Bobby Massa’s Sizzling 62 Leads 113th Texas Amateur
TYLER – With his prestigious length off the tee, Bobby Massa turned Willow Brook Country Club into his own private playground during Thursday’s opening round of the 113th Texas Amateur. The reinstated amateur from Dallas eagled three of the iconic course’s four par-5s and broke the course record with a score of 9-under-par 62. He leads the championship by four shots headed into Friday’s second round.
Massa said he carries his driver about 330-340 yards off the tee on average. He planned to “bomb and gauge” his way around Willow Brook, which is celebrating its centennial anniversary this year. So far, Massa’s plan is working quite well.
“I started hitting the driver pretty good early on, and that gives me an advantage,” said Massa, who played collegiately at the University of Texas at Arlington from 2006-10. “I just kept hitting it in the fairway, and things kept going the way I wanted. I made a lot of putts.”
Massa’s 62 broke 2013 Texas Mid-Amateur champion Clay Hodge’s previous record of 7-under 64 at Willow Brook. After starting his day with four consecutive pars, Massa made his first birdie on his fifth hole. Two holes later, he made his first eagle, about a 10-footer on his seventh hole.
“That really got me going,” he said.
Matt Van Zandt, a longtime TGA competitor, played in Massa’s group Thursday. Van Zandt said Massa had much more to his game than just his big stick.
“Everyone is going to talk about how far he hits it, but his wedge game was amazing today,” said Van Zandt, who shot 3-over 74. “He was in complete control. His driver is incredible, though. I lasered it on a couple holes, and I was 52 and 60 yards behind him in the fairway.”
Five players share second place at 5-under 66, four strokes behind Massa. That group includes Hutto’s Jake Doggett, who finished second last summer at Midland Country Club for the 112th Texas Amateur, and Colleyville’s Zach Atkinson, who won the 95th Texas Amateur at Carlton Woods in 2004. Doggett went bogey-free and made five birdies; Atkinson had five birdies and an eagle to offset a pair of bogeys to arrive at 66.
Tied with Doggett and Atkinson for second place are Kingwood’s Hamilton Hayes, Truett Burns from Fredericksburg, and McKinney’s Hunter Millsap.
Willow Brook played to a stroke average of 72.88 in the first round. Thirty-nine players broke par. Players who posted rounds of 1-over 72 were rewarded with a tie for 55th place.
This is the ninth TGA championship contested at Willow Brook, but just the second Texas Amateur. Houston’s Marty Fleckman won the 1964 Texas Amateur at the old school, shot-makers course. That was the last time the Texas Amateur was played in a match play format.
Willow Brook also has played host to the 1967 and ’96 Women’s Texas Amateurs, the 1993, 2003 and ’13 Texas Senior Amateur, the 2019 Texas Shootout, and the 2020 Texas Mid-Amateur Match Play.
Founded in 1922, Willow Brook originally was a nine-hole course. Texas Golf Hall of Fame architect Ralph Plummer stretched the routing to 18 holes following World War II. The pristine course has been updated and modified over the years, including renovations in 1978 by another Texas Golf Hall of Famer, Joe Finger, and again in 2002 by PGA Tour veteran Mark Hayes.
In 2018, with the 100-year anniversary on the horizon, Tripp Davis & Associates completed an extensive renovation that included rerouting several and reshaping greens, tees, and bunkers to revive some of Plummer’s original strategic design elements.
The tight, tree-lined fairways rise and fall with the rolling terrain. The best amateurs in Texas played the par 71 course from 6,630 yards in the first round. With plenty of doglegs bending both ways, Willow Brook demands precision off tee. The TifEagle Bermuda greens, meanwhile, call for patience and caution with their speed and subtle breaks.
Dignitaries & Awards
During Wednesday night’s Players’ Reception at Willow Brook, the TGA memorialized a legend and handed out some awards.
“When you think of Willow Brook Country Club, you think of A.J. Triggs,” the TGA’s Director of Competitions John Cochran said it best when he addressed the players and Willow Brook staff Wednesday night.
Triggs, a longtime Willow Brook member who was club president in 1989, also was a two-time past TGA President who spent more than 30 years as a director. The winning captain of the 2009 Texas Shootout, Triggs was steward of the game in every aspect. He won 55 amateur tournaments and was part of the 1949 and ’50 University of North Texas national championship teams. He was best known, however, for his volunteerism and passion for growing the game.
Triggs was inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame in 2013. He passed away in 2015.
“No one would be more excited for the Texas Amateur to come to Willow Brook than A.J.,” Cochran said.
Triggs’ Willow Brook president’s jacket, along with a Texas Amateur hat and the medal from the 2009 Shootout, were on display at the Players’ Reception. The makeshift Triggs memorial also was present on the first tee for Thursday’s opening round.
The 2021 Texas Player of the Year Chris Wheeler picked up his hardware Wednesday night. Last year’s South Texas Player of the Year, Padden Nelson from Houston, and North Texas Player of the Year, Gant Bills of Plano, also were honored.
The TGA’s two 2021 regional Volunteers of the Year were acknowledged as well: Richard Bargon (North Texas), and Craig Branson (South Texas).
Don Warren, the mayor of Tyler, was on hand for the festivities, too. A longtime Willow Brook member himself, Warren said the club was eager and enthused to welcome the best amateurs in Texas to their historic club, especially during their centennial celebration.
The TGA this year accepted 982 entries for the 113th Texas Amateur, just three shy of the record 985 established at last summer’s 112th Texas Amateur. Forty-four players received exemptions to the championship. To determine the remaining 100 spots in the 144-player starting field, 18-hole qualifiers were held at 14 sites across the state from April 2-June 6.
Round 2 of 113th Texas Amateur begins Friday at 7:30 a.m. For more information, including complete scoring, click here.