Todd Albert wins the 2021 Greater Houston City Amateur Championship

By Richard Dean

Considering how well Todd Albert has been playing competitive golf in 2021, a breakthrough victory was only a matter of time.

Albert just didn’t win the 2021 Greater Houston City Amateur Championship. He ran away from the field, beating his closes pursuers by seven shots.

The only golfer to break par over three days and four rounds at Gus Wortham Golf Course, Albert, 31, shot a 2-under 278, winning the prestigious city amateur for the first time in five tries. In 2018 he was the first-round leader when it was played at Memorial Park Golf Course before finishing fifth.

“I’ve felt so long that it’s right there,” said Albert, who rallied past Niko Nebout, who led after each of the first two rounds. “I’ve been knocking on the door for a while and couldn’t get it done.”

He completed his mission this time on the 6,395-yard, par-70 layout.

“This is the longest stretch I’ve played this well,” Albert said. “I just played steady golf the entire tournament. I can’t say enough about the amount of time I try to put in to get this done. I’ve had a great past couple of years, this year in particular.”

Albert carded rounds of 69-69-69-71. Sharing second at 5-over-285 were two-time city amateur champion John Hunter (The Woodlands), Ryan Haag (Houston) and Nebout, who was absolutely dazzling in shooting 7 under the opening round before hitting a rough patch in the third round. Nebout, who played in four Texas state high school golf tournaments at Clear Springs, put together rounds of 63-70-78-74.

Nebout led Albert by five shots after two rounds before Albert caught and surpassed him.

“It’s a nice building block for progressing forward,” Nebout said. “And the first round showed me what I’m capable of doing, so I need to keep on working and win some tournaments. This just confirms that what I’m doing is right.”

At age 20, Nebout should factor in many more city amateurs. The University of Houston golfer has the skill set to contend. In 2019 he placed third in the Class 6A state championship.

“I’m still trying to make some highlights at the amateur golf level,” said Nebout, whose opening-day 63 was low round of the tournament. I’m starting to get a little better at amateur golf.”

But the 2021 city amateur belonged to Albert, a resident of Katy.

In leading up to his city amateur championship, conducted by the Houston Golf Association, Albert has played lights out in 2021. He and partner Kevin Liberto qualified for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Chambers Bay (Washington) in May. In March Albert shared second at the Texas South Mid-Amateur at Bentwater, and he missed Westwood Golf Club qualifying for the 2021 U.S. Amateur by three shots.

At Gus Wortham things broke Albert’s way during Sunday’s 36-hole finale. Playing both the third and fourth round of the final twosome with Nebout, Albert overtook him in the morning third round and expanded his lead in the afternoon final round.

Albert capitalized on his driving ability. He drove the ball as far down the fairway as he could on holes that allowed it.

“Anything that was open I just smashed it as far as I could,” said Albert, who received a five-year exemption for the victory. “When it started to squeeze me a little, I reeled back, or if the wind wasn’t right, I eased up.”

Driving the ball long was Albert’s strategy until the tournament’s final few holes when he played conservatively to protect his advantage.

“I started checking the leaderboard,” said Albert, who owns a food brokage company. “I had six strokes to play with, so I’m going to go center-green and a bunch of flighted shots. A lot of fairway-finder type of shots.

“The only one I opened up on those last six holes really was on 17, just because it’s set up for me. I knew the wind would carry my ball and just threw it up in that wind and got way down there.”

Albert wanted to give a shout out to the HGA for the professional way it conducted the tournament as well as Gus Wortham being in excellent condition.

“They’ve put on a great tournament,” Albert said. “The course could not have been in better shape and these greens are the fastest greens I’ve ever played. There were a lot of low handicappers in this tournament and we were lagging putts from 10 feet. It made some low handicappers look silly.”

Albert gives a good deal of credit for his success to instructor Scott Hause at Westwood Golf Club, who has honed a repeatable golf swing.

Playing out of The Golf Club of Cinco Ranch, Albert tries to play at least once a week and practice three or four times. Albert didn’t play college golf but about five years ago decided to play the sport more seriously and see what he could accomplish.

“I have a huge competitive edge,” Albert said. “I started to get into this because I felt that need. I started getting serious about it and here we are.”