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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.

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James Peebles Leads Super Senior Amateur after Round 1

FORT WORTH – James Peebles shot the only under-par score in Monday’s first round of the 2021 Texas Super Senior Amateur on Ridglea Country Club’s North Course. The Fort Worth native’s 1-under-par 70 held up for a two-shot lead headed into the second round of the 54-hole championship.

Peebles, a 67-year-old semi-retired attorney, rolled in four birdies in the first round, including two on his final three holes.

“These greens are pretty severe,” said Peebles, the current president of nearby Shady Oaks Country Club. “If you can get underneath the hole, you can take a run at it. I’m a pretty good putter. When the putts go in, you build some confidence, and you can play pretty well.”

A reliable swing helps, too. Peebles had that part covered thanks to some recent assistance.

“I’ve really struggled with my golf swing over the last six months or so,” Peebles said. “With the help of some guys at Shady Oaks, I’ve gotten squared away, and I’m hitting the ball more solidly.”

Peebles leads Tom Takes from Weatherford and Wayne Wright from Aledo by two shots headed into Tuesday’s second round. Takes and Wright posted rounds of 1-over 72. Takes was steady all day; he recorded one birdie, two bogeys and 15 pars. Wright sunk two birdies to help offset three bogeys.

Six players are tied for fourth place at 2-over 73, including 2019 Texas Super Senior champion Ed Brooks from Fort Worth and three-time Texas Senior Player of the Year Mike Booker from Houston.

Butch Vaut from Royce City leads the Legends division after he shot 4-over 75 in the first round. Vaut bogeyed his second and third holes, but then reeled off birdies on three of his next six holes. Vaut finished his round with five consecutive pars and holds a one-shot Legends division lead over Denny Alexander of Fort Worth.

Lush green from overseeding, Ridglea is in superb shape for the year’s first men’s statewide championship. Designed by Texas Golf Hall of Fame architect John Bredemus in 1928, Ridglea’s North Course features narrow, tree-lined fairways that stretch across southwest Fort Worth’s rolling topography.

A longtime host of TGA championships, Ridglea most recently was the site of the 2020 Women’s Senior Stroke Play Championship won by Lubbock’s Marian Barker. This is the club’s first time hosting the Texas Super Senior Amateur.

The par-71 course keeps the attention of even the best players with uneven lies, tricky doglegs that require shot-shaping and smallish putting surfaces with subtly sloping breaks. Much like the rest of the course, the greens were in perfect shape during the first round. The Super Senior division, for amateur men ages 65 and older, played from a total yardage of 6,229. The Legends division (75 and older) played Ridglea from 5,827 yards.

Four of the past five Super Senior Amateur champions are competing for this year’s title, including Fort Worth’s Ed Brooks, who won the event in 2019. The 2020 Super Senior Amateur was canceled because of COVID-19.

Round 2 of the 2021 Texas Super Senior Amateur begins Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. For more information, including complete scores and second-round pairings, click here.

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Texas Girls’ Invitational Set for Feb. 13-15

MONTGOMERY – The Texas Girls’ Invitational returns to Bentwater Yacht & Country Club from Feb. 13-15 with the girls-only event set to take on the Weiskopf Course.

Conducted by the Legends Junior Tour, the Texas Girls’ Invitational was modeled after the Veritex Bank Byron Nelson Junior Championship and the Texas Cup Invitational. The tournament has taken on its own identity and has become one of the top events in the state.

The championship was originally 36 holes and ranked by Golfweek and Junior Golf Scoreboard and was held in the fall. In 2019, the event was moved to February and became a 54-hole championship with World Amateur Golf Ranking points up for grabs. The tournament also offers numerous AJGA Performance Stars to the top finishers including 12 for the champion.

Bentwater Yacht & Country Club is hosting the Texas Girls’ Invitational for the seventh time in the championship’s history. The dedicated TGA member club was originally built in 1993 by two renowned golf course architects, Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish. Their efforts created broad, rolling fairways and TiffDwarf greens that wind through the signature forests of hardwood and pines along Lake Conroe. The Texas Girls’ Invitational was played at Bentwater Yacht & Country Club from 2012-2016 and in 2020.

“We are very excited to host the Texas Girls’ Invitational again and welcome some of the best junior girls back to Montgomery,” Bentwater Yacht & Country Club Head Golf Professional Cord Roberson said. “The camaraderie among the juniors is great and hosting this event has had a positive impact on our community as well.”

The 2021 starting field boasts some of the best junior girls in the country.

Lauren Nguyen of Katy is in the field. The two-time LJT Girls 12-18 Player of the Year (2019-20) and 94th Texas Junior Amateur champion will look to improve on her T6 finish from last year. Nguyen recently committed to play collegiate golf for Texas A&M University and will make her first start of the season in Montgomery.

Other notables competing at Bentwater Yacht & Country Club include the 94th Texas Junior Amateur Girls 14 & Under champion Sidney Robertson of Chandler, the 2021 Winter Classic champion Maggie Ni of Cypress, the 2020 James A. Ragan Memorial champion Darrelyn Webster of Austin and the 2020 Lanny Wadkins Junior Championship champion Farah O’Keefe of Austin.

Last year’s Texas Girls’ Invitational was conducted over two days. The field played 36 holes on Sunday and finished the 54-hole championship on Monday. Ashley Yen of Houston carded rounds of 72-69-73 to finish at 2-under par overall and win by three strokes. Yen, the 2020 USGA-AJGA Leadership Award recipient, recently committed to the admissions process at Yale University and plans to play collegiately.

The Texas Girls’ Invitational champion will have her name engraved on the ‘Nez Muhleman Trophy. Inez “Nez” Muhleman of Houston was known for her dedication to junior golf. Muhleman never missed a girls’ national championship until she retired in 2010. In 2011, she received the USGA Joe Dey Award, which is the organization’s highest honor for volunteerism, for her service to the game and for establishing the Junior Girls’ Travel Fund to help young Texans afford travel expenses to the U.S. Girls’ Junior.

Past champions of this girls-only championship include Kaci McCartan, Lakareber Abe, Maddie McCrary, Vanessa Ha, Jaravee Boonchant, Anne Chen, Makenzie Niblett and Hailey Jones. This is the first Major Championship for the girls of the 2021 LJT season.

“This is one of the best events for girls to compete in each year, “LJT Tournament Director Kevin Porter said. “The Texas Girls’ Invitational is always competitive and this year’s field will be tested.”

For more information on the Texas Girls’ Invitational, please click here.

About the LJT: The Legends Junior Tour is part of the Texas Junior Golf Alliance, which is a joint venture between the Texas Golf Association, Northern and Southern PGA and Houston Golf Association. The tour operates as part of the Texas Golf Association and its foundation. Since its inception in 2005, the tour has provided funds to promote junior golf initiatives while conducting some of the state’s top junior championships including the Veritex Bank Byron Nelson Junior Championship, Texas Junior Amateur and the Texas Girls’ Invitational as well as