David Ortego wins 2021 Greater Houston Senior Amateur Championship
By Richard Dean
Anyone who finishes ahead of Mike Booker in any tournament is a worthy champion.
Continuing his upward trend in 2021, David Ortego added to his trophy collection by winning the Greater Houston Senior Amateur Championship. Over 36 holes at Gus Wortham Golf Course, the Spring resident put together rounds of 73 and a closing 68.
Ortego’s 1-under 141 was one shot ahead of Kurt Martin and Andrew Hydorn, who shared second at even-par 142. Gary Durbin was fourth at 1-over 143 in the annual tournament conducted by the Houston Golf Association.
“It’s not as big as the USGA, but based on the fact that I know all the golfers here in Houston, there’s a lot of good players in Houston, I would consider it one of my bigger wins,” Ortego, 62, said.
And Ortego has had some big wins in 2021. Ortego won the Senior Division of the South Amateur in San Marcos in April. A month later he finished first at the Carlton Woods Invitational. In August he played in the U.S. Senior Amateur in Detroit.
“It’s been a pretty good year,” Ortego said.
One benefit of collecting all this hardware is that Ortego is rising in the amateur rankings.
“I’m world ranked now and I didn’t even know that kind of stuff existed,” Ortego said.
Ortego hasn’t been playing competitive golf as long as many of his peers. He beat a good number of name players in the Houston senior city amateur. Ahead of Booker, who has won eight Houston city amateur tournaments, ahead of Durbin, Buzz Baker, Scott Smith, John Dowdall and David Leiss. All who have experienced competitive success on the amateur level.
“Winning begets winning,” said Ortego, who arrived in Houston in 1992. “When you win you get confident, the wow factor is not as big anymore as it used to be. I remember getting paired with Booker at the city (amateur) in Memorial Park and I was intimidated because he’s won that tournament and he was on the (PGA) tour a couple of occasions. His resume speaks for itself. Mike’s been a good one, he’s been good for amateur golf.
“And now I’m more comfortable playing with some of those recognizable names. You can’t just be a good player. You have to learn how to win too. I’s been a fun ride, I’m not complaining.”
Ortego is starting to build his own impressive resume. Playing at the 2021 U.S. Senior Amateur was Ortego’s first USGA event. Booker has played in 18. Ortego made it through qualifying for Detroit at The Club of Carlton Woods on the Fazio Course. At Detroit, Ortego missed the cut by three shots, playing the course for the first time sight unseen.
It was a major accomplishment for the rising Ortego to play in a national tournament run by the USGA. More than 2,600 golfers went through qualifying and only 156 made the field.
“I decided that once my kids (were raised) I wanted to be more competitive,” Ortego said.
Two years ago Ortego began receiving instruction from Tom Marty at Woodforest Golf Club, where Ortego is a member. They worked on Ortego’s takeaway and it’s made a big difference. Ortego said his misses are not near what they used to be. If he hits a mis-shot, it’s still usually in play.
Owner of an underground utility supply company, Ortego picked up golf right out of college, where he played baseball at McNeese. He’s becoming a name player himself among mid-amateurs in Texas and would like to start playing more national events, where the competition is really challenging.
“When you start getting into these other things, it’s like professional amateurs because they play lots of tournaments, and lots of big tournaments where they get the world recognition and world rankings,” Ortego said. “There’s several (Houston-area players) around that play a lot of those big events.”
Ortego’s Houston senior city amateur victory was a 36-hole event instead of the customary 54 holes. The tournament was shortened after the second round was suspended due to adverse weather. Close to three inches of rainfall hit the course in a one-hour period during Saturday’s round.
But due to Gus Wortham draining well, conditions were good for the final round on Sunday, played under mostly a sunny sky.
“The greens were excellent,” Ortego said. “The course was in great shape. For a public golf course, I don’t know if you can get much better than this. It’s just so quaint, it’s just a good golf course.”
For the tournament, Gus Wortham Golf Course, situated along Brays Bayou in south-central Houston, played to a par-71 at 6,243 yards. The course is managed by the HGA.
“People look at the scorecard and say it’s real short, but (holes) 4,5,6 and 7, that’s the teeth of the course,” Ortego said. “Those four holes are as good as any four holes in Houston. You get through there at even par, you’ve probably picked up one or two on the field.”