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Clay Hodge Leads 112th Texas Amateur

MIDLAND – Clay Hodge from Tyler scorched Midland Country Club on Thursday with a bogey-free, 8-under-par 64 to grab the lead after the first round of the 112th Texas Amateur. Hodge leads Aaron Hickman, another Tyler resident, by two shots headed into Friday’s second round.

“I just hit the ball really well,” said Hodge, who won the 2013 Texas Mid-Amateur at Cordillera Ranch. “Honestly, I had not been coming into this championship, but I did today.”

That might be an understatement. Hodge hit all 18 greens at Midland Country Club in regulation. He made an eagle from the fairway on the par-4 18th – his ninth hole of the day – after he dunked a wedge from 145 yards.

“I was a little in between clubs,” he said. “I took the shorter one and hit it hard. It was right online, and I was yelling at it to get to the hole. It barely made it to the hole and fell in.”

The 36-year-old Hodge tied for third place in the 2015 Texas Mid-Amateur at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas. Hodge also was part of the 2009-10 Texas A&M national championship team.

Hickman, a 43-year-old TGA Director who was the 2011 and ’16 North Texas Player of the Year, got off to a hot start in the relatively cool West Texas morning air. He one-putted his first six holes and birdied three of them to make the turn at 4-under par. Hickman got it to 7-under after consecutive birdies on his 13th and 14th holes, but he gave one back with a three-putt bogey on his 17th hole.

“I got all the par 5s,” Hickman said. “I birdied all the par 5s. That’s a good way to get it going. I kept the ball in front of me and played pretty well.”

Four players share third place at 4-under 68. That group includes JT Pittman, the 2020 North Texas Player of the Year and a sophomore at Midland College, Wyatt Koricanek from New Braunfels, Leander’s Ryan O’Rear, winner of the 2020 Texas Mid-Amateur at Oak Hills Country Club, and San Antonio’s Andres Acevedo.

Defending champion Trey Bosco, a Baylor sophomore from Austin, is tied for seventh place at 3-under 69.

Thirty players finished in red numbers on the stern 7,373-yard, par-72 setup. The stroke average in Round 1 was 75.27. The par 3s were among the toughest holes on the day, especially the 209-yard third. It proved the most difficult hole of the day with a stroke average of 3.41. Twelve players made double bogey on the third hole. Much of the field got a shot back on the 551-yard, par-5 12th. There were 50 birdies on the hole, which yielded a 4.87 stroke average.

Founded in 1927 as a nine-hole course near downtown, Midland Country Club moved to its current location in the mid-1950s when Ralph Plummer designed the 18-hole course. The course has changed throughout the years, including in 2017 when the Weibring-Wolfard Golf Design completed a comprehensive renovation in time for the club’s 90th anniversary. The nearly $9 million project saw the installation of new greens, tees, bunkers and lakes, all of which fortified the strategic nature of Plummer’s original design.

While there’s not much elevation change through the course, it can stretch to nearly 7,500 from the back tees. The fairways are deceptively narrow, with rugged native areas and wispy grasses just off the edges. It’s a fair and challenging championship test, one that rewards quality shots and punishes anything less than that.

This is the fourth time Midland Country Club has played host to the state’s oldest amateur championship. The Texas Amateur came out west to Midland in 1965 (won by Randy Petri), 1971 (Bruce Lietzke) and 1997 (Ed Brooks). The 1963 and 2001 editions of the Women’s Texas Amateurs also were played at Midland Country Club (won by Sandra Palmer and Denis Flores, respectively).

In recent years, the 2020 TGA Women’s Four-Ball (won by Faith Delagarza and Amari Smith) and 2019 West Texas Amateur (won by Jackson Markham) were contested at Midland Country Club.

NOTES

Awards & Dignitaries

During Wednesday night’s player reception at Midland Country Club’s par-3 course – called “The Judy” after Midland golf royalty Judy Rankin – the TGA welcomed some local celebrities and handed out several awards.

Rankin, the 26-time winner and two-time LPGA Player of the Year, spoke to the 112th Texas Amateur participants about what to expect from the golf course and told a few stories about how much Midland Country Club meant to her and the success she achieved. Midland Mayor Patrick Payton also was in attendance.

San Antonio’s Colby Harwell picked up his second Texas Player of the Year award for performances during the 2020 season. Harwell, who also won the award in 2017, was runner-up at the Texas Mid-Amateur and Mid-Amateur Match Play events last year. He also finished T16 in the 111th Texas Amateur at Boot Ranch Golf Club.

Others who received awards included 2020 North Texas Player of the Year JT Pittman from Monahans and 2020 South Texas Player of the Year Kevin Liberto from Cypress.

A host of awards also were distributed to some of the TGA’s most important contributors. Past President Jim Brown from Dallas was honored with the Bob Wells Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor given in Texas amateur golf for volunteerism. Robert Woodward from Dallas received the 2020 North Texas Volunteer of the Year award, and Steve Suhey from Horseshoe Bay won the 2020 South Texas Volunteer of the Year award.

Because of the pandemic, the TGA was unable to hand out the 2019 Volunteer of the Year awards. On Wednesday night, Roger Davis from Spring picked up the 2019 South Texas Volunteer of the Year, and Chuck Flowers from Wylie was handed the 2019 North Texas Volunteer of the Year award.

Last, but by no means least, Carey Schulten of Dallas was recognized for his years of tireless service to the TGA. Schulten was the association’s President from 2018-19 and has been a constant fixture at championships as one of the TGA’s most trusted Rules Officials.

High Demand

Nearly 1,000 male golfers in Texas with Handicap Indexes of 6.4 or better registered to qualify for the 112th Texas Amateur at Midland Country Club. In all, the TGA received 986 entries for this year’s championship. It’s the second-highest entry total in the tournament’s history.

That record was set last at Boot Ranch Golf Club in the Hill Country. A total of 1,010 amateurs registered for the 111th Texas Amateur.

Round 2 of this year’s championship begins Friday at 7:30 a.m. For more information on the 112th Texas Amateur, including complete scoring, click here.