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John Derrick Wins the 83rd Texas Senior Amateur

WACO – Most golfers know how important course knowledge is when it comes to certain venues. The trickier the track, the more crucial it is to know the lay of the land. John Derrick on Sunday proved this to be true, as the longtime Ridgewood Country Club member won the 83rd Texas Senior Amateur by one shot in extremely blustery conditions.

With winds swirling, then dropping and then gusting again in the 25-30 mph range – by far the windiest day of the 54-hole championship – Derrick held things together with two birdies, four bogeys and 12 hard-fought pars. His final round 2-over-par gave him a three-day total of 7-over 217, one stroke better than Southlake’s Mike Lohner.

Derrick shot rounds of 70-75 in the opening rounds on his home course, a 1947 Ralph Plummer-designed gem. Several of the holes run along the gorgeous backdrop of Lake Waco, and the fast-running fairways rise and fall throughout the property to create relentless uneven lies. Many of the greens sit perched above eye level from the fairways, which causes trepidation and indecisiveness on approach shots.

In short, Ridgewood is the kind of course you need to play a bunch to feel confident in your decisions. That was no problem for Derrick, an eight-time club champion who has been a member since 1996. He estimated he’s played more than 2,000 rounds on the old school, tree-lined course.

“Today, the tough wind conditions really helped me,” said Derrick, who also won the 2019 Sunnehanna Senior Invitational and was runner-up at the 2010 TGA Mid-Amateur Match Play. “It swirls around here and it’s confusing. Some of the guys who haven’t played around here had a disadvantage because they didn’t know what the wind was going to do. I definitely think I had a big advantage.”

Besides Lohner, who missed a 6-foot putt on the 72nd hole that would’ve forced a playoff, Magnolia’s Craig Hurlbert was one of the players confounded by the winds on Sunday. The nation’s No. 1-ranked senior amateur in the Golfweek rankings, Hurlbert said the conditions kept him off-balance all day.

“It wasn’t just windy out there,” said Hurlbert, the 18- and 36-hole leader who has won four national amateur championships this year. “It was gusty, too. It got me five or six times. I was totally out of sync and had no idea what to do. Overall, the wind was very inconsistent. It was down. It was up. It was just a hard day today. John played very well. He knows where to hit the ball on this golf course. I’m not surprised that someone from this club won the tournament.”

While those around him struggled to pick targets and select proper clubs, Derrick kept his head down and made pars to stay in the hunt. It was one of those on the eighth hole, he said, that really turned the tide in his favor.

“I hit it about 40 feet past the hole,” he said. “It was a really quick, downhill putt. I was just trying to two-putt it. And I made it. That gave me some really good momentum.”

Derrick also rolled in a 20-footer for par on No. 14 and made a solid two-putt par on No. 17 to keep Lohner and Hurlbert from catching him.

Ridgewood Head Professional Jimmy Cunningham, along with scores of friends and club members, crowded around the 18th green to watch Derrick cap off the major championship victory.

“It’s always fantastic to have one of your members compete in one of these prestigious events, let alone win it,” Cunningham said. “John is a dedicated player who practices a lot, and this week he showed why he’s such a strong competitor. I know it means a lot to him, but it also means a lot to me and the membership. We’re all so proud of him.”

The TGA extends its most sincere gratitude to Ridgewood, its staff and members for their hospitality and generosity throughout the championship week, as well as the week leading up to the event. Special thanks are due to General Manager Bill Horton, Head Golf Professional Jimmy Cunningham, Superintendent Travis Moore, Catering Director Camy Baban and Executive Chef Bernard Hurley.

We’re also endeared to the TGA Volunteers, who took time out from their busy lives to help us create a memorable week for all the competitors in the 83rd Texas Senior Amateur. For more information, click here.

 

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Craig Hurlbert Leads 83rd Texas Senior Amateur through 36 Holes

WACO – Craig Hurlbert from Magnolia is 18 holes away from his fifth amateur victory of the year. He says the key for him to win the 83rd Texas Senior Amateur on Sunday at Ridgewood Country Club is to think inside the box.

Despite missing a couple short putts at the end of his round on Saturday, Hurlbert posted a 3-over-par 73 in the second round of the 54-hole major championship. Combined with his strong 69 in Friday’s opening round, Hurlbert sits at 2-over 142 overall, two shots clear of the field. The No. 1-ranked senior amateur in the country said Saturday’s swirling winds made playing conditions tough.

As for his Sunday strategy, it’s a simple routine that has worked for him four times this year. The process yielded Hurlbert trophies at the Old Corkscrew Senior Championship, Gateway Senior Invitational, Montana State Senior Amateur and the Golfweek Senior Match Play.

“I just have to play like I’m playing with my friends back home,” said Hurlbert, a 58-year-old venture capitalist. “I just have to stick to my routine. Because inside that box of my routine, it’s the same whether I’m in the final round here or you and I are playing on a Monday morning somewhere. It’s all about the routine and keeping things simple.”

Second place belongs to Westworth Village’s Hollis Sullivan, who turned in the round of the day. The 63-year-old veteran amateur who works in the energy business battled through the stiff breezes to roll in five birdies for a 2-under 68. The low score rocketed him 37 spots up the leaderboard. Sullivan was T39 after his 76 in Round 1.

Now he’s two shots out of the lead headed into Sunday’s final round.

“It was windier today. Even though I played late yesterday, it was windy pretty early today,” said Sullivan, who finished T5 last month in the Senior Division of the Texas Four-Ball Championship. “The greens are running really fast. I’m just glad I played good today. Just one shot at time. I’ve been working on my swing a little bit, and it worked out pretty well today.”

Tied for third place at 5-over 145 are Southlake’s Mike Lohner and John Derrick of Waco. Lohner, fresh off his Trans-Mississippi Senior Four-Ball Championship on Tuesday, shot 73 at Ridgewood on Saturday. Derrick, a Ridgewood member and eight-time club champion, posted a 75 in the second round.

Four players share fifth place, a group that includes 2017 Texas Senior Amateur winner Ed Brooks from Fort Worth.

Fifty-four players advanced through the 36-hole cut at 14-over 154.

With the gorgeous backdrop of Lake Waco, the 1947 Ralph Plummer-designed Ridgewood course continues to challenge the most talented senior amateurs in the state. Its tight, rolling fairways often produce uneven lies even on good drives. That can make hitting precise approach shots into Ridgewood’s elevated bentgrass greens challenging to say the least.

In Friday’s opening round, the 144 competitors in the field played to a scoring average of 78.53. There were 62 players who failed to break 80. With Saturday’s stronger winds blowing 10-15 mph with gusts up to 25 mph, the conditions wreaked havoc on wayward shots.

“One bad swing or bad decision, and double bogey is in play on every hole,” Brooks said.

The seniors played Ridgewood at 6,441 yards on Saturday; the scoring average was 78.91.

The final round of the 83rd Texas Senior Amateur begins Sunday at 8 a.m. For more information, click here.

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Hurlbert, Smith Tied for 83rd Texas Senior Amateur Lead

WACO – Only two players broke par at venerable Ridgewood Country Club on Friday during the first round of the 83rd Texas Senior Amateur. Craig Hurlbert from Magnolia and Houston’s Scott Smith both fired rounds of 1-under-par 69 to share the lead headed into Saturday’s second round.

Hurlbert, the No. 1-ranked senior in Golfweek’s amateur rankings, made five birdies but ended his day with a double-bogey on the difficult par-4 18th hole. The 58-year-old venture capitalist is riding a wave of momentum. He’s already won four national amateur events this year.

In January, he scored two victories in Florida: the Old Corkscrew Senior Championship and Gateway Senior Invitational. Hurlbert won the Montana State Senior Amateur in July, and he added the Golfweek Senior Match Play title in August.

He said he tries not to think too much about his recent successes while he’s competing.

“It’s golf, so I always try to tamper all that down,” Hurlbert said. “I do feel like I’ve been playing well. I have a simple routine I’ve been working through. It obviously worked today. I’ll be able to pull on some of the other tournaments I’ve played in this year and won as we get deeper into the tournament.”

Smith had two double-bogeys on his card Friday, but his six birdies were more than enough to make up for those mistakes. At age 61, the retired oil and gas businessman won the 2019 South Texas Senior Amateur and finished fifth at last year’s Texas Four-Ball Championship.

“Well I hit it close a number of times today, close enough to knock them in,” said Smith, who had five top-10 national finishes in 2019, including a T5 at the Carlton Woods Senior Invitational. “I just love these old school courses.”

Third place belongs to John Derrick, a Ridgewood member playing on a host club exemption. He played a steady round that featured one birdie, one bogey and 16 pars.

Tied for fourth place at 1-over 71 are Montgomery’s Tom McGraw, the runner-up at the 2006 U.S. Senior Amateur, and Bill Jackson from McKinney. Four players are tied for sixth place at 2-over 72, including 2017 Texas Senior Amateur champion Ed Brooks from Fort Worth.

A total of 18 players are within four shots of Hurlbert and Smith with 36 holes to play.

This is the first Texas Senior Amateur contested at Ridgewood Country Club, which has a long history of playing host to TGA major championships. Ed Brooks from Fort Worth won the 2019 Texas Super Senior at the scenic lakeside course. Ridgewood also has welcomed five Women’s Texas Amateurs dating back to 1956. Most recently, Annika Clark of Highlands won the 94th Women’s Texas Amateur in 2015 at Ridgewood.

Designed by Texan Ralph Plummer, Ridgewood opened for play in 1947. Plummer emphasized the property’s rolling, wooded acreage overlooking Lake Waco to create a classic, old school layout that boasts tight fairways, deep bunkers and fast, undulating green complexes. The best senior amateurs in Texas played Ridgewood from 6,467 yards in Friday’s opening round.

Defending champion Gary Durbin of Houston posted a 5-over 75. He’s tied for 26th place with 12 others, including two-time Texas Senior Amateur champion Lewis Stephenson (2016, ’18) of Mansfield and 2019 Texas Senior Player of the Year John Pierce from San Antonio.

The second round of the 83rd Texas Senior Amateur starts Saturday at 8 a.m. For more information, click here.