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Hurlbert, Smith Tied for 83rd Texas Senior Amateur Lead

WACO – Only two players broke par at venerable Ridgewood Country Club on Friday during the first round of the 83rd Texas Senior Amateur. Craig Hurlbert from Magnolia and Houston’s Scott Smith both fired rounds of 1-under-par 69 to share the lead headed into Saturday’s second round.

Hurlbert, the No. 1-ranked senior in Golfweek’s amateur rankings, made five birdies but ended his day with a double-bogey on the difficult par-4 18th hole. The 58-year-old venture capitalist is riding a wave of momentum. He’s already won four national amateur events this year.

In January, he scored two victories in Florida: the Old Corkscrew Senior Championship and Gateway Senior Invitational. Hurlbert won the Montana State Senior Amateur in July, and he added the Golfweek Senior Match Play title in August.

He said he tries not to think too much about his recent successes while he’s competing.

“It’s golf, so I always try to tamper all that down,” Hurlbert said. “I do feel like I’ve been playing well. I have a simple routine I’ve been working through. It obviously worked today. I’ll be able to pull on some of the other tournaments I’ve played in this year and won as we get deeper into the tournament.”

Smith had two double-bogeys on his card Friday, but his six birdies were more than enough to make up for those mistakes. At age 61, the retired oil and gas businessman won the 2019 South Texas Senior Amateur and finished fifth at last year’s Texas Four-Ball Championship.

“Well I hit it close a number of times today, close enough to knock them in,” said Smith, who had five top-10 national finishes in 2019, including a T5 at the Carlton Woods Senior Invitational. “I just love these old school courses.”

Third place belongs to John Derrick, a Ridgewood member playing on a host club exemption. He played a steady round that featured one birdie, one bogey and 16 pars.

Tied for fourth place at 1-over 71 are Montgomery’s Tom McGraw, the runner-up at the 2006 U.S. Senior Amateur, and Bill Jackson from McKinney. Four players are tied for sixth place at 2-over 72, including 2017 Texas Senior Amateur champion Ed Brooks from Fort Worth.

A total of 18 players are within four shots of Hurlbert and Smith with 36 holes to play.

This is the first Texas Senior Amateur contested at Ridgewood Country Club, which has a long history of playing host to TGA major championships. Ed Brooks from Fort Worth won the 2019 Texas Super Senior at the scenic lakeside course. Ridgewood also has welcomed five Women’s Texas Amateurs dating back to 1956. Most recently, Annika Clark of Highlands won the 94th Women’s Texas Amateur in 2015 at Ridgewood.

Designed by Texan Ralph Plummer, Ridgewood opened for play in 1947. Plummer emphasized the property’s rolling, wooded acreage overlooking Lake Waco to create a classic, old school layout that boasts tight fairways, deep bunkers and fast, undulating green complexes. The best senior amateurs in Texas played Ridgewood from 6,467 yards in Friday’s opening round.

Defending champion Gary Durbin of Houston posted a 5-over 75. He’s tied for 26th place with 12 others, including two-time Texas Senior Amateur champion Lewis Stephenson (2016, ’18) of Mansfield and 2019 Texas Senior Player of the Year John Pierce from San Antonio.

The second round of the 83rd Texas Senior Amateur starts Saturday at 8 a.m. For more information, click here.

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Tillie Claggett Wins 2020 Girls Match Play Championship

THE COLONY – Tillie Claggett, a high school junior from The Woodlands, allowed her mind to drift a few times this week to daydream about what was really at stake in the 2020 Girls Match Play Championship. Now that she’s won it – after Sunday’s 2 & 1 victory over Fort Worth’s Savannah Barber in the Final match at Old American Golf Club – Claggett can do more than just think about it.

She can plan on it.

With the victory, Claggett earned a spot into the LPGA’s 2020 Volunteers of American Classic, set for Dec. 3-6 right back here at Old American. It’ll be her first time playing in a professional event, and she can’t wait to see how her game stacks up against the best in the world.

“It’s OK to think about what’s on the line,” said Claggett, who attends high school at The John Cooper School and is committed to Vanderbilt. “It’s naïve to say that you can’t think about it. It’s totally impossible to not get ahead of yourself a little bit. But the second I caught my mind wandering, I let myself imagine it for a second and enjoyed that feeling of the possibility. But then I immediately pushed it aside and focused on the next shot.”

The strategy worked. Claggett played a power game all week and especially in Sunday’s Final match. She routinely drove it 15-20 yards past Barber, who conversely relied on precision and consistency to keep pace. Claggett birdied the first hole to take a 1-up lead after she outdrove Barber and stuffed a short iron to 4 feet.

That lead held up through the first six holes. Claggett, who qualified for the Girls Match Play Championship with a win at the Southern Texas PGA Prestige Tour’s 2020 Mid-Summer Classic, went 2-up when Barber bogeyed the par-4 seventh hole.

Barber stuck back quickly, however. She rolled in a 5-foot birdie on the par-4 eighth hole to cut Claggett’s lead in half. Claggett then bogeyed the par-4 ninth hole, which allowed Barber to pull even in the match.

Claggett’s 6-foot birdie on No. 10 pushed her back ahead, 1 up. She went 2 up when Barber bogeyed the par-4 14th hole. Claggett closed out the match with a 4-foot birdie on the par-5 17th.

“I was trying to keep the pressure on as much as I could,” Claggett said. “I think the approach shots are really crucial on this golf course. There were tough pin positions on small greens that I find really difficult to read, personally. So getting myself as close as possible was really critical.”

This was the fourth match Claggett won in the past three days. Her work began Friday morning with a 2-up victory against Grace Jin of San Antonio in the Round of 16. Claggett turned around that afternoon and disposed of San Antonio’s Julia Vollmer, 5 & 3. In Saturday afternoon’s Semifinals, Claggett birdied her final three holes to rally from a 2-down deficit and defeated Meagan Winans of Richardson, 1 up.

Barber, for her part, provided a stern challenge on Sunday. She hit nine of 12 fairways in the Final match and 13 of 17 greens. She went 3-1 in matches for the championship.

“I was always fighting; I never gave up,” said Barber, a junior at Spring Creek Academy who earned her spot in the 16-player field with her top-20 ranking in the LJT’s 2020 Player of the Year points race. “I played pretty solid today, just hitting greens and fairways and went from there.”

This is the first year for the Girls Match Play Championship, a product of the Texas Junior Golf Alliance and a collaboration between the Legends Junior Tour, the Northern Texas PGA All-American Tour and the Southern Texas PGA Prestige Tour. Sixteen of the state’s top junior girls earned their way into the single-elimination, match play championship through their junior golf performances in TJGA events.

In order to make this unique event happen, the TJGA partnered with the LPGA, the Volunteers of America and Old American. The result was three days of spirited match play competition, which ended with Claggett punching her ticket into the 2020 VOA Classic.

“The Girls Match Play Championship has been a great success,” LJT Tournament Director Kevin Porter said. “The golf has been superb. The players, caddies and friends and family who attended all complied with our COVID-19 safety protocols. Old American was an awesome, and one-of-a-kind test in Dallas-Fort Worth. A lot of people were involved in bringing this championship together, including the NTPGA, STPGA, LPGA and Volunteers of American. The week played out just as we had hoped.”

The LJT extends its gratitude to everyone involved in this week’s championship, including the players, their caddies, the NTPGA, STPGA, LPGA, VOA and Old American Golf Club. This year’s Girls Match Play Championship promises to be the first of what will become an annual tradition. For more information on the Girls Match Play Championship, click here.

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Claggett, Barber to Meet in Girls Match Play Championship Finals

THE COLONY – Tillie Claggett from The Woodlands and Savannah Barber from Fort Worth will meet Sunday in the Final match of the Girls Match Play Championship with a spot in an upcoming LPGA event on the line. Claggett and Barber on Saturday advanced to the Finals after respectfully winning their closely contested Semifinal matches at Old American Golf Club.

Claggett, a junior at The John Cooper School in The Woodlands, found herself 2 down with three holes to play against Richardson’s Meagan Winans. Claggett made a 60-foot bomb for birdie on the par-3 16th hole to get to 1 down with two holes to play. The long putt shifted momentum in the match. Claggett on the next hole nestled a delicate chip shot to 3 feet and made another birdie. The future Vanderbilt Commodores golfer then calmly rolled in a 23-foot birdie on the 18th hole to win the match, 1 up.

“Coming in on 16, I had a really, really long birdie putt,” said Claggett, who played her way into the inaugural Girls Match Play Championship with a win at the Southern Texas PGA Prestige Tour’s 2020 Mid-Summer Classic. “I just stepped up to it, and I had this feeling that it was going to good. On 17, I love that hole, it’s a par 5. I can get there in two. I birdied that one. On 18, I just knew I had to make that putt.”

She did, and now she’s potentially 18 holes away from earning a spot in the 2020 Volunteers of America Classic, to be played back at Old American from Dec. 3-6.

“I love match play,” Claggett said. “It’s going to be fun no matter what. I love the golf course, just loving having the opportunity. However it goes, it’s going to be a good time.”

Claggett will face Barber, a Spring Creek Academy junior who recently committed to Oklahoma. Barber needed 20 holes to defeat her close friend and roommate at Crown Golf Academy in Arlington, Alexa Saldana from Naucalpan, Mexico.

Barber was 1 up through 14 holes when play was suspended because of lightning in the area at 4:18 p.m. The delay lasted a little more than an hour. When play resumed, Saldana promptly birdied the short par-4 15th to draw even in the match. Saldana had a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 17 to pull ahead, but she missed.

The two competitors tied with pars on 18th and 19th holes. On the next hole, the par-5 second at Old American, Barber poured in a 6-footer for par to win the match in 20 holes.

“It was great to play with Alexa,” said Barber, who qualified for the Girls Match Championship through her top-20 ranking in the Legend Junior Tour’s 2020 Player of the Year points race. “We play a lot of golf together. Being out here and competing together was awesome.”

In its first year, the Girls Match Play Championship is a joint venture of the Texas Junior Golf Alliance. Sixteen of the state’s top junior girls earned their way into the single-elimination, match play championship through their performances on the LJT, Northern Texas PGA All-American Tour and the Southern Texas PGA Prestige Tour.

The TJGA partnered with the LPGA, the Volunteers of America and Old American and created this thrilling opportunity for one high school girl to compete in an LPGA event.

“The Girls Match Play Championship delivers on our vision of providing Texans with opportunities for world-class competition in their home state,” TGA Executive Director Stacy Dennis said. “Providing our juniors with an opportunity to experience an LPGA event is a unique opportunity to help inspire our players.”

The TJGA has produced many professional female golfers during the past several years. Last year’s VOA Classic champion, Cheyenne Knight of Aledo, played on the NTPGA All-American Tour and was a two-time LJT champion. Other prominent alliance alumni include two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Kristen Gillman of Austin and 12-time LPGA winner Stacy Lewis of The Woodlands.

The championship match begins Sunday at 1 p.m. For more information on the Girls Match Play Championship, click here.