Morris Williams Grand Opening
After eleven months of renovation, the City of Austin held an official opening ceremony at Morris Williams Golf Course on February 1, 2013. City Council members, the City Manager, Department Heads from the Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD), the consulting golf course design architect, the construction project leader and the greens superintendent joined celebrities, golfers and others to celebrate the success of the project.
Kevin Gomillion, Director of Golf for the PARD, served as the master of ceremonies and introduced various speakers. As the ceremony unfolded it became apparent that significant effort, cooperation, coordination and funding had been required to make the project a success.
- Sara Hensley – Director of Austin PARD, (shown in the photo)
- City Council members Kathy Tovo, Laura Morrison and Sherle Cole
- City Manager Mark Ott
- Terry Wilson who represented the Morris Williams Interest Group
- Delano Womak who spoke on behalf of the Austin Golf Advisory Committee
- Ansen Seale who was the artist commissioned to created an art piece representing Morris Williams Jr.
At the conclusion of the formal remarks, the group disbursed for a ribbon cutting ceremony. The formal ribbon cutting was performed by Bertha Means, a long time patron of Morris Williams Golf Course. She was accompanied by George Hannon, City Council Members, and others who were involved in the project. Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, the group disbursed for a tour of the clubhouse and some sandwiches before playing a round of golf. Players were impressed with the clubhouse and improved functionality of the facility.
The clubhouse facility consists of a pro shop on the east end of the 2nd floor and a snack bar on the west end, separated by the restrooms and a hallway. The first floor is the storage space for the golf carts. The snack bar overlooks the practice tee and the putting green so everyone can enjoy nice views while reviewing their round or awaiting their tee time. They can critique the swings of those players hitting balls on the practice tee.
Surrounding the south and west sides of the second story is a balcony with rocking chairs that will enable golfers and spectators to enjoy the views of the golf course, putting green and driving range. The balcony has a great feel about it and no doubt will be enjoyed by any and all who find their way to this delightful spot.
Many players could be overheard recounting experiences from the time when Morris Williams Golf Course had just been constructed in 1964. They enjoyed their memories and celebrated the fact that the course had been refurbished. Shown here are Jim Appelbaum, Billy Clagett and Greg Meserole recounting old times at "Mo Wille" in front of the sign on the north side of the clubhouse.
One of the nice touches of the clubhouse renovation is the piece of art that was commissioned. The City of Austin has a program called “Art in Public Places”. This program was responsible for commissioning an artist to create a piece of art appropriate for the Morris Williams Clubhouse. Ansen Seale was commissioned as the artist for the project and he chose a photograph of Morris Williams Jr. with his golf bag as his subject. Seale graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio.
From a distance the three panel piece works as a photograph but up close it becomes three dimensional and adds a lifelike quality . The piece uses the primary colors of magenta, yellow, cyan and black arranged in thousands of individual dots on four layers of glass. It’s really quite remarkable.
Golfers will also encounter the Texas State Junior Championship trophy that Morris Williams won in 1949. You may recall that in 1949, Morris Williams Jr. won the state junior title, the state amateur title and the Texas Open title. The Texas Open included Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson so it is apparent that Williams would have probably gone on to become one of the games top players had he had not his career been cut short by an untimely death in WWII. Old timers who were privileged enough to see Williams play said that he had a fierce competitive spirit, drove the ball exceptionally straight and was a good putter. No wonder he was successful.
After the clubhouse tour, lunch was served and players enjoyed some sandwiches, soft drinks and chips before the ceremonial opening tee shot was struck by 93 years young Bertha Means. Shown here with City Manager Mark Ott and Ben Crenshaw, Mrs. Means pounded a tee shot about 150 yards down the middle to the cheers of the surrounding crowd. To view photos of Mrs. Means hitting her tee shot and others taken by Raplh Barrera of the Austin American Statesman click here.
Means was taught to play golf by George Hannon, the former Head Professional at Morris Williams and Golf Coach for the University of Texas when Kite and Crenshaw lead their team to two national championships. Apparently she showed up one day at the course and declared she would like to learn to play golf but she did not have any clubs. Coach Hannon took her under his wing and that began a long time relationship between Means, Hannon, and Morris Williams. Personal relationships of this nature is one of the great benefits of the game of golf and a strong golf community.
In touring the course for the first time, the design changes were immediately apparent to the players and they were greeted with positive responses. Shown here is the number six green that was moved back and to the right about 40 yards and contoured differently.
Although the grasses were somewhat dormant from the winter weather, it was clear that the design changes resulted in a vastly improved facility. There will be time to pass a more educated judgment once the course has had a full growing season and the grasses have had a chance to mature.
Jep Wille, shown here with Ben Crenshaw, had the chance to tour several holes with Ben Crenshaw and discuss design features of the course. He indicated it was the thrill of a lifetime to be able to have that conversation with Crenshaw about Morris Williams and some of courses Crenshaw is currently building in Florida.
Photo by Ralph Barrera – Austin American Statesman
To view more photos of the course and the opening ceremonies click here.
Jason Chapman, greens superintendent, and Chris Dry, golf course construction project manager, spoke about the project in general and indicated that it was the most efficient project they had been involved with over the course of their careers. Dry has worked for several private golf course construction companies in the past and has been involved in constructing a half a dozen similar projects. Jep Wille had high praise for the city staff in terms of their competencies and their attitude during the project.
As documented in previous articles, the greens were all completely remodeled. They were dug up, new drainage was designed and constructed, base material was laid, the greens were shaped and contoured, the surrounds were tied into the greens, the exit and entrance paths to the green were designed and constructed, bunkers were placed, collection areas and mound were positioned to help pace of play and provide adequate challenge. All of this was done with maintenance issues, pin locations¸ playability for all golfers in mind. No doubt there will be discussion about the green complexes and varied opinions will be offered as time goes by. For now, it's hard to find a negative comment about what appears to be a home run for the City of Austin and it's golfing community.
Congratulations to all who were involved in making this project so successful.