Mike Booker wins Houston Senior City Amateur Championship

By Richard Dean

One of the most accomplished amateurs in the history of Houston golf, Mike Booker is putting together a resume worthy of being in the hall of fame.

Actually, he’s already a hall of famer. Booker is a 2019 selection into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame. He will be inducted on Oct. 14 at Brackenridge Golf Course in San Antonio in the amateur category.

Booker added to his legacy on Sunday, winning the 2019 Greater Houston Senior City Amateur Championship for the fourth time, giving him eight city championships. Booker, who successfully defended his senior title, has won the city amateur four times.

“It’s a little crazy,” Booker said. “If somebody would have told me I would have won eight city ams, that would have surprised me. You never know what to expect, all you can do is just go out and play and not take yourself too seriously and do the best that you can do. Sometimes it works out like it did today.”

Booker seized control of the tournament during Sunday’s final round, rallying past 2016 champion John Dowdall for a 4-under-par 67 over Gus Wortham Park Golf Course to beat Dowdall by two shots. Gary Durbin, winner of this event in 2012, finished third.

Playing a twosome ahead of Dowdall, who led after each of the first and second round, Booker, 64, won this one coming down the stretch. Dowdall, who played superbly for the first 50 holes of the three-day, 54-hole tournament, bogeyed three of the final four holes.

Striking the ball more crisply on Sunday than he did during Saturday’s second round, Booker carded rounds of 71-70-67 for a 5-under-208.

“I had a different swing thought today, and that made all the difference,” said Booker, a member of the 1977 national championship golf team at the University of Houston. “I hit the ball really as good as I’m capable. I never really got in trouble, it was like night and day.”

Making the victory more enjoyable for Booker was that he was competing against friends and playing in what he feels is the best city amateur championship in the United States, conducted by the Houston Golf Association.

“It’s probably the greatest city am in the country because the HGA does such a great job of running it,” said Booker, who plays out of River Oaks Country Club. “It almost feels like a professional tournament and Houston has the best players, having played against them for 40 years. So when you beat a great field in a great city on what has turned out to be a great golf course, all I can do is smile and feel good about that.

“All these years compete against these guys literally for 40 years, part of that is that satisfaction that I’m still competing, still being competitive, and part of it is that most of my friends are still around and still playing. So that’s very fulfilling and satisfying.”

Dowdall, who played with Durbin in the final twosome, put together rounds of 67-71-72. The Fulshear resident finished 3-under 210, one shot better that Durbin, who shot 73-68-70 for 2-under 211.

“I played well for two-and-a-half days, back nine got me,” Dowdall said. “I played solid, just didn’t make the putts and didn’t finish well. A few bogeys coming in, let it slip away.

“Mike played really well, a 67. That’s a really good round out here.”

For the second straight week Dowdall let a final-round three-shot lead get away. A week ago Dowdall couldn’t close the deal in the Texas Golf Association’s Texas Senior Amateur at The Deerwood Club of Kingwood, won by Durbin.

“I got to get the Sundays down,” Dowdall said.

For Durbin, its two top-three finishes in prestigious back-to-back tournaments.

“It’s always good to finish in the top three in the city,” Durbin said. “It’s been a good two-week run. I’m playing well. Mike played great to come back and win.

“Gus is a fun course to play. It’s short, tricky, a lot of it is in the greens. They did a great job in the redo of the golf course. It’s very short but it’s very tricky and you have to be patient. It was a good week. I’m happy to finish third and there’s two great players ahead of me.”

Booker got it done by being Mike Booker, a consistent golfer who understands how to manage a golf course as well as his game. Booker’s consistent, doesn’t get in trouble often, and is a good ball striker. That’s what it takes to beat the best senior amateurs in the Houston area on a regular basis.

With Memorial Park Golf Course in the process of being renovated and unavailable for play in 2019, the HGA held the senior city amateur for the first time at Gus Wortham, receiving praise from golfers who competed in the senior amateur as well as players in last week’s city amateur.

“It surprised me that it’s in such good shape as it is. I enjoyed it,” Dowdall said of the 6,400-yard layout. “It’s a bit of a challenge, they have some tough pins, but it’s a nice course. You’re going to have to have the accuracy or you’re going to make bogey.”

Gus Wortham plays short in yardage, but it can be a good test of golf. Golfers need to get their golf balls on the correct section of a green or a tough two-putt awaits.

Booker offered his take on the municipal golf course, which originally was Houston Country Club.

“This is absolutely a classic thinking man’s golf course,” Booker said. “You really need to know where to place the ball off the tee. More importantly, you need to control where the ball is on the green, make sure you don’t miss it on one particularly side per hole, because it’s a strong enough golf course that if you put your ball in the wrong place, even on the green or close to the green, it’s going to be difficult to make par.”

It’s victories like this that has Booker getting a well-deserved spot in the Texas Golf Hall of Fame.

“I’ve known for a couple of months and I still can’t think of the right way to describe it,” Booker said. “Winning a tournament is a real ego boost and gives you that great feeling, but it fades away. But being inducted into the hall of fame has staying power. I’ve very humbled by it, it’s a terrific thing.”