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Jim Brown Honored with Bob Wells Volunteerism Award

Jim Brown Bob Wells Award

The Texas Golf Association is pleased to announce longtime director and past president Jim Brown has received the Bob Wells Distinguished Service Award, the TGA’s highest honor for individuals who’ve contributed to the growth of the game through their volunteerism and meritorious service.

The words volunteerism and service define Brown, a retired personal injury attorney who joined the TGA Board of Directors in 2010 and in less than a year promptly received the North Texas Volunteer of the Year Award. From the outset, Brown annually has averaged more than 50 days a year working both on the course as a TGA Rules Official at multiple men’s, women’s and junior championships and off the course attending to association-related business matters at board meetings. That’s in addition to the time he’s given volunteering as a Rules Official for the United States Golf Association, Southern Golf Association and Trans-Mississippi Golf Association.

Brown was surprised when he received the news – “aghast” is the word he used – but there’s been no one in recent TGA history who is more deserving.

“I have admired the people who previously have received this award ever since I’ve been involved with the TGA,” Brown said. “Those people have mentored me, with or without their knowledge, with all the dedication they’ve shown. That’s what makes me so gratified to just be considered among those people. I’m so grateful I found the Texas Golf Association. The people and the association add immense value to my life.”

TGA Executive Director Stacy Dennis said there is no better representative for the game of golf and the association than Jim Brown.

“He is the kind of person I imagine this award was created to honor,” Dennis said. “He has meant more to the TGA than the deep Rules knowledge and countless days he’s contributed as a volunteer. He is a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. He sincerely loves the game and, most importantly, he loves our players.”

One of the foremost experts on the Rules of Golf in Texas, if not the entire country, Brown served as TGA President from 2016-18.

“His heart and soul are in the TGA,” said his friend, neighbor and colleague Carey Schulten, an esteemed Rules Official in his own right who succeeded Brown as TGA president from 2018-20. “Jim has done everything. The number of days he does Rules work is virtually every tournament that is within his reach.”

Schulten, who lives two streets away from Brown in central Dallas, met his friend back in 2010 when they found themselves working TGA championships together. Schulten, a former U.S. Air Force and Delta Air Lines pilot who won the Legends Junior Tour’s Volunteer of the Year Award in 2015, said it’s the lawyer in Brown that makes him such a trusted expert on the Rules.

“I think he sleeps with a Rules book,” Schulten joked. “He drinks and sleeps the Rules book. He’s on it all the time, and it reflects his background. He’s down to the fine print on that Rules book.”

First presented in 2005, the Bob Wells Distinguished Service Award is named after the late Bob Wells, who served as TGA president from 1980-87.

Current president Leslie Henry met Brown in 2012 when she began serving on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Texas Golf Association, which eventually merged with the TGA in 2014. Henry said Brown joined her in championing the idea of the men and women golfers in Texas coming together as an inclusive statewide association.

“I’ve had the privilege of working closely with Jim,” Henry said. “He is one of the most caring, compassionate human beings I have met in my lifetime. He’s the true example of treating everyone with respect and fairness. The award is so deserving, and we are all proud to call Jim Brown our friend and a force for the TGA.”

Brown, 75, is in his 12th year as a director of the TGA. Prior to his tenure as president in 2016-18, Brown served two-year terms as 1st Vice President and 2nd Vice President. He’s also put in countless hours as a member of several sub-committees, including Nominating, Finance, Compensation and Rules & Competitions.

A longtime advocate for amateur golf, Brown has also been a member the Southern Golf Association’s Board of Directors since 2001 and a member of the Executive Committee since 2011. He’s a former SGA president, too, and previously served as the SGA’s 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President and Treasurer.

Brown received his BBA and JD from SMU in Dallas. He was a letterman on the Men’s Golf Team from 1963-1965 and has continued to support his alma mater by taking an active role on the Payne Stewart Cup Committee, the SMU Golf fundraiser, since 2003, serving as Chairman in 2009 and 2011. He’s also just about the biggest SMU fan anyone will ever meet.

Brown and his wife Camille have two adult children and four grandchildren.

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The Spirit Golf Association Announces Appointment of Charlie Epps, PGA, as Interim President

Charlie Epps Spirit Charity Challenge 2019

HOUSTON, Texas (August 20, 2020) – The Spirit Golf Association (SGA) announced today that long-time PGA Professional Charlie Epps will serve as interim president. Epps has served on the SGA Board of Directors since January 2020.

The Spirit Golf Association, a 501 (c) (3) charity dedicated to the promotion of amateur golf for the benefit of health-related causes, was formed in 1999 by Houston philanthropist Corby J. Robertson, Jr. Corby established the SGA and Whispering Pines Golf Club, rated by Golf Digest as the #1 course in Texas, as a mission for philanthropically minded people to support charitable causes, enjoy membership privileges at a world-class golf property and to conduct The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship.

“We are so fortunate to have Charlie step into this role after being an invaluable member of our Board of Directors and take the reins as we continue our charitable missions and promoting the international goodwill of amateur golf,” said Robertson. “Right now we’re focusing heavily on our recently created Spirit Food Fund, and Charlie has been instrumental in helping us raise more than $1.35 million for the food insecure. He brings years of unmatched experience and expertise in the golf industry and will continue to be a great asset to our organization.”

As interim president, Epps will be responsible for executing the mission and vision of the SGA, in addition to recruiting members to Whispering Pines and sponsors for SGA events while achieving the financial and managerial objectives of the association.

“I’ve been involved in a volunteer capacity with the Spirit Golf Association since the beginning,” said Epps. “I share Corby’s passion for golf in addition to giving back through the game. I look forward to continuing to grow our organization and coordinating events that have a positive impact on our Texas communities.”

Epps, a member of the teaching staff at Golf Club of Houston, has always been committed to giving back to the game of golf, especially in the development of young players. He spent 15 years as the Head Professional at Houston Country Club and six years Pine Forest Country Club.

In his service to the PGA of America and the game, he has held positions of prominence on local, state and national leadership boards and committees gaining him recognition as the recipient of numerous PGA and Southern Texas PGA awards and honors. He was inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame in 2012 for his work as a club professional and golf instructor.

He and his friend, the late Dick Harmon, partnered to provide opportunities for young players to develop their game. He founded the Yellowstone Academy Foundation Golf Tournament to raise funds to help Houston’s inner-city kids gain access to golf. He also helps organize the Dick Harmon Memorial Invitational along with numerous other charity events.

On the PGA Tour, Epps coached two-time Major Championship winner Angel Cabrera and five-time Tour winner Blaine McCallister. Epps is currently featured weekly on the Charlie Epps Golf Hour which airs nationally on the SportsMap Nation Radio Network Saturdays 8-9 a.m. CT (97.5 FM in Houston).

Whispering Pines Golf Club is currently undergoing construction and is on track to reopen in fall 2020. Just 80 miles north of Houston along the shores of Lake Livingston sits Whispering Pines Golf Club, one of the best private golf clubs in the country. The club was founded not only to offer its discerning members a superior golf experience on an exceptional course, but it also was created to promote amateur golf and to benefit charitable causes on a local, national and international level. Whispering Pines is ranked #1 in Texas and was recently ranked #21 in the top 200 modern courses in the country by Golfweek.

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Vo, Vivier and Guan Win George Hannon Junior Invitational

Briefly: Keaton Vo of Austin wins the Boys 15-18 Division at the George Hannon Junior Invitational presented by Texas Mutual following a final round 6-under-par 65 at The University of Texas Golf Club. Nicole Vivier of Austin cards a final round 2-under-par 69 and wins the Girls 12-18 Division, while Irving’s Henry Guan captures the Boys 14 & Under title.

Leaderboard:

Boys 15-18
1) Keaton Vo                       Austin                  68-65 | 133
2) Trevor Algya                  Highland Village 72-67 | 139
3) Andrew Tan                   Austin                   71-69 | 140

Girls 12-18
1) Nicole Vivier                   Austin                 70-69 | 139
2) Darrelyn Webster         Austin                 73-68 | 141
3) Alexa Saldana               Naucalpan           69-73 | 142

Boys 14 & Under 
1) Henry Guan                   Irving                   73-68 | 141
2) Trenton Mierl                Austin                  73-69 | 142
3) Rhett O’Rear                 Plano                   72-72 | 144

Final Results

Golf Course: The University of Texas Golf Club was built in 2003 and designed by Bechtol Russell Golf Course Design. The par-71 championship golf course stretches across the Texas Hill Country and overlooks Lake Austin. The 7,412-yard layout offers challenging shots and some of the best views in Austin. It is the home of the University of Texas Men’s and Women’s Golf Teams and has played host to the George Hannon Junior Invitational presented by Texas Mutual four times. The final round was contested at 6,900 yards in the Boys 15-18 Division; 5,842 yards in the Girls 12-18 Division and 6,301 yards in the Boys 14 & Under Division.

Weather: The temperature reached 102 degrees with winds reaching 10 mph out of the southwest.

Winner’s Info: Keaton Vo of Austin began the final round one stroke ahead of the field. The 2022 University of Texas commit never lost the lead and in fact, lengthened that lead on Tuesday. His 6-under 65 in the final round was the lowest score of the tournament and he won his division by six strokes.

“It was a great round,” Vo said. “I knew starting a little late, it was going to be a little more windy and if I can just keep it in play, I will be able to give myself some birdie looks, and I converted on those today which was nice.”

The junior at Chaparral Star Academy had a bogey-free final round. He carded six birdies, three on each side, and finished with a par on the par-4 eighteenth to get to 9-under 133 overall. Last Month, Vo verbally committed to the University of Texas Class for 2022 and he is excited to continue to play his home track in the future.

“This win is huge for me,” Vo said. “It’s an honor to be a Longhorn and I kind of had to protect my territory this week, which was what I did, and I am just happy to add another title to my record book and to UT.”

In the Girls 12-18 Division, Nicole Vivier of Austin took care of business in her final tournament as a junior golfer. The incoming Southern Methodist University freshman fired a bogey-free 69 in the final round to win by two strokes.

“It means a lot, Vivier said. “It’s just a great way to cap off my junior career and it gives me some good momentum going into college. I am just really excited, and I know that I will bring good golf into college.”

Vivier, a local Austinite, said she was in full control and played “boring golf” on Tuesday leaving herself a lot of easy pars. She was the only player in the Girls Division to post both rounds under- par.

“I hit my wedges really well, so I knew if I just put myself in the fairway, I was going to get inside 15-feet every time and get myself looks at birdie,” Vivier said. “If I missed the birdie I was like a foot away.”

In his debut on the Legends Junior Tour, Henry Guan of Irving won the Boys 14 & Under Division. He carded a 2-over 73 in Round 1 and trailed by one stroke heading into Tuesday’s round. The 12-year-old carded four birdies in the final round, bringing him to 1-under 141 overall to win by one stroke.

“This is my first Legends Junior Tour (event), so to actually win your first is almost like an accomplishment and a dream to actually win it on this course where Jordan Spieth played at,” Guan said.

In Contention: Trevor Algya of Highland Village carded a final round 4-under 67 and finished solo second and six shots back in the Boys 15-18 Division. Andrew Tan of Austin finished solo third at 2-under 140. Sam Dossey of Austin finished solo fourth at 1-under 141. Andrew Spaulding of Spring, Jay Pabin of Lucas, Truett Burns of Fredericksburg and Key Coker of Dallas all finished tied fifth at even-par 142.

Darrelyn Webster of Austin carded a final round 3-under 68 and finished solo second and two shots back in the Girls 12-18 Division. Alexa Saldana of Mexico finished solo third at even-par 142. Gabbi Bentancourt of Frisco and Mimi Burton of Austin rounded out the top-5 at 2-over 144.

Trenton Mierl of Austin, the 2019 George Hannon Junior Invitational 14 & Under Division champion, finished second at even par overall. Rhett O’Rear of Plano finished solo third at 2-over 144. Bowen Ballis of Shenandoah and Daniel Macias of Austin rounded out the top-5 at 4-over 146 in the Boys 14 & Under Division.

What’s Next: The Legends Junior Tour season continues with the Volunteers of America Classic Girls’ Match Play Championship at Old American Golf Club in The Colony September 4-6. You can view the entire Legends Junior Tour calendar here.

More Info: The Legends Junior Tour extends its sincere appreciation to the staff and members of UT Golf Club, the George Hannon Society and our volunteers for their integral part in making the George Hannon Junior Invitational presented by Texas Mutual a memorable and successful event. For more information on the George Hannon Junior Invitational presented by Texas Mutual, click here.