Around the Green

The latest golf-related news, notes, and feature stories from the TGA.

Bret Gray Goes Wire-to-Wire to win 114th Texas Amateur

HOCKLEY – Bret Gray from San Antonio won the 114th Texas Amateur with a two-putt par on the first playoff hole Sunday at The Clubs at Houston Oaks. With a four-day total of 11-under-par 273, the Sam Houston State junior became the first wire-to-wire Texas Amateur winner in more than a decade.

“It hasn’t really set in yet. It still feels like a dream,” Gray said minutes after the playoff concluded. “I’m super excited and blessed. Just glad I could finish it off. It was a hard-fought day out there.”

Gray defeated Oklahoma sophomore Jase Summy in the extra session. The two talented competitors separated themselves from the rest of the field during Friday’s second round and dueled for most of the weekend. They finished seven shots clear of the rest of the field.

Gray held Summy at bay for much of the final round until Gray’s second shot on the par-5 16th. With a three-shot lead, he tugged a fairway wood into the thick, gnarly Bahia grass left of the green. Gray gouged out his next shot short of the green and suffered a bogey. Meanwhile, Summy walked in a 15-foot birdie. After that exchange, Gray’s lead was trimmed to one shot.

After pars on the 17th hole, Gray made another mistake on his approach into 18 green. Playing about 100 yards away in the right rough, Gray caught a flier. Instead of checking up on the green, it bounced hard and plunked into the water behind it. That led to another bogey. Summy made par to force the playoff at 11-under.

Gray’s drive on the extra hole rattled into one of the century-old oak trees in the 18th fairway. He caught a good bounce, however, and it finished harmlessly in the fairway. Summy blew his drive out to right and had a partially obstructed view on his approach shot. Gray hit his approach safely to 20 feet. Summy’s approach came up shot and left him 80 feet from the hole.

When Summy’s par putt just missed, Gray finally exhaled.

“That’s the first playoff I’ve ever won,” he said. “I’ve been in two others in my life, and one was when I was about 12 years old. I made a little bit better shot into the green the second time around.”

Gray becomes the first wire-to-wire winner since Texas Tech’s Chris Ward won the 101st edition at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas back in 2010. Also playing in that Texas Amateur were a pair of fresh-faced juniors who grew up to become Masters champions. Jordan Spieth, 16 years old at the time, finished T8. Scottie Scheffler, 14, was T14.

Now Gray has something Scheffler and Spieth don’t: a Texas Amateur victory. Gray’s name will be engraved onto the historic H.L. Edwards Memorial Trophy alongside the likes of Ben Crenshaw, Charles Coody, Scott Verplank, Mark Brooks, and Will Zalatoris.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “A special feeling, for sure. Hopefully I can have a great career like they all did.”

Not lost in all the drama was the fact that Gray’s victory came on Father’s Day. His dad John Gray walked the margins of the fairways all week in support of his son. Understandably, he was emotional after the win.

“I’m feeling wonderful,” he managed to say with watery eyes. “He played great golf all week. It couldn’t be a better Father’s Day than to watch him, then I get to go home and have dinner with my other sons.”

For Summy’s part, he was upbeat in defeat.

“For the week, I played all right,” he said. “All you can ask for is a chance to win, and that’s what I had. I’m thankful for that. I played pretty good, but it could’ve been a lot better.”

Travis Woolf, a mid-amateur from Fort Worth, finished in third place at 4-under 280. Plano’s Ethan Fang took fourth place at 3-under 281. Fifth place belonged to Baylor junior Luke Dossey with a 72-hole score of 2-under 282.

As it was all week, the temperatures climbed into the high 90s with triple-digit heat indexes on Sunday. The day saw some of the strongest winds of the tournament, however. There were gusts of 30 mph for most of the morning.

“The course played tough today, especially with the wind,” said Spring’s Carson Cooper, who finished T15 at 5-over 289. “Teeing it up at 8:40 in the morning, you’re not used to it gusting 25 mph on the first tee. It played tough, but it’s a championship-style golf course, and this is an elite championship. So it should play tough.”

Formerly known as Tennwood Country Club in the 1950s, Houston Oaks was reinvented into its current, majestic state after acclaimed architect Chet Williams led a multimillion-dollar renovation in 2016-17. Ranked as the No. 7 course in Texas according to the 2023 Dallas Morning News Top-100 rankings, Houston Oaks is the epitome of a championship-quality venue.

Stretched all the way back, the breathtaking par-71 course is 7,007 yards. The competitors in the 114th Texas Amateur played it at 6,914 in Sunday’s final round. The brilliant routing snakes through rolling topography that features more than 1,000 giant oak trees. Houston Oaks also offers several natural water features to avoid, as well as thick, native Bahia grass waiting to gobble up golf balls that stray too far from the fairways.

A critical element to pageantry of the Texas Amateur are the venues that play host to it. Almost all the best courses in Texas have opened their doors to this illustrious championship throughout the years. The Clubs at Houston Oaks certainly fits that description, as evidenced by the myriad compliments about the course from the players.

With that in mind, the TGA is proud to extend its most sincere appreciation to Houston Oaks, including the founding families, members, and staff, for their efforts in delivering such a memorable championship week. From the mint condition of the course and the exceptional quality of the food to the hospitality and general good vibes from all the members who attended and assisted during the championship throughout the week, we can’t thank them all enough.

Extra special gratitude goes out to General Manager Bob Gusella, Head Professional James Brown, Director of Agronomy Jason Schoonover, Superintendent Kevin Bednarik, Communications Manager Jennifer Wosnitzky, and Executive Chef Malik Riley for all their efforts in creating a successful week.

We’re also grateful for our TGA Volunteers, who gave their time and expertise to ensure the competitors in the 114th Texas Amateur received a world-class championship experience.

Next summer, the 115th Texas Amateur heads to the Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas. For more information on this year’s championship, including complete scoring, click here.

Around the Green

The latest golf-related news, notes, and feature stories from the TGA.

Gray Maintains Lead through 36 Holes at 114th Texas Amateur

HOCKLEY – Bret Gray from San Antonio fired a 4-under-par 67 on Friday at The Clubs at Houston Oaks in the second round of the 114th Texas Amateur. He maintained a one-shot lead at the halfway point of the state’s most celebrated amateur championship.

The Sam Houston State junior sits at 9-under 133 overall, one stroke in front of Keller’s Jase Summy, who lit up Houston Oaks on Friday morning for a course-record 7-under 64.

“Yeah, I saw (the 64) as I was about to tee off,” said Gray, a two-time collegiate winner and the 2022-23 Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year. “I didn’t really think about it too much, but I knew the number I needed to get to if I wanted to stay in the lead, obviously. I knew this afternoon wave was going to hard. The wind is blowing, it’s hot as heck. I had a number in my head, but I didn’t think about it too much. I just kept playing my game.”

Gray said Thursday he likes to keep things simple: fairways, greens, no three-putts. He stuck to the program again Friday. He rolled in five birdies and chipped one in from off the green for par on No. 15 after a loose tee shot. He suffered just one bogey on the day.

“It was hot out there,” he said. “I was most proud of myself for staying in it all day, taking it one shot at a time, and not letting the heat get to me or making an excuse for that. I stayed even keeled. I was proud of that.”

Summy displayed a similar approach to his round earlier in the day. He poured in nine birdies on his way to breaking the competitive course record at The Clubs at Houston Oaks with his electric 64. The University of Oklahoma sophomore birdied three of his first five holes, then four of his first five on his second nine.

Only a lipped out par putt from 4 feet on his final hole kept him from sharing the lead headed into Saturday’s third round.

“I normally make a lot of birdies, so if I can clean it up and not make any big numbers, I’ll shoot pretty good normally,” said Summy, who won the 2023 Boilermaker Invitational in April and was a Big 12 All-Conference selection last season. “I had one three-putt today – I try not to have any of those; it’s always a goal – and I just thought I played a really clean round of golf. It could’ve been better, but it was just really clean.”

Gray and Summy separated themselves a bit from the rest of the field of top amateurs in the state. Third place belongs to Austin’s Sean-Karl Dobson, who shot a 3-under 68 in the second round to get to 4-under 138 overall. The incoming Stanford freshman is five shots back of Gray.

Fort Worth’s Travis Woolf is six shots behind in fourth place. The former TCU standout sits at 3-under 139 after his solid round of 2-under 69 on Friday. Houston’s Justin Kaplan rallied late with four birdies in his final seven holes to shoot 5-under 66 in the second round. He holds fifth place at 2-under 140.

Seven players are under par after two rounds at the sublime, par-71 Chet Williams-designed Houston Oaks course. Three more are at even-par 142, but they’re all looking up at Gray and Summy with two rounds to play.

With half the state of Texas under a Heat Advisory, it was another scorcher at Houston Oaks during the second round.

Friday’s weather unfortunately didn’t include the early morning cloud cover the field enjoyed on Thursday, which created a steamy environment almost from the start of the day. It was much breezier in the morning, too, with 15-20 mph gusts whipping through Houston Oaks by as early as 9 a.m.

At noon, the temperature at Houston Oaks was a toasty 93 degrees with a 103 index. The steady 20-25 mph winds helped ease the heat’s effects, but it also played havoc on plenty of competitors’ golf balls. The mercury topped out at 98 degrees from around 3-4:30 p.m. with “Feels Like” temperatures climbing to 108.

Hydration was a priority, and the 61 players who made the 36-hole cut at 8-over 150 or better can expect two more days of searing heat at one of the best golf courses in Texas. Among those who survived the cut were three past Texas Amateur winners.

Austin’s Trey Bosco, a senior at Baylor, won the 111th Texas Amateur in 2020 at Boot Ranch. He’s tied for 11th place currently at 1-over 143. Pottsboro’s Austyn Reily, a senior at the University of Houston, claimed the 112th Texas Amateur in 2021 at Midland Country Club. Reily shares apiece of 27th place at 4-over 146. Holden Wisener from Dallas, the defending champion who won the H.L. Edwards Memorial Trophy last summer at Willow Brook Country Club, is tied for 42nd place at 6-over 148.

The third round of the 114th Texas Amateur begins at 8 a.m. at Houston Oaks. For more information, including complete scoring, click here.

Around the Green

The latest golf-related news, notes, and feature stories from the TGA.

Bret Gray Leads 114th Texas Amateur after Round 1

HOCKLEY – There are numerous ways to construct a successful gameplan for elite competitive championships such as the 114th Texas Amateur. Bret Gray from San Antonio found something that works for him, and he used it to shoot a sizzling 5-under-par 66 on Thursday at The Clubs at Houston Oaks. That was good for a one-shot lead after 18 holes at the state’s oldest and most prestigious amateur championship.

“I just played simple golf,” said Gray, who poured in five birdies and an eagle against two bogeys. “I took advantage of the par 5s and the downwind holes. I didn’t hit it phenomenally, but I got up and down when I had to.”

A sophomore at Sam Houston State and the 2022-23 Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, Gray understated his performance on the par 5s at Houston Oaks. More accurately, he blitzed them with three birdies and an eagle to go 5-under on those four holes. He said his affinity for the golf course only increased after Thursday.

“Houston Oaks is awesome, said Gray, a two-time collegiate winner who posted six top-10s last season. “It’s a great venue for the Texas Am. It’s in great condition; the greens are rolling great. The course is kind of penal, though. You can put yourself in some bad spots and make some big scores, but if you keep it on the right side of the hole, you’ll be OK.”

One shot behind Gray is Plano’s Ethan Fang, who shot an impressive 4-under 67. The incoming California-Berkeley freshman was the runner-up at last month’s Class 6A Individual State Championship for Plano West High School.

Fang started his round on Hole 10 and promptly birdied five of the holes on the back nine of Houston Oaks.

“I hit the ball really good today,” said Fang, who skipped his Wednesday practice round at Houston Oaks and instead qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur in Granbury. “I think I hit every fairway. Other than that, it was just a good round of ball striking. My putting was good, too. It’s a fun course to play.”

Alex Papayouanou from The Woodlands sits two shots back at 3-under 68. The incoming UCLA freshman recently won the District 13-6A individual championship for The Woodlands High School.

He started on Hole 10, and after a double bogey on the par-5 16th, Papayouanou finished his first nine holes at 2-over par.

“Once I got to the turn,” he said, “I just turned it on.”

Papayoanou rolled in a birdie on the par-4 third hole, then cashed in an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He added birdies on the par-3 seventh and par-5 eighth to get to 3-under overall.

“It was a grind out there today,” he said. “I’ve been hitting it well, though, and I’m really happy with how I played today.”

Five players share fourth place at 2-under 69 after the first round. That group includes Garrett Leek from Brock, Connor Adams from Dallas, Luke Dossey from Austin, Joe Stover from Dallas, and Joey Gullion from Spring.

Typical for this time of year, the heat was a factor at the 114th Texas Amateur, which is a walking-only event.

By 1 p.m., the mercury showed 93 degrees, but the heat index pushed up to 101. The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for most of Southeast Texas, including Hockley and the vast Houston Oaks property.

“You’re sweating so much that you’re losing grip of the club,” said Chris Wheeler, the 2022 North Texas Player of the Year who shot a 1-under 70 on Thursday. “You’re trying to conserve your energy and stay hydrated as best you can. I’ve played in this event enough times to know the heat and the walking have a cumulative effect. By the time Day 4 rolls around, you really start to feel it.”

The temperature climbed to 97 degrees by 3 p.m., with a heat index of 108. Even as late in the afternoon as 6 p.m., it was still 95 degrees with a triple-digit heat index. The cloud cover from the morning burned away, leaving the competitors exposed to the oppressive sun for much of the afternoon. The wind kicked up a bit, too. It was a steady 10-15 mph, with gusts up to 25 mph as the day wore on.

C.J. Brock, one of the more experienced mid-amateurs in the field, said the heat took a toll on him physically and mentally.

“Honestly, I don’t know if it’s possible to drink enough fluids while you’re on the golf course,” said C.J. Brock, who shot a 1-over 72. “But it’s also much more of a mental challenge. You start to lose it mentally before you lose it physically. I had some shots today, like on the short par-3 fifth hole, where I just couldn’t get comfortable. It was because of the heat.”

Sitting at the center of the sprawling, nearly 1,200-acre property, the golf course is the crown jewel of Houston Oaks, a multi-faceted club that also features a shooting range, a six-court tennis club, pickleball courts, wine club, fishing club, and a swim club. There’s also a baseball field, an equestrian club, and a hen house that produces farm-fresh eggs to its world-class dining facilities.

In short, it’s an amazing club that literally has something for everyone.

Once known as Tennwood Country Club in the 1950s, the course was a private facility for the employees of Tenneco Oil & Gas. The club was bought by three Houston families in the mid-2000s and received a massive, multimillion dollar renovation in 2016-17 by acclaimed architect Chet Williams, formerly of Jack Nicklaus Design.

The result was a spectacular, 7,007-yard, par-71 masterpiece that weaves around – and sometimes through – massive, centuries-old oak trees, of which there are more than 1,000 on the property. Certain holes, such as the 16th and 17th, feature gigantic oaks in the fairway that require thoughtful planning or specific shot shapes to avoid.

In addition to several natural water features, another one of Houston Oaks’ defenses is the widespread native areas covered in Bahia grass. In the same family as the ultra-sticky Paspalum grass, the Bahia at Houston Oaks stands about knee-high length and is as thick as cold spaghetti.

“Luckily, I avoided hitting it in there today,” Wheeler said. “I did go in there for a couple ball searches, though. Good luck finding anything in there. You have to step on it or get lucky somehow. Most likely, it’s gone.”

This week marks the second time Houston Oaks has opened its door to a TGA major championship. It also welcomed the Texas Mid-Amateur in 2021. In addition, Houston Oaks hosted the 2018 Texas Shootout, 2020 Jackie Burke Cup, multiple U.S. Women’s Open qualifiers, and the 2022 and ’23 Big 12 Conference Match Play Championship.

A total of 16 players broke par for Round 1. Another 14 competitors are within six shots of Gray at 1-over 71, including Trey Bosco, who won the 111th Texas Amateur in 2020.

Award Show

During Wednesday night’s exceptional Players’ Reception at Houston Oaks, the TGA honored last season’s top players, as well as two standout volunteers.

Colleyville’s Zach Atkinson received the night’s biggest award. The longtime amateur stalwart and TGA Director picked up a beautiful bronze 2022 Texas Player of the Year trophy for his consistent, elite performances last summer. Atkinson finished second at the 2022 Texas Mid-Amateur and was a semifinalist at the Texas Mid-Amateur Match Play. He also tied for fourth place at the 113th Texas Amateur, a championship he won back in 2004.

Wheeler took home the 2022 North Texas Player of the Year award. Wheeler won the North Texas Four-Ball with his partner Bobby Massa. Wheeler finished fourth at the North Texas Mid-Amateur, tied for fifth at the North Texas Amateur, and was solo sixth at the 2022 West Texas Amateur.

Boosted by a victory at the South Texas Amateur, Austin’s Dan Depasquale won the 2022 South Texas Player of the Year. He also tied for eighth at the West Texas Amateur and shared a piece of ninth place at the South Texas Four-Ball with his partner Jermaine Rakoczy.

Ed Rapp from Houston was honored as the 2022 South Texas Volunteer of the Year, and Ken Renwick from Dallas picked up the 2022 North Texas Volunteer of the Year. The volunteers are the lifeforce that make TGA Championships possible. It’s their hard work and tireless dedication that create memorable and exciting experiences for the players. We can never thank Rapp, Renwick, and all their colleagues for their help.

By the Numbers

1 – This is the first time Houston Oaks has played host to the Texas Amateur.

4 – There are four past Texas Amateur champions in the field, including Atkinson (2004), Austin’s Trey Bosco (2020), Pottsboro’s Austyn Reily (2021), and defending 2022 champion Holden Wisener from Dallas.

4, part 2 – There are four sets of brothers playing in the 114th Texas Amateur: Aiden and Deacon Dortch, Luke and Sam Dossey, Hayes and Holden Hamilton, and Trevor and Trenton Mierl.

5 – Houston Oaks boasts five par 3s, making precise iron play crucial. The holes range in length during the 114th Texas Amateur from 115 yards to 240 yards. “The par 3s are tough out here,” said Gray, the leader after Round 1. “Even the shortest hole of the day. I bogeyed it, and it was only playing 117 yards. If you play the par 3s good this week, I feel like you have a pretty good chance.”

16 – The youngest player in the field this week is 16-year-old Finn Burkholder from The Woodlands. There are three other 16-year-olds playing this week, as well.

26.2 – The average age in this year’s championship.

54 – This year’s eldest statesman is 54-year-old Bill Skorheim from Spring. There are no senior amateurs in the field, a scenario that hasn’t happened in several years.

144 – A full field of 144 players comprises this year’s championship.

1,176 – A record number of amateur golfers registered to qualify for this year’s Texas Amateur. The 1,176 entries surpassed the 1,010 accepted at the 111th Texas Amateur in 2020 at Boot Ranch in Fredericksburg.

Next Up

Round 2 of 114th Texas Amateur begins Friday at 7:30 a.m. For more information, including complete scoring, click here.