News | Houston Golf Association

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).

Greater Houston City Amateur Championship Round 2 & 3 Notes

Due to weather, the competition will be shortened to 54-Holes, making round 3 the championship round. Please see below for the procedures on the completion of rounds 2 and 3.

Round 2 Completion 

Round 2 was suspended at 6:50 p.m. today. We ask everyone that needs to complete round 2 to be in position ready to resume play at 8:20 a.m. tomorrow. Your scorecard will be returned in the morning at check-in. If your pairing changes due to a withdrawal we will let you know at check-in.

The range will be open at 6:30 a.m. to allow you to warm up.

If you do not plan to return tomorrow, please email mdegrand@hga.org letting us know as soon as possible.

Round 3 – Championship Round

After the completion of round 2 tomorrow morning the field will be cut to top 40 and ties. If you make the cut, tee times for round 3 will begin at approximately 12 p.m. tomorrow. We will email pairings for round 3 as soon as they are available

You may follow the leaderboard here.

Please check for email and text messages in the event of changes.

Todd Albert takes a two-stroke leader after Round 1

Todd Albert of Katy shot 5-under par to take a two-stroke lead over Grant Schroeder and Russell Chabaud at 3-under in round one of the Greater Houston Men’s City Amateur Championship at Memorial Park Golf Course.

Not far behind John Hunter, 2014 Champion, Bart Worthing, 2012 Champion, Trevor Sauntry and Kyle Smith sit at 2-under.

2017 Champion, Devaughn Robinson, is tied for eighth at 1-under, with 2011 Champion James Bartell, Justin Kaplan, Clay Fullick and Terrin Anderson.

The second round begins, Saturday, September 29, 2018 at 7:30 a.m. Follow live scoring here.

Secret Golf, Houston Golf Association Partner On Strategic Youth Initiative  

Will Promote Digital Golf Instruction To Kids, Amateurs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (January 23, 2017) – Secret Golf Inc., one of golf’s fastest-growing digital media instruction companies, today announced a partnership with the Houston Golf Association (HGA) on a significant youth initiative in the nation’s fourth-largest city.

Secret Golf will provide an annual membership to its leading online instructional golf platform to HGA Junior Golf and The First Tee of Greater Houston members as well as the participants in the Houston Golf Association’s two amateur championships — the Greater Houston Men’s City Amateur and the Greater Houston Men’s Senior City Amateur. This joint effort between Secret Golf and the HGA will reach thousands of youth and amateur golfers annually throughout the Greater Houston region and beyond.

“As most people know, Houston is home to me and I’m so glad we can partner with the Houston Golf Association on this project. Kids need to get the right message as soon as possible and there’s no better way than learning from TOUR professionals and the Secret Golf platform,” co-founder Steve Elkington said. “All of our players grew up supporting a junior golf program somewhere. This is special for me because when I was young growing up in Australia, I had to take a train for 20 hours from Wagga Wagga to Sydney to spend a weekend learning from the great teacher Alex Mercer. Now, everything is digital and I’m glad we have the ability to reach so many kids and amateurs in our area.”

“Partnering with Secret Golf to offer golf instruction is of great benefit to our programs as we aspire to grow the game of golf and make it accessible for all,” said Steve Timms, president and CEO Houston Golf Association. “I know our HGA Junior Golf and The First Tee participants, as well as amateurs, will be excited to learn from TOUR professionals and some of golf’s greats.”

The initial program will be for 2018 and will offer access to Secret Golf’s instructional curriculum and exclusive library of video content from PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players. Registration information will be available on both secretgolf.com and HGA.org.

About Secret Golf  

Secret Golf is one of the world’s fastest-growing digital golf media companies and is the industry leader in golf instruction by Tour professionals. Secret Golf is the first company of its kind, owned by Tour professionals who passionately believe in sharing deep insights into the game of golf. Secret Golf is the first to have personalized online video instruction from Tour professionals who play or have played the game at the highest level and features a multi-platform online media distribution strategy — social, smart TV, web, mobile and partner content syndication.

In addition to Steve Elkington, Secret Golf’s growing team from the PGA Tour/Web.com Tour includes World Golf Hall of Fame member Jackie Burke, PGA Champion Jason Dufner, Bronson Burgoon, Jason Gore, Brian Harman, Patton Kizzire, Colt Knost, Jason Kokrak, Lee McCoy, Ryan Palmer, Pat Perez, Martin Piller, Chris Stroud and Ethan Tracy. Team Secret Golf’s LPGA staff features, two-time LPGA Tour Player of the Year Stacy Lewis, U.S. Open winner Brittany Lang, Gaby Lopez and Gerina Piller. Former Tour player turned instructor Bradley Hughes of Australia rounds out the group of professionals.

For more information about Secret Golf, please visit www.secretgolf.com and join us on Facebook: SecretGolf, Instagram: Secret Golf and on Twitter: @SecretGolf

About Houston Golf Association

Houston Golf Association (HGA) and its member volunteers make a difference for Houston communities and their youth through golf, outreach programs, events and fundraising. Founded in 1946, HGA is a not-for-profit, tax exempt 501(c)3 organization and host organization to the Houston Open. Houston Golf Association operates The First Tee of Greater Houston reaching 350,000 youth annually and HGA Junior Golf hosts amateur golf events and works with the City of Houston to restore municipal golf courses and amenities. For more information go to www.hga.org.

 

Media Contacts:

Phil Stambaugh
Director of Communications
Secret Golf, Inc.
pressroomphil@secretgolf.com
904-610-9261

Amanda Hansen
VP of Marketing/Communications
Houston Golf Association
ahansen@hga.org
281-454-7000

THE FIRST TEE OF GREATER HOUSTON RECEIVES NATIONAL RECOGNITION FOR COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP AND IMPACT ON LOCAL YOUTH

Houston Golf Association fuels program’s growth and impact for the City of Houston

HOUSTON (November 14, 2017) – The First Tee of Greater Houston, a nonprofit whose mission is to teach children core values, wellness and life skills through the game of golf, was recognized with several prestigious awards at the annual meeting of The First Tee Network. The local chapter took home the following national awards: 

  • Chapter Volunteer Engagement Award – The award recognizes a chapter that is leading the way using innovative techniques to recruit, reward, and retain their volunteers.
  • The Outreach Impact Award – This award recognizes creativity, partnerships and collaborative relationships with school districts and the local community and the extent to which young people have benefited with opportunities to learn and grow through this great life sport as uniquely presented by The First Tee.
  • McGlothlin Award – This award is presented to chapters who are significantly impacting their communities for the better through their fulfillment of The First Tee mission. The chapters represent small, medium and large service areas as determined by youth population size.

Members of The First Tee of Greater Houston team also received individual accolades. Doug Earle, executive director, Brian Ladet, program director and coaches Betsy Harris and Patrick Kisomanga were all honored for their commitment and leadership to growing the program and mentoring youth.

Since 2004, the Houston Golf Association has held the charter for The First Tee of Greater Houston, now the largest of 155 chapters in the worldwide network. Specially trained and passionate coaches, supported by volunteers, guide participants through the The First Tee curriculum helping youth ages 7-18 reach their fullest potential at home, in school and at competitive golf.  Programs take place onsite at schools, as well as ten local area golf courses.

“On behalf of the entire team here in Houston, we are humbled by these awards in doing our life’s passion to make a difference in the lives of youth through a game we all love,” said Doug Earle, executive director of the First Tee of Greater Houston. “What excites us is that our impact on local youth continues to grow significantly. By teaching young people wellness and character development through the game of golf, we are giving them skills that will last a lifetime.”

The First Tee of Greater Houston expansion into communities throughout the City continues to rise, now in 488 local schools, impacting nearly 350,000 youth through its programs in 30 school districts including Houston ISD, Alvin ISD, Brazosport ISD, Crosby ISD, Klein ISD, Cy-Fair ISD, Clear Creek ISD, Conroe ISD, Humble ISD, Aldine ISD, Spring Branch ISD, Fort Bend ISD, Alief ISD, Dickinson ISD, Galena Park ISD, Sheldon ISD, Spring ISD, Stafford MSD, Texas City ISD, Waller ISD, Willis ISD, Pasadena ISD, Huffman ISD, Katy ISD, Deer Park ISD, New Caney ISD, Lamar Consolidated ISD, Tomball ISD, Harris County Department of Education, KIPP School and five private schools. In addition to the volume of schools, The First Tee of Greater Houston also provides instruction and programs through its ten educational facilities, dubbed green grass facilities: Battleground, David Shindeldecker Campus (at Golf Club of Houston), BlackHorse, Quail Valley, F.M. Law Park, Sharpstown, River Plantation, Gus Wortham, Beacon Lakes and Bayou Golf Courses.

The program has flourished due to significant donations from Houston’s PGA TOUR event the Houston Open. Since 1946, the Houston Open, alongside volunteers, has been able to raise $69 million for local organizations—many of which benefit youth programs like The First Tee.

About Houston Golf Association

Founded in 1946, Houston Golf Association and its member volunteers make a difference for Houston communities and their youth through golf, outreach programs, events and fundraising. A not-for-profit, tax exempt 501c (3) organization, Houston Golf Association is host organization to the 10th longest running PGA TOUR event on schedule, the Houston Open, which has played a crucial role in raising more than $69 million for local charities.

Delivering on its promise to make golf accessible to all, Houston Golf Association operates HGA Junior Golf, hosts amateur golf events, works with the City to restore municipal golf courses and amenities, and holds the charter for The First Tee of Greater Houston providing 350,000 local youth with learning facilities and educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values, and promote healthy choices through the game of golf. Go to www.hga.org to learn more or get involved.

Houston Golf Association Membership Updates

At the HGA town hall meeting held on Nov. 2, 2017 at the David Shindeldecker Campus, Steve Timms announced changes to membership as approved by the HGA Board of Directors. The resulting recommendation is to offer a simplified path to membership, with little to no barriers, to help the organization grow and meet the needs of the community through its outreach programs.

All existing HGA members will have the option to renew at three new levels: $100 Annual Membership, $1000 one-time Legacy Membership, or an annual $5000 membership to the Chairman’s Circle. HGA Honorary and Life Members will maintain their status. In order to volunteer for the Houston Open, you must also separately register and pay for tournament uniforms. A notification will prompt your online renewal and registration process early January 2018.

$100 Annual Membership

  • Official golf bag tag
  • Opportunity to become a Houston Open tournament volunteer
  • Member-exclusive offer on discounted Houston Open hospitality tickets
  • Member rate at Gus Wortham Park Golf Course

$1000 Legacy Membership

  • Annual member benefits for life
  • Official memento
  • Recognition in the Houston Open Pairings Guide and Year in Review
  • Invitation to the annual Houston Open volunteer party

Excludes parking, must be Houston Open volunteer to receive uniform and parking

$5000 Chairman’s Circle

  • Life member benefits
  • Chairman’s credential granting access to the Chairman’s Club at the Houston Open and parking
  • Invitation to the annual Houston Open Volunteer Party

Changes to membership were decided based on the extensive evaluation and recommendations of a membership advisory committee comprising of a diverse group of HGA members, including Henry Noey, Chair, Mike Yeager, Darrell James, Veronica Levet, Cory Miller, Ben Beverly, Michael Sandeen, Rob Hungate and Meg Leechman.

The ultimate goal of the new path to membership is to create more opportunities for youth and communities to benefit from golf.  Please direct questions to jdurbin@hga.org.

Buzz Baker wins the 2017 Greater Houston Senior City Am Championship

By Richard Dean

Buzz Baker vividly remembers the 3 ½-foot putt he missed in a 2007 playoff on the 18th green at Memorial Park Golf Course that denied him an opportunity to win the men’s city amateur championship.

On Sunday, on the same green and facing a putt of similar distance on the same side of the hole, Baker sealed the deal to capture the 2017 Greater Houston Senior City Amateur Championship.

“Close to the same putt I missed 10 years ago and I wasn’t going to miss it this time,” said the 55-year-old Baker, who was eligible for the senior tournament this year for the first time.

Actually Baker’s lead was substantial enough that he could have missed that final putt on the No. 18 hole and won easily. Baker shot a final-round 5-under-par 67 on Sunday for a 5-under-par 211 to win the 54-hole tournament by 5 shots over runner-up Gary Durbin, who was at even-par 216.

Scott Smith finished third at 1-over-par 217 and Hunter Nelson was fourth at 2-over-par 218 in the tournament conducted by the Houston Golf Association.

Baker broke from the pack atop the leaderboard and distanced himself from the contenders with four consecutive birdies on holes 14-17.

“It’s very humbling,” said Baker, a mortgage banker for Houston-based Network Funding, LP. “Great people out here, kind of the same fraternity of guys over the years. A bunch of great people. I’m usually happy for the other guys so it’s really nice to be on the receiving end for once.”

Durbin, Nelson and Marshall Piper were all tied at 2-under going into Sunday’s final round. At the conclusion of the round, Piper was assessed a 4-shot penalty for having 15 clubs in his bag. With the penalty, Piper was at 4-over-par 220, and a share of seventh place.

Durbin, who won this event in 2012 and is a two-time Houston city am winner, shot rounds of 70-72-74.

“I’m very pleased with the second-place finish,” said the 60-year-old Durbin, an All-America golfer at Penn State in 1979. “When you’re leading, you’d like to finish it off. Today was an opportunity to win the senior twice.”

The tournament was close until the final five holes. Baker was playing two groups ahead of the final twosome of Durbin and Piper, who opened Friday’s first round with a 69. And then the ever-popular Baker turned up the heat.

“I hit a good drive on 13 and didn’t birdie 13,” Baker said. “So I said, ‘Gosh, we’re going to have to birdie the hard ones.’“

On the 14th hole, Baker hit his approach about 6 feet above the hole. On 15 and 16 respectively, he placed his approach shots about 18 inches and 10 inches from the hole. And his uncanny shot making continued when the former Stephen F. Austin golfer’s second shot on No. 17 stopped 6 feet of the pin.

“Catching Buzz was tough duty today,” said Smith, who had rounds of 75-69-73. “That’s awesome to bear down and get it done. It’s awesome to be in the moment and actually perform and get it done. That’s exceptional. That’s impressive.”

Baker, who plays out of Shadow Hawk Golf Club, carded rounds of 71-73-67.

“Buzz has been a very good, long-time amateur here,” said Durbin, a deputy chief commercial officer of TMK IPSCO, a global steel pipe company, and who plays out of Champions Golf Club. “Very good player, very steady.

“He got it going. At Memorial, the greens are so good, you can make some putts here. You just have to be hitting the ball well. Today, 5-under is very strong. It was the toughest day to score.”

Baker is a popular player among the amateur golfers in the Houston area. Other golfers were complimentary of Baker’s round and were sincerely happy for him in his prestigious win.

“He’s a fine man and he’s a great guy and everybody likes him,” said the 58-year-old Smith, who is retired from the oil and gas business, and plays out of Northgate Country Club. “He’s a good player, so I’m pleased for him.

“Houston is a very tough place to compete. Whether it’s the city am or trying to qualify for a USGA event. It’s tough. There are a number of good players in Houston.”