there’s no question the 2004 Nationwide Tour player of the year now belongs among golf’s elite. Walker won the Frys.com Open last fall (technically, an event that counts in the 2014 PGA Tour season) by two shots, turning in weekend rounds of 62 and 66. He kicked off the 2014 calendar year by closing with a 63 at the Sony Open and clipping Chris Kirk by one shot. Five weeks later, Walker held off a charging field and a touch of nerves to capture the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am by a shot. “When you do win, the realization hits you that maybe it wasn’t as hard as you thought it was going to be. Then, you do it again and again. I can see where guys just get very comfortable (winning and being in contention) and it’s like a management game. You manage it a little better and tidy things up and play better. I think that’s what has been missing for nine holes of a tournament when I played really well and I’d finish second, third or whatever, so I think that’s the difference,” Walker says. Walker began working with renowned instructor Butch Harmon in the spring of 2013 and while the former Baylor standout’s swing looks largely the same as it has in recent years, there’s nothing on CBS Swingvision that can measure mental toughness and preparedness. Walker credits Harmon for pushing him and instilling a champion’s resolve in his already-impressive skill set. texasgolfermagazine.com
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“I think Butch has really helped me a lot (mentally),” Walker says. “The first thing he said when he worked with me was ‘You have to believe in yourself for good things to happen.’ I have really enjoyed my time with him and look forward to more.” Walker seems to have found a healthy balance in his career. Some of that, he says, can be attributed to his family traveling with him much of the year in a luxury RV. “We’ve had that since 2010 and we put 43,000 miles on it since then,” he says. “We get to keep all the toys for the boys in there and it’s a sense of home for them I think on the road. It’s nice that I get to sleep in the same bed every night, same sheets and pillow and know I’m going to sleep well. We enjoy cooking out and letting the boys run around and play.” Jeff Williams caught up with Walker recently and, rather than pontificating on swing path and shot trajectory, they talked about Walker’s unique hobby, astrophotography. Read on, and you’re sure to learn something you didn’t know before: When Jimmy Walker was on his way to winning his first PGA Tour event at the Frys.com Open last October, you might have thought that his focus would have been on every shot and every putt. But several times during the week Walker left the CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, Calif., for a 40-minute drive to the north, to Santa Clara, where his focus shifted by light years. Yes, light years. There Walker was attending the Advanced Imaging Conference, an event for astro-photographers from around the world to share their passion for taking shots of galaxies, stars, nebulae and assorted phenomena of the heavens. Instead of talking birdies and bogies, Walker instead was talking about image data processing, galaxy and nebulae formations and the latest in cameras and the computers that control them. With two more victories at the SONY Open in Hawaii and the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach to start the year, Walker is skyrocketing his way into the galaxy of PGA stars. But he is also working his way up in the world of astro-photography. He is a night owl of a different nature, scanning the heavens for the knockout shots of the dynamic world of interstellar space. Just call him Jimmy “Sky” Walker. “It was around Christmas  I expressed to my wife that I’d like a telescope for the backyard since I had had one as a kid,” says Walker, who lives outside of San Antonio. “She got me a pretty nice telescope and I started looking around the night sky. From a light-polluted city, there wasn’t a lot to look at. I knew the only way I would ever see anything is to attach a camera to the telescope. That started a whole whirlwind, a steep learning curve of how to do the hobby and do it right.” Using the internet, Walker studied astro-photography and was able to contact accomplished photographers, including Ken Crawford, a California businessman with a long history in the field and who is president of the Advanced Imaging Conference. At first, Walker used a telescope and camera mounted outside a rented cabin near Vanderpool, Texas, an hour’s drive from his home and over steep hills that blocked the light pollution from San Antonio. As he got deeper into the hobby, he found out about New Mexico Skies, nearly 600 miles from San Antonio. It’s a dedicated site at Mayhill, N.M, for astro-photography. At 7,300 feet, it is free of light and air pollution. There, Walker has set up his array. “I have a 16-inch RCOS [telescope], and the camera is an Apogee Aspen,” says Walker. “The mount that drives everything is an Astrophysics 1600, it’s what tracks the sky. The wide-field imaging telescope on 34 Texas Golfer Spring/Summer 2014
top is a Takahashi FSQ 106. It has a Finger Lakes Instruments Microline 1102 camera.” Just a little more complicated than a faded 8-iron. Astro-photography involves taking images over long periods of time at night, then processing the data through software and colored computer chips to achieve an image. No matter where he is in the world, Walker can control his imaging systems through his IPhone and laptop computer. These faraway worlds have come close to his heart, and he seems as excited about getting a great shot of the Horsehead Nebula or the Pinwheel Galaxy as he is about making an eagle. In fact, he’s made the astro-photography equivalent of a hole in one twice, getting two images selected for the NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day website. “For astro-photographers, that’s like grabbing the trophy,” says Walker. “The first one was of the Cave Nebula, which turned out really well. The second one was a structure inside the Heart Nebula called Melotte 15.” Walker posts his pictures at www.jwalk.smugmug.com. As ambitious has he has become as a player [he was leading the FedEx points list at the end of April], he has become increasingly involved in the complex astro-photography field, where he estimates he’s spent at least $60,000 on equipment with the likelihood of much more in the future. “I’ve got a couple of projects going. I am shooting NGC1999 right below Orion,” says Walker. “I am shooting that in a partnership with a couple of other guys. We are also shooting the Seagull Nebula together. I’ve got a bunch of galaxies in the works, because we are coming up on the winter sky where early in the morning, about 2, it’s the season of the stars, the galaxy season where we are not looking through center of the galaxy, we are looking out at deep space. The skies are a lot darker and we can see more galaxies. That’s until the summer Milky Way starts coming up in late April.” His work has impressed Crawford, who has had more than 30 of his own pictures selected as Astronomy Picture of the Day and who does work for various agencies exploring space through photography. “It’s good to see young people getting into this,” says Crawford. “Most people are 50 and older, doctors, engineers, people with some technical background. Jimmy got in touch with me through friends. He has learned very quickly. It’s a steep learning curve. You can tell him something once and gets it. He’s producing top quality images. He is very passionate about it.” Walker’s involvement in the field has brought about a unique endorsement opportunity for him, with Celestron, a company that makes telescopes, microscopes and accessories. “They will be opening a powerful imaging system at [New Mexico Skies] and I will be able to take pictures using their gear,” says Walker. “It’s fun to promote the hobby.” It’s the fun part, the diversion from the consuming game of golf, that catches Walker’s fancy. “I enjoy being outside and looking up at the stars,” says Walker. “As far as the science of it, I’m not really into planet hunting and things like that. I do enjoy reading about some of the stuff I take pictures of, a little bit of the science. It’s really amazing to read about some the distances these objects are we take pictures of, how big and fast, how huge space is.” For Jimmy Walker, budding PGA stalwart, a star is born in a whole new way. – JEFF WILLIAMS
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PREPARE LIKE A WINNER BY M I K E M C C A B E
We’ve been talking about pre-round preparation and I want to continue to focus on how important it is to be tuned up prior to playing a round of golf. I’m not just talking about getting loosened up from the car ride, either. There are some simple ways you can engage your golf muscles and make quality use of the few minutes prior to your round. So many golfers focus on hitting driver after driver to loosen up, probably because they’re thinking about that first tee shot. While those big swings do help warm you up, don’t neglect a quick stretch and definitely don’t start your round without a little short game and putting practice. You’ve heard the statistics, and they’re true: nearly two-thirds of the shots you’ll hit in a round of golf will be inside of 100 yards. There’s also a good chance nearly half of your shots per round will be putts. Why would you ever want to go into a round of golf not knowing the speed of the greens are having a feel for how much break you’ll see? That’s just throwing strokes away. I like to get on the putting green and get a feel for the speed right away. I like to stroke a few lag putts first, paying close attention to the speed and how much break I see play out on each putt. From there you can move on to intermediate putts of 15 to 20 feet. Try to find two holes you can use to practice putts back and forth. This will help you practice uphill and downhill putts or left-to-right and right-to-left breaking putts. Always practice putting with a purpose. Also always watch each putt to the end, paying close attention to the speed, how far the ball rolls past the hole and, definitely, getting a feel for a much break the greens will have that day. If you watch Tour players, they never quit on a putting stroke. They make a complete finish and then hold the finish as they watch the putt roll out and come to a stop. They’re getting feedback on every putt. There’s a mini lesson in every putt. Pay attention during your chipping sand and wedge game practice. Watch your average “leave distance”, what length putt you’d have most often to get up and down. If it’s six feet, practice plenty of six-foot putts. You’ll need to be sharp from that range. If it’s more than 10 feet, call us for a short game lesson! It’s really important to loosen up your short game and putting muscles as much as it is to loosen up your body to make free, full swings. We’re fortunate at Old American because we have a great, state-of-the-art practice space where golfers can work on every conceivable short game shot prior to or after a round. You can also hit full-swing shots from the back of the range space. We’ve even got covered hitting and putting areas if the weather isn’t nice. A smart, regimented pre-round warm-up is an easy way to get more enjoyment out of your round. You don’t want surprises on or around the greens. The game can be tough enough! If you want to more about a good pre-round routine, call for a lesson from me or someone on the Old American staff. We’d love to help you! Mike McCabe is the general manager at Old American Golf Club. www.theoldamericangolfclub.com
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How to avoid “Coming out of the Shot” BY TO M O ’ B R I E N J R . , P.G . A .
ypically, when you fight the habit of “coming out of the shot” something is wrong in your backswing. Either you’re too choppy (steep) or you have a closed club face in the backswing (another steep angle). So in an effort to not take too much of the ground or to not hook the ball, you will thrust your mid-section toward the target line. When you do this, your weight moves towards your toes which makes you “stand up” or “come out of” the shot. To fix this, you must first eliminate the steep angle you are creating in your backswing. It often helps to feel like you’re making more of a baseball backswing, swinging around your body versus chopping up and down. Try the swing I’m illustrating in the two pictures above to get that feeling of swing around your body. Initially, you might “top” or “thin” a few shots doing this, but we must eliminate the steep angle being created in the backswing so we can encourage “staying in the shot.” To quit topping or hitting the ball thin, focus on trying to keep your weight back toward your heels in the downswing. When your weight goes toward your heels in the downswing, it tends to make you bend over more in the downswing or “stay in the shot” better. An example of this would be if someone pushed you backward. Your natural instinct would be to try to throw your upper body forward to keep from falling on your back. We want to create more of this reaction in your swing! A great way to feel this would be to hit a few three-quarter shots with a 2x4 under your toes. The 2x4 keeps your weight toward your heels which will keep you from coming out of the shot in the downswing. Get rid of the steep angle in the backswing and keep your weight toward your heels in the downswing and you’ll wave goodbye to coming out of the shot forever!
Tom O’Brien Jr. is a teaching professional at the Wildcat School of Golf at Wildcat Golf Club in Houston, Texas.
2X4 UNDER THE BALLS OF THE FEET TO K E E P W E I G H T TOWA R D S H E E L S Spring / Summer 2014 Texas Golfer 37
Know Your “Reference Swing” for Consistent Pitch Shots BY DAV E P E L Z
o learn a good pitch swing motion, use my simple method of finding a “reference swing.” Using my lofted (60-degree lob) wedge, I stop my backswing when the shaft is parallel to the ground, then swing through until the shaft is perpendicular. This length swing, with this club and my normal pitch-swing rhythm, flies the ball 15 yards in the air. With my pitching wedge, this swing motion flies my shots 22 yards, while my sand (S) wedge and extra-lofted (X) wedge shots fly about 18 and 12 yards respectively, from the same reference swing motion. These are my “reference” pitching distances, and form the basis from which I adjust my swing and club selection to produce different flight distances as I need them on the course. You should learn your reference-swing distances for all of your wedges. Don’t try to make them fly particular distances by hitting them harder or swinging faster. Just learn how far your reference swing flies shots with each club, when swung from parallel to vertical, with your
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smooth, natural rhythm. This will give you a set of known flight distances so you have control of a variety of distances with just slight modifications of that swing. You can learn your distances by hitting to a pitching green or into laundry baskets in your backyard. When establishing distances, what happens on the ground isn’t important; you simply want to know how far the ball flies from that swing with each club. Keep practicing, holding your finish and watching until each shot stops rolling. With practice, you will be able to stand over your ball and, in your mind’s eye, see the perfect landing spot on the green. As you begin landing them there, you’ll see your shots rolling up to, and sometimes into, the hole. The more you practice, the sooner it will happen. Good luck and good scoring to you! DAV E P E L Z
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Floridaâ€™s Mission Inn Resort is a reminder of old Florida and simpler times in the Sunshine State BY A R T S T R I C K L I N
ith its collection of tacky souvenirs stores, endless stream of chain restaurants and never ending variety of amusement parks, the mega tourist destination of Orlando begins to look like one large paradise or pit, depending on your point of view, of family entertainment. But less than an hour away, northwest of the sprawling city, stands one of the last vestiges of the old, traditional Florida. When citrus was king and a manâ€™s singular vision founded cities like Miami and West Palm Beach. A smaller vision of that is what Illinois transplant turned citrus empire magnate founded in the 60,000 acres William J. Howey purchased just outside of Orlando among the lakes of Central Florida in 1916. He built a kingdom where the only amusement park was working in the fields with the family and
then wading in the lakes and the creeks fishing for dinner. Howey first built the Bougainvillea Hotel and later the Floridian Hotel then called on famed Chicago golf architect George Oâ€™Neil to build the El Campeon Golf Club in 1917. Today, Howey only survives through his name on the still small and graceful city. The hotel and the golf course now part of the Mission Inn, owned by Nick Beucher and his family, who purchased it in 1964 after reading an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal regarding the Howey estate. He took the then fading property and restored it under Buecher family ownership which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. While the original hotel was torn down and rebuilt as the 190-room Mission Inn, Buecher was wise enough to leave the
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original O’Neil golf course alone, only adding gentle restoration to its graceful layout among the property lakes and streams. It’s now part of the historic Florida Golf Trail, and for good reason. Indeed there is water on all but five of the holes at El Campeon and water comes into play on the last seven holes with plenty of trouble to wash away any good score on the nearly 100-year-old layout. The signature hole is the par 5 17th hole Devil’s Den with out of bounds left and right and water directly in front of the small green. In fact, on the last four holes, water directly defends the green, meaning a good drive and a brave approach shot can be washed out before you even have a chance to putt on the slick greens. El Campeon has been named the No. 1 course in Florida by the National Golf Club Owners Association and is annually ranked as one of the top 10 you can play in the state.
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T R AV E L S E C T I O N
Former PGA Tour star and Florida resident Gary Koch designed a second course at Mission Inn, Las Colinas, which was modernized by Ron Garl in 2007. While the par-72 Las Colinas layout lacks the historical charm of the original course, it offers plenty of challenge as well with large undulating greens and water on nine of the 18 holes. But what makes Mission Inn Resort and Course unique is the unhurried nature of the place. Inside the aging walls is really a slice of old Florida. There is a 6,300 square foot modern spa, a tennis and fitness center, golf practice area, three different kinds of restaurants, its own Marina Del Ray with a 56-slip harbor, along with Trap and Skeet shooting. Guests returning from another golf round are welcomed by a large 19th hole grill with huge picture windows, a wooden bar with TVs around the room and especially spectacular natural views of the out-
door setting. “We really do have a little bit of everything here,” said Drew Toth, who has worked at the Mission Inn for years, escaping the rush and busyness of the big city. “When you see the moss draped trees over the golf course with the water and the small greens and menacing bunker, you really get a sense of what a hidden gem this place is.” Founder Howey and his longtime successor Buecher would certainly appreciate that. Citrus is no longer the absolute ruler of the Sunshine State. High-priced, professional, family fun and with acres of familiar dining is less than an hour away. But, thankfully at the Mission Inn, the slower pace still prevails and guests are happy to discover the gem whenever they can. Go to www.MissionInnResort.com or call (800) 874-9053 for more information.
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FEELING MISSISSIPPI BY MIKE KERN
Unless you count a two-hour drive along the Gulf Coast I once made from Alabama to New Orleans, I had never been to Mississippi. At the age of 55, I figured it was probably about time to add the Magnolia State to the list of the other 40 other states I have visited. So when I got an invitation to go there on a golf trip, it was as much a gimme as a two-inch birdie putt.
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T R AV E L S E C T I O N
didn’t realize just how many options Mississippi had to offer when it came to golf. I had heard many great things about the Biloxi area, but there are actually five regions in an area about the size of my native Pennsylvania. My group’s itinerary began at Pearl River Resort, in the east-central Pines, roughly an hour from the capital of Jackson and not far from the “other” Philadelphia, the home of Marcus Dupree, the former great high-school/college running back, who happened to be on the practice range one day hitting balls. Pearl River Resort — part of the Choctow Indian Reservation — offers Las Vegas-style gaming at the Silver Star Hotel & Casino and Golden Moon Hotel & Casino, a spa, 16 restaurants and a variety of accommodations. I would strongly suggest Phillip M’s for dinner. If it’s not one of the best meals you’ve ever had, I’ll spot you some gaming chips. Because I’ve been known to judge my golf trips as much on how well I eat, as the quality of the courses. Just make sure to save room for dessert.
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But that wasn’t the main reason we were at Pearl River. That would be the Dancing Rabbit Golf Club, which features two courses, the Oaks and Azaleas. Both are the combined work of Tom Fazio and Jerry Pate, and each has been rated by Golf Digest’s as “Best Places to Play.”
I didn’t realize just how many options Mississippi had to offer when it came to golf.
Together they’re situated on roughly 7,000 acres of gently, rolling terrain. There’s enough “wow” factor to get your attention. Still, much of the beauty in the design is subtle, which to me is a much more difficult thing to pull off. That applies to the elevation changes and gentle flow/feel of the property, which has a bunch of variety and character as you move along. Even though they’re cut mostly from woods, as you’d suspect given the names, you always think you’re playing something a little different each time. Never a bad trait. The Oaks is a bit more user-friendly, since it has fewer forced carries. In other words, you can have fun. What a concept. Yes, both courses can beat you up in spots, particular
ly if you chose to play from the wrong set of tees. The condition of the courses was impeccable, especially the putting surfaces. If you missed, you really couldn’t blame the superintendent. The best compliment I can give any course is that I could play it three or four times a week and never get tired of it. That’s the way I felt about either of the choices here. As an added bonus, we got to stay at the Fairway House, situated on the third fairway of the Oaks, the same place the tribe’s Chief had actually used just before we arrived. It was roomy enough to take care of at least a party of six, and is worth considering if you have that kind of group. There are also eight spacious suites above the grand Dancing Rabbit Clubhouse, not to mention the deluxe rooms at the adjacent casino resort. You can reach the resort via the personal golf cart you receive when staying at the clubhouse. The carts have head lights, which come in handy when driving home after dinner and some time at the tables, and the ride takes less than five minutes.
T R AV E L S E C T I O N
A visit to the Dancing Rabbit pro shop is a must, if only because of the logo. I had to take home a shirt and two hats, even though I have plenty of both. And when it comes to hospitality, the folks at Dancing Rabbit absolutely know how to get it done. Big time.
On my flight back, I was already plotting a return trip. In fact, I can’t wait to get back.
Our next stop was just as indelible. It was a stop at Canton Country Club, which I can only describe as a blast from my past. It wasn’t Dancing Rabbit, by any means. But it wasn’t supposed to be. It reminded me of the courses I grew up on. Not much in the way of obstacles, but in many ways about as playable as it gets. And you can play it for $30, which is obviously a steal these days. The front nine is wide open, the back side is tight. There’s almost no sand. So you can chip all day long. The closing four-hole stretch has some quirks to it that are pretty unforgettable. If I lived there I’d have get a membership. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I flew down to Mississippi. But one thing is for sure. On my flight back, I was already plotting a return trip. In fact, I can’t wait to get back.
Spring / Summer 2014 Texas Golfer 43
INGENUITY IS ALIVE IN MODERN GOLF DESIGN BY M I K E N U Z ZO & D O N M A H A F F E Y
Geoff Shackelford’s essay “Time for a Change” in March’s Golf World stated that “Golf needs new ideas from architects,” and by now golf should have gone beyond “the golden age” of the 1920s. We disagree and believe there are standout examples of innovative golf design today. We also think Geoff needs to get out more. More importantly, we believe that course owners and those in the golf industry need to look harder over their horn-rimmed glasses for innovative architecture and construction techniques, instead of the same tired old choices and solutions. To support his argument, Shackelford’s article states that “no modern designer has created a template hole worthy of a reinvention.” How does one instantly judge if a modern hole is worthy of reimagining? When the Redan was built in the 1800s, it wasn’t copied and popularized by C.B. MacDonald until decades later. Granted, worthy holes are few and far between, both in time and distance. We have seen several examples of great individual modern holes from as far away as Tasmania. Of the greatest modern courses we’ve seen have seen, several have been instrumental to our inspiration and our development-- not necessarily individual holes, but particular concepts. Some of the best modern designers have reinvented what defines a green or tee complex and where they end. We hope we have continued in that direction with our work at Wolf Point, as we imagined a course with as few lines or boundaries as possible. This resulted in more fairway
44 Texas Golfer Spring/Summer 2014
than any other course in America where the features all blend in a natural, harmonious manner. We also did build several original holes at Wolf Point that we feel are unique and hope one day will help inspire others to imagine similarly strategic holes. We are aware of two unusual golf holes that were built at the same time, independently of each other, but have similar characteristics. At Ballyneal, Tom Doak built what he calls the “E” green on a short two-shot hole. It is surrounded by bunkers that take two bites out of the right side of the green, forming an “E” shape. At Wolf Point, our one-shot 15th hole also has a long putting surface. A swale that runs along the left side of the green dives into the green twice, creating a three dimensional backwards “E.” While both holes and greens play differently, we think they both provide inspiration for future designs. The golf industry has become dominated by rules and absolutes that used to only be techniques. It feels like one of the most difficult aspects of golf design, construction and maintenance is to refuse to let the golf establishment educate the creativity out of you. We believe it is healthy to confront these “absolutes.” In reality, adherence to modern standards of design and construction has produced courses that look and play the same. At Wolf Point, we didn’t let that happen to us and the result was something very interesting, fun, and unique. It was a similar experience
“Some of the best modern designers have reinvented what defines a green or tee complex and where they end. We hope we have continued in that direction with our work at Wolf Point.”
at Dismal River Golf Club in Mullen, NE where Tom Doak and crew recently completed the Red course. At both Dismal River and Wolf Point, conventional golf techniques were replaced by ingenuity and a different approach to construction. Neither golf course was designed or built at the drafting table. Both courses were constructed in a non-traditional manner, resulting in much lower costs and excellent golf. Even with many technical advancements, including bunker liners, sand, and drainage, the golf industry has grown ever more conservatively with bunker design and construction. One of the great features of old links courses is how bunkers play bigger than they their actual size because they gather and collect balls. At Wolf Point, we built several gathering bunkers, which is big no-no, especially in a heavy rainfall area. To work adequately, we beefed up drainage in these bunkers, which is not the normal solution of increasing the size of the bunker or building damns around the edges. With creative shaping to break up surface drainage flow and extra drainage in bunkers where needed, modern bunkers can gather shots, as well. The end result is less sand to care for, less bunker to build, and a larger impact on strategy. Another consideration is focusing on the golf and not adding complexity and cost to
maintenance by having multiple heights of cut across the course. Recently Bluejack National announced they are rebuilding Blaketree, a course north of Houston, and have hired Tiger Woods as the designer. Their goal is “to create a golf course unlike any other in the Houston area” and what seems to be the largest differentiator is that “The turf will be maintained at a single height of fairway cut,” which is how we built Wolf Point eight years ago and still maintain it today.
“Most modern architects take less time to craft their work.”
Shackelford says “Most modern architects take less time to craft their work.” For this there is proof, as a recent book review of A Difficult Par, the story of Robert Trent Jones, describes that “Trent was more interested in signing the next deal than completing the last job.” Time is one element sorely missing from modern golf developments. A lack of reasonable time exponentially increases cost for what we consider to be little return. All of the great courses have taken a long time to become successful, and this is why we never rushed or expedited construction at Wolf
Point. We used the tool that was best for the job, not the fastest. We built the course on a schedule with the only deadline of finishing was when we were complete. Shackelford also asks “Where is a merging of the best of the old with something revolutionary and original to create a new ultimate?” and suggests that progress has been limited due to precious few great properties “as good land for golf became harder to find.” It is true that over the last 25 years the best modern golf courses have been built on beautiful but very remote sites. Minimalism was partially founded on great properties creating great golf courses. This has been wonderful for the avid golfer who doesn’t have to travel to Scotland or Ireland for distinguished golf any longer, but not so for the everyday player. Our hope was to dispel this myth and create a great golf course on average land at practical expense. Wolf Point wasn’t built on the best land; some would say it wasn’t even good, but the golf is interesting and has tons of variety and beauty, and has been loved by all its visitors. We think that even more important than great land is great imagination. Mike Nuzzo and Don Mahaffey created Wolf Point which was featured in our April 2011 issue.
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next up on the #1 tee: you L o c a t e d i n t h e h e a r t o f t h e C o l o r a d o R o c k i e s , b o t h t h e To m F a z i o a n d G re g N o r m a n designed courses at Red Sky Golf Club have been consistently ranked among Golfweek and Golf Digest’s top courses you can play. Coupled with world-class lodging a t B e a v e r C re e k R e s o r t , n o w i s y o u r c h a n c e t o p l a y a t t h i s c o v e t e d c l u b .
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