News | Houston Golf Association

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.”

Chuck Reeve wins the Greater Houston Super Senior City Championship

By Richard Dean

For close to 40 years Chuck Reeve played four-wall handball at an elite level. The Houstonian, who picked up the sport as a student at the University of Texas, won five national championships and four world titles counting singles and doubles. He also won the Houston open championship in handball 10 times.

Reeve’s focus has shifted to golf, a sport he excelled in at Memorial High School while winning an individual district championship, and continues to excel since taking up the game again in 2005.

In October, the 68-year-old Reeve won the Super Senior division (age 65 and above) of the Greater Houston Senior City Amateur Golf Championship for the second time in three years.

“It’s extremely satisfying to be able to come back to a sport that you grew up with and I kept abreast of it all those years,” Reeve said. “I thought of myself as a golfer even if I wasn’t playing.

“To win it is extremely satisfying because Houston, you’re drawing from not just Harris County, but all the counties touching Harris County.”

Reeve won the 2019 tournament, conducted by the Houston Golf Association, at Gus Wortham Golf Course by three shots over Jamey Freisleben of Montgomery.

Reeve, who plays out of Northgate Country Club, shot rounds of 72-72 for 2-over 144. Reeve’s eight birdies over 36 holes tied for the most in the Super Senior division with Freisleben, who compiled rounds of 76-71.

Sharing third at 7-over 149 were four players – David Bean (Houston), who closed with a low-round 1-under 70, Steve Bueltel (Houston), Mark Johnson (The Woodlands) and Lynn Cormier (Missouri City).

After the opening 18 holes on Gus Wortham’s 6,038-yard layout, Reeve held a one-shot advantage over Cormier and Cypress’ Ivan Lawson, who eventually finished in a tie for seventh at 8 over.

On the second and final day, Reeve birdied the 18th hole, by making a delicate 6-foot downhill putt to secure the victory. He added the winner’s trophy to the Super Senior division hardware that he picked up by winning the event in 2017 that was played at Memorial Park Golf Course.

“I came to the last hole not knowing how I was doing, but I decided I had to make birdie in case I needed a birdie to get to the playoff,” Reeve said. “I found out I didn’t really need it, but I was sure happy to have done it.

“It’s fun to win. On the last day, I was grinding really hard.”

On the final day, Reeve displayed his excellent short game. On the front nine, he got up and down six times for par en route to a 1-under 35 at the turn.

“I was missing the ball in good spots,” Reeve said. “I’d learned, Gus Wortham. I’d played it several times and I learned that you can’t be long, you got to be short. If you miss you got to be short so you can get up and down and have a chance.

“That’s what I was doing. I didn’t play all that great, but I was getting up and down. And I did hit a few good shots. I had four birdies each day.”

With Memorial Park Golf Course unavailable for the 2019 Houston city amateurs because of renovation, Gus Wortham Golf Course, which is operated by the HGA, was the site of the Houston city amateurs.

“The course was in great shape,” Reeve said. “Not nearly as long as Memorial, but it’s tricky. I enjoyed it. I’m fine going back.”

The 2019 tournament was Reeve’s fourth time playing in the event since turning 65. In 2016, he shared second place with two others, one shot behind the winner. Reeve had three top-10 finishes in seven appearances in the regular senior city am.

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.”

Volunteer Corner – Summer 2019

The Houston Golf Association holds the charter for The First Tee of Greater Houston, the largest chapter in The First Tee national network. TFTGH is in 514 elementary schools and 12 outdoor (or “green grass”) facilities across Houston – serving more than 350,000 kids each year. How does the HGA do it?

Although we have dedicated staff, the reach and impact could not be as meaningful without the help of dedicated volunteers. Working with children from all over Houston, HGA volunteers are making a huge difference. One such volunteer is Lee Bellows. Lee, an engineer at HP, has volunteered many of his Saturday mornings at the BlackHorse Location of The First Tee since 2012.

“It’s one of those things where you think, ‘I’ll give it a try and see how it goes,’” Bellows says of getting started. “And I just had no idea how much I’d love it. The kids are great and they are really into it. You get caught up in their enthusiasm.”

Bellows has come to enjoy it so much he’s taken courses to become a certified coach. But, as he points out, it’s not so much about teaching beginners how to swing a club or hit the best shot, it’s about the core values of the game.

“We incorporate the nine core values in everything we do with them,” he said. “We talk about honesty, integrity, respect, and show them exactly what we mean and how it’s an integral part of the game of golf – and great life lessons for them. What were you doing while this guy over here was getting ready to hit the ball? Did you move yours closer? So what’s the fun in that?”

Bellows says what really makes it worthwhile for him is enthusiasm, growth and appreciation the participants express.

“You might think these young kids would rather be at home on an early Saturday morning playing video games,” he said. “It’s great to get them outside and engaged in an activity that involves other children that they might not know.”

“Some of these kids come from challenging backgrounds and environments, so they love some positive attention from adults, teaching them how to play a game many of them never thought they’d want to play. And they appreciate it so much and it shows. As a coach and volunteer, that’s what makes it so rewarding, and why I keep getting up early each Saturday.”

The First Tee offers a wide array of volunteer opportunities, and many don’t involve early Saturday mornings. Thanks to The First Tee’s wide reach in the Houston area, you can find a volunteer opportunity with a convenient time and place. Interested? Email us at youthprograms@hga.org or call us at 281-454-7000. You can see for yourself why volunteers like Lee Bellows continue to dedicate every Saturday morning.

Texas Junior Golf Alliance Enters New Chapter 

HOUSTON (Jan. 14, 2019)– The Texas Junior Golf Alliance today announced a three-year extension by each of its four founding partners – Southern Texas PGA, Northern Texas PGA, Texas Golf Association and Houston Golf Association. The new agreement takes effect immediately and runs through December 2021.

Formed in 2012, the goal of the Alliance was to allow junior golfers a clear path to the best tournaments in Texas. Each of the three tier two organizations (STPGA, NTPGA, HGA) conduct events that serve as qualifiers into the statewide tier one events run by the Legends Junior Tour (LJT). This allows players to compete in local events, in which they can earn spots to play in statewide tournaments. The Texas Golf Association runs and operates the LJT, which conducts elite-level, statewide junior events, such as the Byron Nelson Junior Championship, Texas Cup Invitational and Texas Girls Invitational.

“This extended agreement is extremely exciting for junior golfers as it strengthens the partnership between all four founding partners,” said Thomas Hutton, Executive Director for the Southern Texas PGA. “It gives more playing opportunities, both locally and statewide, and continues to show that junior golf in Texas is the best in the country.” 

This new agreement comes with a few changes and additions. Starting in 2019, players who participate in tier two events have the ability to earn full status on the LJT by way of “the Battle Field Promotion” concept. This promotion takes places when a player wins two tier two events with the same organization in a calendar year.  

“Our goal for the alliance is to provide a clear player pathway for the best playing junior golfers in Texas who desire to play in college and perhaps beyond without ever needing to leave the State,” said Mark Harrison Executive Director / CEO of the Northern Texas PGA. “With the addition of Battle Field Promotion, we are excited to provided kids who win twice in a calendar year on the STPGA Prestige Tour, the NTPGA All American Tour or the HGA Performance Series to jump straight to the Legends Junior Tour. The PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour both have similar Battle Field Promotions with their partner tours, the Web.com and Symetra Tours, so we are confident that it will be a great way to both incentivize and reward players.”

Another new component is the increase of Invitational tournaments conducted by the LJT. The Bluebonnet Championship, which is played annually in May, will transition from an Open event to an Invitational. In addition, a new Texas Junior Golf Alliance Invitational will be formed in the fall.

“With increased demand and players wanting to qualify and then play in a championship event, adding two more Invitationals was ideal for the Legends Junior Tour and the overall Alliance,” said Stacy Dennis, Executive Director of the Texas Golf Association. “This allows for more exemptions to be given out at STPGA, NTPGA and HGA events but still run the most highly competitive junior golf events in the state.”

This year alone between all four organizations, the Texas Junior Golf Alliance will conduct more than 75 tournaments across the state. Each tour has past champions who have gone on to play at the highest levels in college and professionally. Supremely talented competitors such as Jordan Spieth, Cole Hammer and Hailee Cooper are all Texas Junior Golf Alliance alumni. 

“The HGA is looking forward to seeing these changes and enhancements to the Texas Junior Golf Alliance,” said Steve Timms, CEO of the Houston Golf Association. “Junior golf remains an important element to our organization and these events provide incentive to improve your game and earn Legends Junior Tour exemptions.”

For a complete listing of each organization’s 2019 schedule, please visit the websites below. The first alliance event is taking place in January.  

Legends Junior Tour

STPGA Srixon Prestige Tour

NTPGA All American Tour

HGA Performance Series

 

About the Legends Junior Tour: Part of the Texas Golf Association and its Foundation since its inception in 2005, the LJT has provided junior golfers with a chance to compete at a statewide level and hone their skills. The tour features 20 events throughout the state and offers players a chance to earn playing opportunities in national events throughout the year. The LJT has a proven record of helping junior golfers in the state prepare for the national level of competitive golf as well as offer kids a chance to ready themselves and move into the collegiate golf ranks. Each LJT event is open to any member of the Texas Junior Golf Alliance who is under the age of 19 and has proven themselves through one of the Alliance Partners.

About the Southern Texas PGA Foundation: Founded in 1994, the Southern Texas PGA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, is committed to impacting lives through the game of golf. Each year close to 6,000 children and their families are impacted through the Foundation that creates an understanding that golf is a lifelong sport that teaches values and life lessons. Our Foundation prides itself on instilling our juniors with positive character traits and a commitment to integrity and honor.  The Srixon Prestige Tour now in its 6th year has become the highest level regional tour in Southern Texas and provides players the clear pathway to the Legends Junior Tour.  In 2019, the tour will have over 25 events on its schedule.  

About the Northern Teas PGA Junior Golf Foundation: Founded in 1983, the Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, that is committed to introducing, promoting and growing the game of golf to a diverse group of kids in North Texas and instilling in them the positive, character developing traits for which the game is so well known.  Each year close to 10,000 children and their families are impacted by the game that lasts a lifetime through a full circle of programs and services including: 

•        Introduction – Golf in Schools, Fairway to Success After School Program, Drive, Chip and Putt and Summer Golf Camps

•        Playing – Team Golf, PGA Junior League, Prep, Medalist Levels and All-American Tour – 500+ tournaments per year 

•        Education – College Scholarships – $2.36M distributed including $307,500 awarded in 2018

•        Employment – Internship and Camp Program

About the Houston Golf Association: Founded in 1946, the Houston Golf Association (HGA) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Since inception the HGA has existed to make a difference in Houston communities and in the lives of area youth through golf and charity. HGA began offering its junior golf program to the Greater Houston Area in 1957. Since that time, thousands of youth have benefitted from the opportunities the program has afforded them. HGA, through its wholly owned subsidiary – The First Tee of Greater Houston reached over 350,000 youth in 2018 through elementary school, after school and traditional golf programs, introducing the game of golf to a broad and diverse audience across the Greater Houston Region. 

A new and essential part of HGA’s impact is the Municipal Golf Initiative, which upgrades public golf facilities, beautifies green spaces, and creates a place to mentor youth through The First Tee of Great Houston program.  For more information visit hga.org.

Houston Golf Association Elects New Board of Directors Chair and Officers

HOUSTON (November 5, 2018) – Houston Golf Association announced the election of new board officers. Massey Villarreal has been elected Chairman of the Board. Villarreal is joined by Michael Sandeen as vice chairman and Ken Fisher as secretary.

Villarreal has served on the HGA Board as an independent director before becoming a member of the Houston Golf Association in 2018. He succeeds Meg Leachman who has served as board chair since June 2016.

Villarreal is CEO and President of Precision Task Group, Inc., a Hispanic-owned and managed computer-consulting firm providing data processing solutions to public and private sector firms. Hispanic Business Magazine named Villarreal one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in the United States.

“I look forward to working with the HGA Board, Staff and our many supporters to continue the mission of positively impacting the Houston community and its youth through golf and youth programs”, said Villarreal.

Michael Sandeen joined the Houston Golf Association in 2012 and was the recipient of the New Member of the Year award that same year.  He currently serves on the HGA executive committee. For the last 30 years, Sandeen has been the managing partner of Sandeen & Giblin, an investment consulting firm.

Ken Fisher is executive vice president and chief financial officer of Noble Energy, Inc. and has more than 30 years of financial and operational leadership experience. Before joining Noble Energy, Ken served as executive vice president of finance for Shell Upstream Americas. He also served as Royal Dutch Shell’s director of strategy and business development in The Hague.

Steve Timmsis the president and CEO of Houston Golf Association and oversees the day-to-day operations of Houston Golf Association, The First Tee of Greater Houston and Houston Municipal Golf Association.

About Houston Golf Association

Since 1946, The Houston Golf Association has existed to make a difference in Houston communities and in the lives of our youth through golf and charity. An essential part of its impact is the Municipal Golf Initiative, which upgrades public golf facilities, beautifies green spaces, and creates a place to mentor youth through The First Tee of Great Houston program. With nearly 350,000 children benefitting already, these programs are a resounding success for the future of Houston. For more information go to hga.org.

HOUSTON GOLF ASSOCIATION REOPENS HISTORIC GUS WORTHAM PARK GOLF COURSE

HOUSTON, TX (October 10, 2018) Houston Golf Association (HGA) announced the reopening of the Historic Gus Wortham Park Golf Course. The golf course and driving range will reopen to the public on Saturday, October 13 which will mark the completion of phase one of the project. Located off of Wayside, near Lawndale, HGA commenced its restoration in January 2017 bringing the golf course up to modern standards while preserving its historic design.

Situated along Brays Bayou and east of downtown Houston, Gus Wortham Park Golf Course has continued to be an attraction for golfers since the early 1900s, when it was the Houston Country Club. All improvements to the 150-acre site were performed with natural resource sustainability as an overarching principle. Phase one of the golf course restoration overhauled the irrigation system for better water conservation, added a new irrigation lake for storm water retention, and reestablished creek banks while preserving the uniqueness and beauty of the original design.

“I’m excited to see HGA complete the first phase of the restoration of Gus Wortham Park Golf Course,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner.  “This is a great example of the private sector working in partnership with the City to enhance public amenities.  The overall project will bring a first-class amenity to the East End neighborhood and surrounding communities, while preserving an important legacy in Houston’s remarkable history. The inclusion of The First Tee at the facility will provide our youth with opportunities to learn life skills and key values while having some fun with golf.”

On Dec. 31, 2015, HGA was awarded operations of the facility through a contract with the City of Houston. After working through a mutually agreed upon operational transition, HGA commenced management and maintenance responsibility of Gus Wortham Park Golf Course in February 2016 to operate the facility as 501(c)(3) non-profit self-supporting enterprise. Under this structure, HGA raises private funds for restoration and upgrading of facilities, as well as, reinvestment of cash flow for sustaining facility quality. A campaign is currently underway to initiate construction of phase two, which includes a new clubhouse, educational space for local youth participating in The First Tee of Greater Houston, as well as maintenance and cart storage facilities.

“Completing the first phase of the Gus Wortham Park Golf Course restoration project was a tremendous undertaking, and the Houston Golf Association has delivered on its commitment to restore the course to its former glory,” said City Councilman Robert Gallegos.  “We are looking forward to phase two, which will bring a new club house and other first-class amenities to the East End and surrounding communities. Gus Wortham will not only offer a great golfing experience, it will also serve as a permanent home for The First Tee youth development and enrichment program serving children in our city.”

Councilman Gallegos has also allocated funding to widen the public sidewalks that surround the golf course on Lawndale and Wayside. When complete, the new 8-foot-wide sidewalks will loop around the golf course and provide users direct connection to the Brays Bayou Hike and Bike Trail system and beyond. The sidewalk project is tentatively scheduled to begin in November.

 “Golf is a sport that can be enjoyed by everyone,” said Steve Timms, CEO/President of the Houston Golf Association and The First Tee of Greater Houston. “The restoration of Gus Wortham Park Golf Course, along with our continued efforts to reinvest back into our neighborhoods by improving public golf courses, helps the HGA further our mission to grow the game of golf at every level. It is our hope that the impact of this work will be felt for generations to come.”

The impact of the restoration of the Gus Wortham Park Golf Course will enhance quality of life for residents with a best-in-class recreational amenity, be a catalyst for economic development in the East End and provide expanded educational opportunities for local area youth through programming by the HGA’s wholly-owned subsidiary The First Tee of Greater Houston.

Golf course architect Baxter Spann was responsible for the design of the project paying strict attention to the historic components of the golf course.

For more information about the project, visit GusWortham.org or call 281-459-8722.


About Houston Golf Association

Since 1946, The Houston Golf Association has existed to make a difference in Houston communities and in the lives of our youth through golf and charity. An essential part of its impact is the Municipal Golf Initiative, which upgrades public golf facilities, beautifies green spaces, and creates a place to mentor youth through The First Tee of Great Houston program. With nearly 350,000 children benefitting already, these programs are a resounding success for the future of Houston. For more information go to hga.org.

Mike Booker Takes Home The Greater Houston Senior City Championship

By Richard Dean

Eventually Mike Booker should get enshrined into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame. For now, he’s cementing his legacy as the best senior amateur golfer in the Houston area.

On Sunday, the former NCAA golf champion increased his lengthy resume by winning the Greater Houston Senior City Amateur Championship for the third time, adding to his four city am championships.

“All wins our great, especially now that I’m older,” said the 63-year-old Booker, who helped the University of Houston win the 1977 NCAA team championship. “That’s what I’m finding as I get older. The wins are so much more precious because you don’t know how many more you’ll get.”

Booker, who shot 1-over-par 217 over three days and 54 holes at famed Memorial Park Golf Course, beat runner-up Marshall Piper by 2 shots. Gary Durbin, last year’s runner-up who lost in a playoff to Buzz Baker, shared third at 5-over 221 with Craig Hurlbert of Magnolia. David Leiss of Houston was fifth at 7-over 223.

“I love this golf course,” said Booker, who closed with a 71 after starting the final round 1 shot behind 36-hole co-leaders Piper and Hurlbert. “I’ve gotten a lot of competition on this golf course. I’ve been playing on it for 40 years. She’s such a great golf course, always holds up.”

The greens were fast and the rough was thick. But Booker navigated the popular city-owned course with previous rounds of 73 and 73, to position himself for Sunday.

Booker earned the win. He had a list of former winners and talented golfers not far behind, including Piper, who was playing in the final twosome with Hurlbert, just one group behind Booker and Juan Salcedo of The Woodlands.

Piper has led in parts of all four of his Houston city amateur tournaments, which are conducted by the Houston Golf Association. He finished second in 2015.

“I have to learn how to close,” said Piper, a resident of Cypress, who plays out of BlackHorse Golf Club and is a member of Walden on Lake Conroe. “I have to wait until (Booker) goes to Super Senior, I guess. He’s a winner, he knows how to do it.

“I’m thinking next year I’ll come through. It’s just golf, it’s not my career.”

Piper, who briefly played college golf at Oklahoma, is in office technology consulting. Piper, who shot 71-74-74, also rates golf courses for Golf Digest.

Durbin, of Houston, has long been of the elite city amateur players. He carded rounds of 74-75-72.

“It’s a good sense of accomplishment to finish in the top three,” said Durbin, who won this event in 2012 and regularly finishes in the top five.

Durbin struggled the first two rounds, but played better on Sunday.

“It was fun to get back in a better groove,” said Durbin, 61, a two-time winner of the Houston city amateur championship. “If it’s in your nature to want to compete, amateur golf is fantastic. I’ve been doing this a long time and I really enjoy it.

“It’s the same guys we’ve competed against for a very long period of time. It’s great stuff. I’ve heard Mike (Booker) say he’s won the city seven times – four and three (seniors), and I’m two and one.”

Durbin and Booker have been competing against each other for more than 30 years.

“He’s a good friend, a great player, and tough competitor,” Durbin said. “Probably as accomplished in the amateur, in the state of Texas as we’ve had. His record, city wins, USGA qualifying, he’s been a great player. He almost won the state senior last week.”

As long as he’s near the leaderboard, Booker is always a threat to win. Even if the long-time Houstonian has to begin a final round from behind. As he did on Sunday.

“I like being in that position,” Booker said. “It’s always more difficult when you’ve got a lead. You start thinking more score, it’s easy to get more defensive. I like being in the hunt but not necessarily the leader. It makes me play a little more aggressive.”

Booker began his move early in the final round. He made birdie on the first two holes en route to making the turn 3 under. He played solid throughout despite miss-clubbing two times out of the rough for couple of back-nine bogeys.

The ever-popular Baker, a resident of Richmond, shot 74-75-76 in defense of his championship.

“It wasn’t my year, that’s on me,” Baker said. “They can’t take (the 2017 championship trophy) away.”

Baker was Booker’s playing partner in one of the years that Booker won the Champions Cup Invitational.

“Mike’s a great player,” Baker said. “The most winning guy out here. He’s got so many titles, he’s won a ton.”

Booker has more than made a name for himself on the amateur golf level – statewide as well as nationally. He said he would be very appreciative should he ever get in the Texas Golf Hall of Fame, located in San Antonio.

“I would love to (get in),” Booker said. “It would be a real honor.”

Booker is a four-time winner of the Carlton Woods Invitational and has won the Champions Cup Invitational at Champions Golf Club twice, 18 years between wins.

“That helps you make your point,” Booker said.

Marshall Piper leads the 2018 Greater Houston Sr. City Amateur after Round 1

Marshall Piper of Cypress leads the 2018 Greater Houston Senior City Amateur Championship with a 1-under, 71, after round one. Right on his heels, Ron Byrd sits in second with an even par 72.

2015 Champion Mike Booker is tied for third with a 1-over 73 alongside Bill Tanner and Craig Hulbert.

Defending champion Buzz Baker, of Richmond, is tied for sixth with a 3-over 75, with 2012 Champion Gary Durbin.

The second round begins, Saturday, October 6, 2018 at 7:30 a.m. Follow live scoring here.

Grant Schroeder Takes The 2018 Greater Houston City Amateur Championship

By Richard Dean

Make it six for the Schroeder family. Even though Grant Schroeder has a ways to go to match his father Ron’s affinity to winning Houston’s most prestigious amateur golf tournament.

Ron Schroeder is a five-time winner of the Greater Houston City Amateur Championship, conducted by the Houston Golf Association.

On Sunday at Memorial Park Golf Course, Grant Schroeder showcased his golf game. And now the son can be called a Houston city amateur champion and have his name on the trophy like his father.

Grant Schroeder, a resident of Montgomery, shot a final-round bogey-free 4-under 67 on to win the tournament, shortened to 54 holes due to rain, by two shots over Justin Kaplan of Houston, who finished second for the second straight year and third time overall.

“My dad’s won it quite a bit and it feels good to win something he’s won, to follow in his footsteps a bit,” said Schroeder, whose previous best finish at the city amateur was third in 2016.

The 26-year-old Schroeder completed the three-day, three-round event at 7-under 206. Defending champion Devaughn Robinson of Houston was third at 4-under 209. Kaplan and Robinson began the final round tied atop the leaderboard at 4 under, after Saturday’s second round was suspended due to adverse weather and that round completed Sunday morning.

John Hunter of The Woodlands and the 2014 winner, was fourth at 2-under 211. Katy’s Todd Albert, who led after Friday’s first round by two shots after shooting a 5-under 66, finished fifth at even-par 213.

Schroeder, who played college golf at Sam Houston State after graduating from Montgomery High School, said he never was pressured by his father to win this tournament that the elder Schroeder won in 1992, ’93, ’95, 2000 and 2005.

“My parents have been great telling me about going out and having a great time and having a good attitude,” Schroeder said. “You’ll get the wins if you put the work in. I myself put a little bit of pressure on me just because it’s something that my dad’s won quite a bit so I want to get a win too and get my name on a trophy that his is on. I’m proud of that.”

Schroeder was too young to remember his father’s early success in the Houston city amateur. And his father has never been pushy about specifically giving his son tips on how to the play Memorial Park golf course or what it takes to be the best amateur in the Houston area.

“Not really here, but just in general he’s given me a lot of advice on my golf game,” said Schroeder, who plays out of High Meadow Ranch Golf Club. “He’s coached me since I started playing a little later than most (serious golfers). We all grew up playing baseball. But once I started playing golf in middle school, he’s my biggest fan.

“And that goes a long way. But as far as this tournament in particular, he doesn’t say much. It’s the same as every one of them. Go out there and play well.”

Play well Schroeder did all weekend, and in crunch time. In the final round, Schroeder birdied holes 1, 8, 14 and 16, distancing himself from Kaplan and Robinson.

“I know how good a player Grant is,” Robinson said. “He’s quiet and his game is steady. When I play in tournaments, every time I look at a leaderboard, he’s near the top.”

Prior to his superb closing round, Schroeder carded rounds of 68-71.

“I was real solid,” said Schroeder, who drove the ball remarkable well and was sound with his iron play.  “I felt good where I was at. I like this course, it sets up longer players. It was really long for being so wet.

“I feel I can always win when I come out. That’s the mindset I like to have. I played well already in this tournament, so I felt like I could do it.”

Kaplan and Robinson also played great golf, but fell a little short to the talented Schroeder. Even though he has not set up a schedule, Schroeder said he is planning on becoming a professional golfer with thoughts of starting out on the Adams Tour.

Robinson, who beat Kaplan in a one-hole playoff to win the Houston city amateur last year, led for several holes on Sunday, finishing with a final-round even-par 71 following rounds of 70-68.

“I beat myself,” said Robinson, easily one of the premier amateur players in the Houston area. “Every time I made a move, I made simple mistakes.”

Robinson, who played college golf at Texas Southern, teamed with Craig Lurie to win the Champions Cup Invitational at Champions Golf Club in April.

Kaplan, the 2017 Carlton Woods Invitational winner, had rounds of 70-68-70.

“It was a great week, but I didn’t have my best stuff all week,” said Kaplan. “I had to rely on my putter.”

Kaplan birdied the par-5 16th hole by making a 30-foot putt to close within a shot of Schroeder, who was in the next-to-last pairing with Hunter, just ahead of Kaplan and Robinson.

On 17, Kaplan just missed a birdie attempt on the low side that would have tied for the lead if the putt had dropped. On the final home, and needing a birdie-3 to force a playoff with Schroeder, Kaplan pushed his tee shot in the right rough. That negated any realistic opportunity for birdie and the ever-improving Kaplan had to settle for another second-place finish.

“I gave it a try,” said Kaplan, who played collegiately at Minnesota and the University of Houston.

Bart Worthing, of Weston Lakes and the 2012 Houston city amateur champion, tied for sixth at 1-over 214. Sharing sixth with Worthing, who shot 69-73-72, were 2011 champion James Bartell (Houston), Hunter Bott (Montgomery) and Wilfredo Sanchez (Spring).