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Huntsville Heroes: Holcomb and Alberto Shine on National Stages

Will Holcomb V and Hanna Alberto carded two of the best summers in amateur golf. Holcomb advanced to the semifinals of the 119th U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst, and Alberto won a state championship and competed in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Despite their national success, the 21-year-old Texans don’t play for one of the collegiate golf powerhouses that come to mind such as the University of Texas, Vanderbilt, Stanford or Oklahoma State.

Holcomb and Alberto are seniors at Sam Houston State University.   

Located in the small East Texas town of Huntsville, Sam Houston State’s student enrollment accounts for over half of the population. The town built on humility and hard work reigns true for the Sam Houston State Men’s and Women’s Golf Teams.
Though the Bearkats may not come to mind among the elite, the 2019 Southland Conference Men’s and Women’s Champions roster two of Texas’ top amateurs. And when you’re one of the best in Texas, you’re among the best in the entire country.

“It’s like your children and you watch them grow up before you,” Sam Houston State Head Golf Coach Brandt Kieschnick said. “Both of them are great players, and I’m not surprised on the success they’ve had both on the local and national stages.”

The Sam Houston State golf program is built on modesty and dedication. The game of golf doesn’t know the logo on a shirt or the swing of a player who hits the golf ball. Good golf is good golf, and Holcomb and Alberto believe they can compete with anyone in the country.

“We can beat them mentally and just staying strong,” Alberto said. “We have to be giant killers.”

The team motto comes from Kieschnick, who just earned 2019 Southland Conference Coach of the Year Honors. He values the never-back-down attitude and has instilled belief in his players.

“It’s fun climbing a mountain when you start from the bottom,” Holcomb said. “I find it’s a whole lot more satisfying when you win as a player from a smaller school that everybody overlooks.”

Alberto and Holcomb have not only risen to the occasion on the national level. Both players have left their mark on golf in their home state.

Alberto’s golf success began as a junior playing on the Legends Junior Tour. The Kingwood High School standout finished runner-up at the 2015 Texas Junior Amateur and added another top-10 the following year. She competed in multiple Texas Girls Invitationals finishing tied-fifth as a high school junior in 2015.

“I loved Legends Junior Tour events,” Alberto said. “It was the best competition in the state, and I think they really helped me because you get the experience of being under pressure.”

After being recruited to play for Sam Houston State and earning Team Most Valuable Player Honors as a freshman, Alberto’s amateur career took off. She won the 2017 Women’s Stroke Play Championship at The Clubs of Kingwood’s Island Course and finished runner-up in the championship in 2018 and 2019. Despite not securing the Stroke Play title at Briggs Ranch Golf Club in June, Alberto handled the pressure three weeks later to win the 98th Women’s Texas Amateur at Bent Tree Country Club.

“At Briggs I was just a little rusty getting back into tournament golf,” Alberto said. “But playing well there and being in contention definitely helped me win at Bent Tree.”

Alberto followed a solid qualifying round of even-par 72 with match play wins of 5&4, 3&2, 3&2, 2 up and closed out the championship match 1 up.  

“I just surprised myself,” Alberto said.

However, no one was caught off guard when the 35th-ranked women’s amateur in the world complimented consistent ball-striking with a red-hot putter. Kieschnick, who has watched Alberto develop over the last four years, was the first to say her win was well deserved.

“I’m not surprised because she’s a great player,” Kieschnick said. “To see what they’re able to accomplish just makes me proud.”

Holcomb’s semifinal-run at the U.S. Amateur will not go unnoticed, either. He was the first Bearkat to advance to match play at the nation’s highest amateur championship. Holcomb credits his experiences playing junior golf on the Legends Junior Tour as a key part of his historic feat.

“I couldn’t have done it without you guys (Legends Junior Tour),” Holcomb said. “Playing all the junior tournaments and learning how to play with pressure was a great experience.”

Holcomb captured top-10 finishes at the 2014 LJT Bluebonnet Championship and 2015 LJT Lanny Wadkins Junior Championship. He also finished 12th at the 2015 George Hannon Junior Invitational. Despite never winning an LJT title, he’s learned a lot of valuable lessons.

“You know the Legends Junior Tour is all about exemptions,” Holcomb said. “You got to get through these exemptions to get into that tournament to get into that tournament. I think that really prepares you for college and high-level amateur golf.”

Holcomb has played well in TGA men’s championships, as well. He finished T12 in the 109th Texas Amateur at Whispering Pines Golf Club and T39 in the 110th Texas Amateur at Dallas Athletic Club’s Blue Course in June.

“We have had some good success in the Texas Amateur and Women’s Texas Amateur,” Kieschnick said. “We always encourage our players to play in our state’s biggest amateur championship.”

Sam Houston State Men’s and Women’s Golf rosters a host of players developed on the Legends Junior Tour and who compete in TGA championships. Sophomore Jack Randle of the Woodlands, sophomore Grayson Blunt of Kingwood, sophomore Kenlie Barrett of The Woodlands and freshman Leah Alberto of Kingwood are just a few of the great players under Kieschnick’s leadership.  

As the program continues to gain spotlight, Kieschnick emphasized that the pillars of humility and hard work will not change. Alberto and Holcomb echoed each other when asked about individual and team goals.

“Win a conference, regional and national championship,” they said.

For more on TGA Championships and the Legends Junior Tour, click here.