Around the Green
The latest golf-related news, notes, and feature stories from the TGA.
Ryan O’Rear Sets the Pace at 39th Texas Mid-Amateur
ABILENE – First round leader Ryan O’Rear from Georgetown is playing with a heavy heart this week at the 39th Texas Mid-Amateur. The former Baylor standout on Friday shot an impressive 6-under-par 66 to stake a two-shot lead at the year’s final major championship. He and his caddie are wearing hats that say “Jackson Strong” in support of his best friend’s son.
“His 11-year-old son was just diagnosed with leukemia last week,” O’Rear said. “He’s in the hospital right now, fighting. If he can do that, we can come out here and fight a little for him. We got these hats made up to show some support.”
O’Rear made his way around the tree-lined South Course at Abilene Country Club without a bogey in the first round. He was 3-under at the turn, then he stepped on the gas a bit on the final nine holes. He threw a dart on his approach to the 374-yard, par-4 13th hole and tapped in a birdie to get to 4-under. O’Rear then burned the edge of the hole for eagle on the 515-yard, par-5 14th hole and brushed in another birdie. On the next hole, a 407-yard par 4, O’Rear again stuck his approach to tap-in length for three birdies in a row.
“I hit it really well, drove it great, so it was pretty stress-free coming into the greens,” said O’Rear, who won two Adams Tour events as a professional before getting his amateur status back in 2018. “I didn’t putt great, but I gave myself enough looks to make some birdies.”
Four players are tied for second place at 4-under 68, including Zach Atkinson from Colleyville, Cole Wiederkehr from Fort Worth, Gant Bills from Plano, and Casey Carnes from Schertz. Atkinson, who won the 95th Texas Amateur in 2004, was 5-under through 17 holes before suffering his only bogey of the day on the last hole. Wiederkehr basically did the opposite: he bogeyed his first hole, then played the rest of the course bogey-free with five birdies.
Bills poured in five birdies in his final nine holes with a bogey on the difficult 17th hole as his only blemish. Carnes drained five birdies on the day; his lone bogey came on the par-3 16th hole.
Defending champion Freddie Janneck from Fort Worth shares sixth place with two-time Texas Player of the Year Chris Wheeler from Addison. They both recorded rounds of 3-under 69 and trail O’Rear by three strokes.
Headed into Saturday’s Round 2, there are 22 players currently under par and 30 players within six shots of O’Rear at even-par.
Abilene CC over the years has played host to eight previous TGA Championships. This is the first Mid-Amateur to be contested at the historic West Texas club. Abilene CC hosted the 1957 and ’75 Women’s Texas Amateurs, the 1982, ’91, and ’96 Texas Senior Amateur, and the 2005, 2011, and 2021 West Texas Amateurs.
Formerly known as Fairway Oaks Country Club, the South Course at Abilene CC opened in 1980. Designed by Ron Garl and 1958 Texas Amateur champion Charles Coody, the par-72 South Course tips out at 7,136 yards and presents tight fairways, numerous water features and large, undulating green complexes. Between 1981-90, both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions held events on the South Course and produced winners the likes of Tom Weiskopf, Curtis Strange, and Hal Sutton.
Six-time major champion Lee Trevino never won here, but he did call the 436-yard 17th hole the “Hardest par-4 in Texas.” In Friday’s first round, Hole 17 played to an average score of 4.72 and was indeed the toughest hole on the course.
This year’s Mid-Amateur field is one of the strongest in recent history. Ninety-one of the 126 players (72% of the field) sport a GHIN Index of +0.1 or better. That’s some serious talent for sure, but the course average for the first round was over par at 75.36. That’s a testament to the challenge of Abilene CC’s South Course.
Round 2 of the 39th Texas Mid-Amateur begins Saturday at 8 a.m. For more information, including complete scoring, click here.