Around the Green
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Chris Wheeler Grabs First Round Lead at the 111th Texas Amateur
FREDERICKSBURG – Chris Wheeler of Addison holds the first-round lead of the 111th Texas Amateur after turning in a brilliant 7-under-par 64 at Boot Ranch Golf Club. The 37-year-old mid-amateur finds himself in contention once again at a TGA Major Championship.
Wheeler, who finished runner-up at last year’s Texas Amateur at Dallas Athletic Club’s Blue Course, poured in birdie after birdie Thursday morning. The former professional who was reinstated as an amateur in 2011 totaled seven of them on the day on his way to a bogey-free opening round. Wheeler will carry a one-shot lead over Arlington’s Caleb Hicks headed into Friday’s second round.
“I made a lot of 5- to 10-foot putts and kept it on the golf course,” Wheeler said. “I hit my driver well, and that’s really what drove the score.”
Wheeler, who played collegiate golf at Tulane University, scored one collegiate win and two other amateur victories during his time in New Orleans. After he graduated, he won a couple of mini-tour events as a professional before returning to the amateur game.
These days, Wheeler plays with a brace on his left knee after a flag football injury nine years ago left him without an Anterior Cruciate Ligament. The ACL injury hasn’t slowed him in the least, as evidenced with his recent success at the amateur level.
Last year, following a second-place finish at the Texas Amateur, Wheeler carded rounds of 74-70-70 at Maridoe Golf Club to win the Texas Mid-Amateur and first TGA title. Since then, he has continued to find himself in contention at big events.
“I love this championship, and it means a lot to me,” Wheeler said. “I think about it all year. Boot Ranch is such a good facility, which makes it extra special.”
Foremost among those chasing Wheeler is Hicks, the UT-Arlington junior who made six birdies to post a 6-under 65. After taking some time away from competitive golf due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Hicks recently finished T15 three weeks ago at the West Texas Amateur.
“During quarantine, I kind of took a break off and then kind of had to prepare the last month,” Hicks said. “I played the West Texas Amateur and played okay and kind of found my game.”
At Boot Ranch on Thursday, Hicks said he just remained patient. He didn’t try to force anything.
“I just kind of kept toting along,” Hicks said. “I was just trying to see what I could do every shot. I guess it clicked today.”
Alone in third place is San Antonio’s Andres Acevedo, who teed off late Thursday afternoon. The wind gusts were reaching upwards of 20 mph. The Seton Hall University senior showed poise and carded five birdies and an eagle en route to a 5-under 66. His only dropped shots were on the par-4 fourth and par-4 18th. His 66 was the lowest round of the afternoon wave by three shots.
“Me and my dad, who is on my bag, we just picked out the right numbers and missed it in the right spots,” Acevedo said. “For me it’s just about putting and if I can get the ball rolling. Today, it feels good to be able to roll some putts in.”
Tyler Uhlig of Magnolia sits solo fourth following a 4-under 67 and is three shots behind Wheeler. The 23-year-old jarred four birdies and went around the Hal Sutton-designed championship course without a bogey. Uhlig is playing in his fifth and final Texas Amateur before turning professional in 2021.
“This is my last state amateur going forward for the time being,” Uhlig said. “I just wanted to enjoy this time, hopefully play well and enjoy the experience.”
Mason Nome, a sophomore at the University of Texas; Jimmy Lee, a sophomore at Texas A&M University; Jacob Sosa, a 2022 University of Texas commit and Sean Heidrick of Plano share fifth place at 2-under 69.
Opened for play in 2006, Boot Ranch was designed by PGA Tour great and 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton. The 7,155-yard, par-72 layout, which is being played as a par-71 for the Texas Amateur, meanders through groves of trees, natural water features and along the ridges and valleys of the scenic Texas Hill Country.
Sutton’s imaginative routing challenges players at every turn, with a variety of long and short holes, doglegs, sloping fairways, swirling winds and undulating green complexes. It is a demanding, but fair test of a golfer’s entire skill set that places a premium on intelligent course management and confident shot-making. Since its debut, Boot Ranch has garnered rave reviews and has consistently ranked as one of the best courses in Texas by national and state golf publications.
Boot Ranch Golf Course Superintendent Patrick Joy and his team worked tirelessly to prepare the course for the best amateurs in the state. The pure greens, lush fairways and overall immaculate condition did not go unrecognized by the players in Round 1.
“It’s perfect conditions out there,” said Nome, who is playing in his first Texas Amateur. “The greens couldn’t be better. It’s a very fair golf course. If you play your game and hit the right shots, you’re going to be rewarded. We’re just so happy to be here.”
The 132-player field played the highly rated course at 7,026 yards in the first round. Fourteen players broke par on the day. Eight of them posted scores in the 60s.
Play was suspended due to darkness at 8:30 a.m. Two groups will finish their first round Friday morning. The second round of the 111th Texas Amateur begins at 7:40 a.m. Once play concludes the field will be cut to the low 54 scores, including ties. For more information, click here.