Hunter takes home the 2019 Greater Houston City Am Championship

By Richard Dean

For the longest time over the weekend it was a foregone conclusion that John Hunter was going to win his second Greater Houston City Amateur Championship in much the same manner in which he won his first one five years ago. In dominating fashion.

Hunter did beat the field, and his trophy for winning the 2019 Greater Houston City Amateur Championship at Gus Wortham Park Golf Course is proof of that, to go along with winning the event in 2014. Hunter won five years ago by a whopping nine shots.

The win in 2019 didn’t come as easily for Hunter, even though at one point in the tournament he reached 10 under and had a commanding nine-shot advantage.

Devaughn Robinson, who was the city amateur champion in 2017, made Hunter work for the victory. Despite his large lead in the second round, Hunter, 35, lost all of that lead to Robinson and in Sunday’s fourth and final round had to overcame a four-shot deficit over the final three holes to beat Robinson by two shots for first place in a battle of past champions.

“This one was a bit of a rollercoaster,” said Hunter, a financial advisor who plays out of The Club at Carlton Woods. “I was able to get a little momentum the first two rounds, and today I was just trying to stay relevant and climb my way in.”

Hunter and Robinson distanced themselves from the field over some of the Houston area’s top amateur golfers.

In the first year the city amateur has been played at the restored Gus Wortham Park Golf Course, managed by the Houston Golf Association, Hunter finished the three-day, four-round tournament at 5-under 275. Robinson finished at 3-under 277. Tyler Uhlig of Magnolia was third at 1-over 281.

“I don’t feel bad about the tournament,” Robinson said. “I played OK, I’m proud of myself. I’ll be back. I held my own. This is just more motivation. I feel I’m coming into form, I’m not there yet. I had enough this week to win.”

After opening with a 73 on Friday, Robinson, 31, got into contention with a 6-over 64 on Saturday. Robinson played Sunday’s final 36 holes in rounds of 69-71.

But the final three holes on Sunday was Robinson’s undoing. Going into the 16th hole with a comfortable four-shot lead over Hunter, Robinson played the final three holes at 4 over, including a double-bogey 7 on the par-5 17th hole after he pulled his tee shot into the water on the left.

“So close,” Robinson said. “I played a pretty solid round this morning. I felt I did what I needed to do with a windy day and tough pins. I played 33 really good holes. I just made some really loose swings coming in and ultimately that’s what it boiled down to.”

While Robinson, who played brilliantly on Sunday on most of the holes, struggled down the stretch, his playing partner Hunter birdied holes 16 and 17 to go up by one shot.

“John is a phenomenal golfer,” Robinson said. “When we were coming in, I knew I was going to have to play some really good golf to catch him. He did what a champion does, finish strong and hung in there until he saw an opportunity and capitalized. That’s a true champion.”

Hunter had started Sunday with a sizeable seven-shot lead entering the final 36 holes and still led by three (-7, to -4) after the third round with 18 holes to play. Then Robinson, a Houstonian who plays out of Cypresswood Golf Club, took over, and with three holes remaining was 7 under to 5 under for Hunter.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do the rest of the way in and Devaughn was hitting it steady, flagging it and making putts and doing all of that, and I was just trying to stay in it,” Hunter said. “Somehow I popped a good tee ball on 16 and was able to convert the putt (for birdie) and put a little pressure on. Hit a great tee ball on the next hole (17) and made one of my better up and downs in the tournament to make birdie, and found my way in.

“He just had a little slip up last three holes and it compounded. He hit the ball way better than I did.”

Hunter, who played college baseball at Purdue, has always played well in the Houston city amateur. He moved to Houston in 2008 from Indiana and first started playing in the city am in 2012, placing third. In addition to his 2019 and 2014 wins, Hunter finished second in both 2015 and ’16, and shared fourth in 2018.

“It seems somehow I get myself up and ready for it,” said Hunter, who particularly likes the 6,395-yard par-70 layout of Gus Wortham. “I always look forward to this tournament. I came out Wednesday and saw the course and said this is a good course.

“I always look forward to the event. It’s always a fun one to play in, you get your buddies coming out and playing and meet a few new guys. Heck, just seeing a course like this and to be able to play in conditions like this, it’s one of the best courses I’ve played all year and it’s a city course.

“The greens are great, the bunkers are good, the layout …what they’ve turned this into. This is way better shape than we played Memorial the last few years and Memorial was never in bad shape. With this renovation, they’ve done a heck of a job with it.”

First opened in 1908 as the original Houston Country Club, Gus Wortham was restored in 2018 and is now operated by the HGA through a contract with the city of Houston.

I love the golf course,” Robinson said. “I’m definitely going to be back and I’ll be an advocate to getting people to come out and play.”