Ryan O’Rear Wins 39th Texas Mid-Amateur
ABILENE – Of all the tournaments Georgetown’s Ryan O’Rear has won in his life – probably more than 30, including junior golf – this one was different. A lot different. Playing for more than himself, O’Rear on Sunday scored an emotional, one-shot victory in the 39th Texas Mid-Amateur on the South Course at Abilene Country Club.
“This wasn’t for me. This one was for Jackson,” he said with watery eyes. “Man, I tried so hard today. I just wanted to get this one for him.”
Back home, the 11-year-old son of O’Rear’s best friend was diagnosed with leukemia about a week ago. He’s been in and out of the hospital since then. Some good days, some not as good. Sunday will go down as one of the good ones after O’Rear posted a 54-hole score of 11-under-par 205 to win the year’s final major championship by one shot over Colleyville’s Zach Atkinson.
“Let’s go!” O’Rear shouted into his phone as he FaceTimed Jackson minutes after he won. “That was for you, buddy!”
O’Rear also was bolstered by having his wife Tara, dad Randy, and a few good friends in attendance on Sunday. They were treated to quite a show.
O’Rear and Atkinson were tied when they reached the 18th tee. O’Rear hammered a drive down the left side of the fairway. Atkinson pushed his drive a tad. His ball ended up near a tree on the right side; it forced him to lay up on the closing par 5.
O’Rear, meanwhile, seized the moment. He flushed a hybrid from 241 yards, a piercing cut shot that finished about four feet from the hole. He two-putted for the win.
“I love hitting my hybrid, especially with a little cut,” said O’Rear, who also won the 37th Texas Mid-Amateur in 2020. “It was a perfect number for me. I blocked it just a little, but it worked out.”
Earlier in the day, the final round had the feel of a potential shootout that would feature half a dozen players. Birdies were flying like hotcakes; three different players shot 6-under 30s on the front nine. The South Course toughened up on the back nine, but still the leaderboard got crowded. At one point, there was a four-way tie for the lead at 8-under between O’Rear, Atkinson, Addison’s Chris Wheeler, and defending champion Freddie Janneck from Fort Worth.
As the leaders made their way down the final stretch, O’Rear and Atkinson separated themselves from the pack. Atkinson, the 2004 Texas Amateur champion, holed out a pitch shot from 30 yards for birdie on the par-4 12th hole to pull even with O’Rear at 9-under par.
The two gritty competitors traded birdies on No. 13, then Atkinson drained a 30-footer for birdie on the 15th to move ahead by a shot. After pars on the beautiful par-3 16th, Atkinson found trouble down the left side with his drive on the difficult par-4 17th hole. That led to a bogey. O’Rear made a slippery, 6-foot par save on No. 17 to set up the drama on the 18th.
“He hit one of the best shots I’ve seen in my life on the last hole,” said Atkinson, who won Mid-Masters honors for the lowest score by a player aged 40 or older. “That’s what it takes to win. It was a heck of a shot.”
Atkinson turned in a three-day total of 10-under 206. He shot 4-under 68 on Sunday, which included five birdies and an eagle. Wheeler, the Texas Player of the Year in 2019-20, took third place at 9-under 207. Janneck, who was attempting to become the first back-to-back Texas Mid-Amateur winner since San Antonio’s Colby Harwell did it 2017-18, represented himself well with a fourth-place finish at 8-under 208. Janneck posted a 4-under 68 in the final round.
Colby Amparan from Fort Worth took fifth place at 6-under 210. Amparan was one of the players who caught fire on the front nine. He made birdies on the third, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth holes to shoot 30 going out. Amparan finished at 6-under 66.
The TGA extends its warmest appreciation to Abilene Country Club, including its members and staff, for all their hospitality and hard work this week. The golf course was in excellent condition and provided all the thrills and challenges one could hope for in a major championship setting.
Extra special thanks are due to General Manager Stacy Watson, Director of Golf Jimmy Tidwell, South Course Head Golf Professional Sydney Roberts, North Course Head Golf Professional Brian Nagy, Golf Course Superintendent Zach Ross, and Food & Beverage Manager Amy Ussery for everything they did to ensure such a successful championship week.
We’d also like to call out our tireless volunteers. TGA Championships wouldn’t be possible without their expertise and support. We had some of the best Rules Officials in the state at Abilene CC this week, and we can never thank them enough for their help.
For more on the 39th Texas Mid-Amateur, including complete scoring, click here.
O’Rear Fights Back to Maintain his Lead at the 39th Texas Mid-Amateur
ABILENE – On a day when Ryan O’Rear admittedly wasn’t hitting the ball well, the 2020 Texas Mid-Amateur champion made a late charge on the South Course at Abilene Country Club to regain the lead at the 39th Texas Mid-Amateur. With birdies on three of his last four holes, O’Rear finished Saturday’s second round at 3-under-par 69. That got him to 9-under 135 overall, good for a one-shot lead headed into the final round.
“It was a grind today, but I hung in there and finished strong,” said O’Rear, who won this championship two years ago after trailing by seven shots with 14 holes to play in the final round. “I finally made a couple putts late, that was huge going into tomorrow.”
It’s been an emotional time for O’Rear, whose best friend’s 11-year-old son Jackson was diagnosed with leukemia last week. The former Baylor standout and his caddie are donning custom hats this week that say, “Jackson Strong.”
“You know, we’re just out here trying to have fun,” O’Rear said. “It puts things into perspective when Jackson’s at home dealing with this stuff. He had a good night, and I’m excited to play tomorrow and get home to see him.”
Fort Worth’s Cole Wiederkehr, who shot a second straight 4-under 68 on Saturday, holds second place at 8-under 136. He also mentioned the word “perspective” after he finished playing.
“I’ve played like twice in the last four months and one of those was in Europe,” said Wiederkehr, who played golf at Oklahoma University from 2008-12. “I’ve got a 1-year-old at home, so I’m busy with that. I haven’t had any high finishes in these amateur events since I moved down here from Oklahoma. I think maybe having a kid has freed me up mentally.”
After a bogey on the par-3 fourth hole, Wiederkehr played the next 12 holes at 4-under par. A three-putt bogey on the tough 17th hole dropped him back a shot, but he got it right back with a birdie on No. 18. He briefly held the lead before O’Rear made his late run to overtake Wiederkehr.
“There’s always a spot to miss on every hole,” Wiederkehr said. “I feel comfortable hitting my driver because I know I can miss on one side. I grew up in Tulsa playing on bentgrass greens like this, soft and you can hit it right at the pins. I’m feeling pretty confident on this course.”
Two of the most decorated amateurs in Texas share third place at 6-under 138. Two-time Texas Player of the Year Chris Wheeler from Addison shot a 3-under 69 in the second round and narrowly missed an eagle putt on the final hole. Zach Atkinson, the 2004 Texas Amateur champion and 2013 North Texas Player of the Year, birdied four of his final seven holes to post 2-under 70. They’re both three shots back from O’Rear with 18 holes to play.
Abilene’s Trey Todd sits in fifth place after firing a 5-under 67. Todd grew up playing Abilene Country Club since he was 8 years old. Now 38, he figures he’s played the South Course more than 2,000 times. Todd has won the Club Championship seven times, including five of the past 10 years.
“It’s just the same targets I always play,” said Todd, a two-time West Texas champion. “It’s like that old saying, ‘Just one shot at a time.’ I hit some good shots, and fortunately I got some putts to fall.”
Fifty-seven players survived the 36-hole cut at 5-over 149. That group includes eight of the nine Abilene CC members in the field this week.
The final round of the 39th Texas Mid-Amateur begins Sunday at 8 a.m. For more information, click here.
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.