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Butler Park Pitch & Putt – 66 Years Young

On a hot, hazy summer day in Austin, a group of young guys with a few clubs and a cooler full of beer casually walk toward the familiar white and green pro shop. Blanco, the resident white poodle, greets them. They’re not wearing collared shirts and khakis, rather athletic shorts and t-shirts – one’s even wearing a bathing suit and flip-flops. The green fee is appealing for the college crew, only $9 and no tee-time required. At Butler Park Pitch and Putt this is a typical scene.

Butler Park Pitch and Putt 1950-2016

Butler Park Pitch and Putt Celebrating 66 Years

The nine-hole, par three golf course, once just a piece of land on the outskirts of the city, was transformed into an Austin golf fixture 66 years ago. Overtime the golf course has embraced the laid-back Austin culture and remains an ideal venue and legendary landmark for Austinites to play a relaxed round of golf.

Lee Kinser, owner and general manager of the course since 1995, attributes the courses success to its clientele and relaxed environment.

“Here [at Butler], its young people,” Kinser said, “90 percent of our clientele is between 20 and 35 years old. We welcome anyone and it’s really laid back…its just as much a social event as it is a golfing event.”

Brothers Douglas and Winston Kinser began building the course in 1948 – one hole at a time. Winston designed the course and after three years of construction on June 1, 1950, the course was opened to the public.

Lee Kinser and Blanco

Lee Kinser and Blanco – Photo: Facebook

Sadly, Douglas Kinser died suddenly within one year of the course’s opening. Winston, his brother and business partner, was left to pick up the pieces and run the course alone. He wasn’t crazy about idea of hiring employees so he recruited his family to run the course.

Lee Kinser, who was once married to Winston’s son Al, was introduced to the course and immediately fell in love with it. She and her father-in-law had a close connection and bonded over the course, working together for 15 years.

“I loved my father-in-law,” Kinser said, “we worked here together for years…he loved it here.”

Winston Kinser truly loved the course, however an overly thrifty mindset and lack of maintenance caused the course to suffer overtime. Lee recalled a time when a customer stormed into the pro shop and loudly declared his angst with the poor condition of the course.

In 1995, Lee Kinser became the sole owner and general manager of the course and began renovations. Kinser hired the professionals she needed to make the necessary improvements around the course. The changes helped and Kinser said business has picked up a lot over the years. Last year 38,530 rounds were played at Butler Park Pitch and Putt.

Due to its size and the fact that regulars don’t like the idea of the course closing for the day, tournaments aren’t frequently held at Butler. However, a two-man scramble, blind draw tournament is still played every Tuesday evening at 6 p.m.– a tradition that has lasted 15 years. Although the Tuesday night tournaments are played for fun, Kinser said there is no lack of healthy competition.

“It’s actually a big deal,” Kinser said. “It’s usually a lot of caddies from different courses around the area that play in [the tournaments]. Anyone can play, but they’re pretty competitive about it.”

Names updated to the Hole-In-One Butler Wall of Fame

New names updated to the Hole-In-One Butler Wall of Fame in 2015

A tradition that is well known around the Austin golf community is adding names to the esteemed Butler Wall of Fame that is displayed in the clubhouse. The names of hundreds of Pitch and Putt golfers who have sunk holes-in-one are posted on the wall – an honor only the lucky and talented have known.

The course is by no means perfect. Customers enjoy the golf, but many have complained about the condition of the greens – an understandable problem considering the age of the course. Kinser said updating the greens is the next big project.

“I want to put in artificial grass on the greens,” Kinser said. “It’s so busy and you’re supposed to rebuild your greens every 30 years…ours have been the same for 66 years.”

This won’t be a quick or cheap fix. To rebuild one green with live grass costs $100,000 per green – meaning it would cost over $1 million to update the greens. Kinser is looking at artificial grass for multiple reasons.

“It would eliminate watering, mowing and fertilizing,” Kinser said. “It’s around $10,000 per green – we have 10 with the practice green so it’d be a whole lot cheaper to do that.”

There is still a lot more research and funding needed to rebuild the greens, but improvement is on the horizon.

Butler Park Pitch and Putt has been and continues to be an important golf landmark to Austin golfers old and young.

For more information on the course and its history visit their website.

 

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Volunteering At The Dell Match Play World Golf Championship

Written by John Comrie, July 11, 2016

Have you ever watched a PGA event on television and wondered what goes on behind the scenes to produce the event?  I did and now I know.  You could too if you sign up to volunteer at the 2017 Dell Match Play event to be held at the Austin Country Club March 22-26.

John Comrie worked as a volunteer inside the media center

John Comrie worked as a volunteer inside the media center

I grew up in the bitter winter cold of Western Canada north of Montana and North Dakota where the golf season is so short that we depended on PGA on television and radio to keep connected to the sport.  Twenty-five years ago, I fulfilled a long held dream of living in warmer parts of the United States and in due course, ended up in Texas and was invited to become a member of the Austin Country Club.  I still watch and listen to a lot of PGA golf.

By the fall of 2015 I was looking at descriptions of more than 20 volunteer committees that required support from members of the Austin general public.  Just the vast range of committee responsibilities indicates the scope of activity required to put on this event.

Standard Bearers at number 11

Standard Bearers at number 11

Marshalls, Lasers, Walking Scorers and Standard Bearers were all expected.  But Caddie Registration, Evacuation, Media Center were complete surprises.  In the end, I became a member of the Media Center, went through the orientation training, purchased my volunteer uniform and showed up for my first day’s work.

 

Inside the media center

Inside the media center

To my surprise, I was given the opportunity to work with the announcers for PGA Radio helping them to maneuver through the crowds as they quickly moved from one interview or commentary position to another.  When finished on Sunday night, I had new friends who worked in the production of all PGA media events, met caddies and players, had my own media headphones through which I could hear (but not speak) all the internal planning in real time as instant decisions were required to make the media come to life on air.

Traffic Controller at the 1899 Club

Traffic Controller at the 1899 Club

I have many friends who worked for other committees and it was interesting to compare notes on our experiences.  Although every volunteer gets an in depth look at their own committee, everyone ended up with a general sense of what was involved to produce this extraordinary event.  It took more than 1200 volunteers to make the tournament operational, and I met many of them.  A few became friends, all of whom I look forward to working with at the 2017 version of this event.

Volunteers transport players from number 9 green to number 10 tee

Volunteers transport players from number 9 green to number 10 tee

I have enjoyed PGA events, particularly on TV and Radio for many years, but I know them in a new way today.  More importantly, I now have a much better feel for the contribution they make to every community in which they are found.  So not only did all 1200+ volunteers enjoy an extraordinary few days watching extraordinary golf at an extraordinary venue; but, the Dell Match Play PGA Event contributed substantial funds to the  Austin Parks Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area, The First Tee of Greater Austin, Helping Hand Home for Childrenand Keep Austin Beautiful

If you are interested in volunteering for the 2017 WGC Dell Match Play Event from March 22-26, information will be available on this website and other media outlets when volunteer sign-up begins for the 2017 tournament.

*John Comrie is an avid golfer who writes about golf related events with a Texas connection.  He can be reached at jc@johncomrie.com.

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Restoring Hancock – A Piece of Texas History

If you played golf at Hancock Golf Course only three short years ago, you might remember wishing for your ball to land on one of the few patches of grass in the fairway. The Texas heat and lack of water had turned the lush golf course into dirt, rocks, and patches of grass– not an ideal golfing terrain. Fees to maintain the course were costly and there weren’t enough rounds being played at the historic course to deem itself worthy to all Austinites for much longer.

Turn the clock forward three years and you see something different. The parking lot is full more often than not. Grass covers the majority of the course. When golfers tee off or chip the ball, grass flies rather than dirt and rocks. Golfers are out playing the relatively short 9-hole course and revenue is up – thanks to a new irrigation system that was installed in 2013.

Hancock Golf Course Present Day

Hancock Golf Course Present Day

Maintaining the course is still expensive and revenue at Hancock isn’t covering all costs involved in upkeep. But, Kevin Gomillion, City of Austin Golf Division Manager, said things are improving overtime.

“The rounds of golf have improved and revenues are improving at the golf course,” Gomillion said. “However it still doesn’t generate enough revenue to cover the costs of the expenditures associated with operations.”

It’s likely to be several years before that happens, but the installation of the irrigation system was a move in the right direction.

Until 2013, Hancock was the only golf course owned by the city which used potable water for maintenance. Potable water, or drinking water, was more expensive to use and took up a large amount of the $400,000 a year needed to operate the course. The parks department was required to follow the city’s distribution limit of potable water during and after the multi-year drought, which began in 2010. The water cutback caused the golf course to fall into poor shape in the following years. The city then decided it would be beneficial to switch to reclaimed water.

“We’re now irrigating the golf course with reclaimed water and what that has done is allowed us to use more water than previously,” Gomillion said. “Especially with potable water and the costs for potable water, it didn’t make as much sense, especially when you’re having, or may have droughts.”

"We Conserve" signs are posted in different areas around the property

“We Conserve” signs are posted in different areas around the property

The updated irrigation system cost over $600,000 to install. New pumps and sprinkler heads were put in place and since then the course has improved significantly.

“Just being able to water the fairways and tees on a more regular basis using reclaimed water, which is significantly cheaper than the potable water, is an improvement,” Gomillion said. “So that improvement has probably been the most significant to the facility in the last 50 or 60 years.”

The need for improvement at Hancock Golf Course isn’t surprising considering its age.

Hancock Golf Course originally opened as Austin Country Club (ACC) in 1899. Lewis Hancock, a former mayor of Austin, organized the club. He brought to fruition the dream of one of Texas’ first country clubs. Hancock and a group of Austinite’s joined together as members of ACC and spearheaded the purchase of the property. Eventually, the land would be transformed into a nine-hole golf course.

In 1913 the members of ACC purchased more land and nine more holes were built to complete the 18-hole course. In 1946, almost 50 years after it’s opening, the ACC members decided to relocate. As a result, the city purchased the course and re-named it after Lewis Hancock. For 46 years, Austin golfers were able to play one of the only 18-hole courses in Texas. Later, the city sold the land where the original nine holes were located. The land was developed into the Hancock Shopping Center, which still remains at that location today.

The par 35, 9-hole course remains one of the oldest golf courses in the state. Austin golfers and the parks department continue in efforts to keep the course’s condition updated.

Although funding isn’t yet available, Gomillion said there are a few new ideas for improvement.

One of the prospective ideas includes updating the entryway to the parking lot and complex. Gomillion said that the parks department has considered adding some cart paths to areas of the course that are more prone to flooding – something that would help the senior population get from hole to hole following heavy rains. Both ideas are up for consideration dependent on bond-issued funding.

Regardless of its past or present state, Hancock Golf Course has been and remains one of Texas and Austin’s most historic places to play the timeless game.

For reservations and tee times visit the Hancock Golf Course website.

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Texas’ Beau Hossler Going Pro

Texas’ Beau Hossler announced Thursday via Instagram that he would forgo his senior season as a Longhorn and turn pro. Hossler’s Instagram post and a portion of his caption are below.

After months of weighing options and discussing with my loved ones, I have decided to turn professional and forgo my Senior year at The University of Texas. I have been preparing to become a professional golfer, and have dreamed of this day for more than ten years. I am blessed to have surrounded myself with some of the greatest people in the world. Without each one of their contributions, I would not be in this position today. My instructor, Jim Flick, who passed just a few years ago, provided me with the sturdiest of golf foundations, and his words still stick in my head on a daily basis today. My current instructor, Adam Porzak, has spent countless hours and sleepless nights trying to help me to be the best I can be. Dr. Jay Brunza has helped to shape my mental game into my greatest strength. Dr. Joseph Zappala and Coach Ryan Steenberg have provided me with an understanding of where my body has been, is now, and will be in the future. Santa Margarita Catholic High School provided a perfect stepping stone for my college career that would unfold at Texas. If I told you about all my experiences at Texas, it would take about a month. My teammates during these three years are some of the most special golfers I've seen, but more importantly, they are some of the highest character people I've been around. Their playing records speak for themselves as golfers, but the most impressive parts are those that you don't see on paper. Thank you guys for pushing me day in and day out. You are the most competitive and gutsy group I have had the pleasure of being around. Coach Fields has been an incredible asset in my life the past three and a half years, since I stepped on campus. He has treated me and my teammates like his own sons, and cares about our careers at and after Texas as if they were his own. Coach Fields, thank you for giving me the opportunity to come to UT. Coaches Jean Paul Hebert and Ryan Murphy, thank you for being there for me and pushing me. Dr. Randa Ryan, Kat Hastings, Dr. Allen Hardin, Gabe Perlaza, and Trey Zepeda, thank you for keeping my mind straight in the classroom and my body prepared for competition.

@the_beau_show: “After months of weighing options and discussing with my loved ones, I have decided to turn professional and forgo my Senior year at The University of Texas. I have been preparing to become a professional golfer, and have dreamed of this day for more than ten years. I am blessed to have surrounded myself with some of the greatest people in the world. Without each one of their contributions, I would not be in this position today.”

After a a scare at this years NCAA Championship, Hossler announced that he had a torn labrum in his shoulder and would undergo surgery. Hossler said it was a minor surgery but that it was something he needed to get done before his possible 30-year career that lay ahead. The recovery time is expected to last until early October.

Hossler made his decision to go pro after a phenomenal 2016 golf season. He finished his junior season as Golfweek’s No. 2-ranked player in the country. Hossler won five tournaments, the third-most in a season at UT, just after Longhorn legend Ben Crenshaw’s seven in 1973 and six in 1972. Hossler led the Longhorns this season with a 69.73 stroke average, posting 29 of 37 rounds at or under par. He carded 18 rounds in the 60s: two 64s, two 65s, and three 67s.

Following the 2016 season, Hossler added multiple honors to his long list of accomplishments. The Fred Haskins Award, which honors the most outstanding collegiate golfer in the U.S., was awarded to Hossler. He became the first golfer in Texas Men’s Golf history and only the third golfer in Big 12 history to earn the Player of the Year in consecutive years – 2015 and 2016. The PING All-American was also a Jack Nicklaus Award semifinalist and a Ben Hogan Award finalist.

Wishing Hossler the best in his recovery and looking forward to great accomplishments in his professional career.

For more on Hossler’s college career, see his player profile here.

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Austin Summer Junior Golf – Back in Full Swing

The 2016 Austin Summer Junior Tour series kicked off a few weeks ago and is now in full swing.

Three of the seven summer tournaments have been played so far – the Felix George tournament held at Morris Williams Golf Course, the Joe Balander tournament held at Jimmy Clay Golf Club, and the Roy Kizer tournament, which was held yesterday at Roy Kizer Golf Course.

The events, which are conducted and played at the Austin Public Links golf facilities, have hosted over 150 kids in the first three tournaments. Yesterday’s competition at Roy Kizer drew the biggest turnout in the 2016 series so far with 59 junior golfers coming out to play.

Boy and Girls Under 8 at the Roy Kizer Golf Tournament - Photo: GolfATX

Boy and Girls Under 8 at the Roy Kizer Golf Tournament – Photo: Golf ATX

Although this was the largest number of tournament participants this summer, the number of players is fewer than in years past.

Kevin Gomillion, City of Austin Golf Division Manager, said that in the past upwards of 200 junior golfers that attended the Austin Junior Golf Academy would come out and play in the summer tournaments. However, the numbers have dwindled over the years.

“Throughout the past we’ve seen a decline in numbers,” Gomillion said, “largely because there are so many other junior golf organizers in the area and region.”

With other golf groups such as the Southern Texas PGA running junior events throughout the summer, the Austin Summer Junior Tour has seen a downfall in their summer tournament turnout. But Gomillion said they’re not concerned with the participant numbers, rather giving new junior golfers a chance to learn and play the game in a more relaxed environment.

Boys 13-15 Division Champions at the Roy Kizer Golf Tournament - Photo: GolfATX

Boys 13-15 Division Champions at the Roy Kizer Golf Tournament – Photo: Golf ATX

“Really what we’re trying to do is make sure there’s a spot for kids that are coming into the game that are somewhat threatened or don’t feel at ease playing competitive golf,” Gomillion said. “Then graduating those kids onto programs that are on a much higher competitive level.”

Although the Austin junior tournaments provides a safe-haven for young first time golfers to get a taste of the game, competition between accomplished junior golfers and personal bests are still seen frequently on the course.

Trent Mierl of Austin had a stellar performance at the Felix George tournament in the boys 9-10 age division. He shot a hole-in-one on the third hole in the second round and shot a five-under 67 overall in the tournament.

Trent Mierl with his hole-in-one certificate at the Felix George Tournament - Photo: GolfATX

Trent Mierl with his hole-in-one certificate at the Felix George Tournament – Photo: Golf ATX

Although all competitors deserve to be acknowledged for their efforts in the tournaments, noteworthy performances such as Mierl’s (including holes-in-one, birdie streaks, exceptional rounds and other scoring accomplishments) are recorded at the end of each junior event.

The Austin Golf Division not only facilitates the seven junior golf tournaments which go on during the summer, but also administer a partnership with the Austin Junior Golf Academy.

From 1962 to 1987 former UT Golf Coach George Hannon, Austin legend and municipal golf pro Joe Balander, and Lions Municipal’s long time golf professional Lloyd Morrison taught junior golfers in the Greater Austin Area about the game. Originally known as The Junior Golf Program, the three developed The Austin Junior Golf Academy in 1987 after 25 years.

A teaching program was implemented that would teach junior golfers the fundamentals of the life-long game and ways to develop good sportsmanship. Since the late 1980s, upwards of 400 golfers attend the Austin Junior Golf Academy Summer Camp that’s hosted each year at the Hancock Golf Course. The same lessons that were originally taught by Hannon, Balander and Morrison are still taught at the camp each year – an Austin golf tradition.

Golfers at the 2016 Austin Junior Golf Academy Summer Camp - Photo: GolfATX

Golfers at the 2016 Austin Junior Golf Academy Summer Camp – Photo: Golf ATX

Overtime the Austin Junior Golf Academy program grew larger and eventually spring boarded the Summer Junior Tour that’s played today. In addition to the Austin Junior Golf Academy and the Austin Summer Junior Tour are the Austin Junior Golf Clinics that are hosted throughout the summer.

The one-day clinics started in the mid-1980s, and have been going ever since. Kids ages 5-13 years old are welcome to come out and spend time with an instructor to improve their game or to see if golf is a sport in which they’d be interested in playing. Contracted teaching professionals and city employees come in to run the clinics.

“We take them through all aspects of the game,” Gomillion said. “From learning to tee up a ball all the way to learning the mechanics of a golf swing.”

Through the variety of summer golf activities and tournaments, Austin Public Links and the Austin Junior Golf Academy continue to give junior golfers the opportunity to become part of a long-standing tradition of golf in Austin.

For registration information about the remaining junior tour tournaments or the junior golf clinics visit the Austin Junior Golf page. To learn more about the Austin Junior Golf Academy, please visit their website.

 

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Engleman Qualifies For U.S. Junior Amateur

Sadie Engleman at 2016 U.S. Junior Am qualifier in Colorado

Sadie Engleman at 2016 U.S. Junior Am qualifier in Colorado

Sadie Engleman shot 73 to enter a four player playoff for the last spot in the U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier being held at the Valley Country Club in Centennial Colorado.  She won the playoff to advance to the U.S. Junior Amateur.

As you know if you have been following the postings on GolfAustin.Org, she has also qualified for the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur.

I don’t know how many junior golfers will be playing in both of these USGA events this year but I doubt the number is very large.  Engleman is now 14 years old.  Congratulations Sadie.

06/27/16
CENTENNIAL, COLO. – VALLEY COUNTRY CLUB
Hannah Lee – CANADA
72
Sadie Englemann – AUSTIN, TEXAS
73
Anika Veintemilla – DORAL, FLA.
73
A – Jenjira Jinangkul – THAILAND
73
A – Tunrada Piddon – THAILAND
73
For Full Field Results see: www.coloradowomensgolf.org

x

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Sadie Engleman Qualifies For U.S. Women’s Amateur

Sadie Engleman

Sadie Engleman

Sadie Engleman,  qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur by shooting 71 at the Desert Forest Club in Arizona.  Engleman is scheduled to graduate from high school in 2020 and plays at Austin Country Club.

Engleman holds the Women’s course record at Austin Country Club with a score of 63.  She was 12 years old when she recorded that score.  She has enjoyed success in junior tournaments at an early age and is currently ranked 90th in the Polo Junior golf rankings for junior girls up to the age of 18.   She has a long way to go to catch another pair of Austin Junior golfers in those rankings.

Kaitlyn Papp-AJGA Girls Champion -2015

Kaitlyn Papp-AJGA Girls Champion -2015

Kaitlyn Papp, who also plays at Austin Country Club and has another year to play at Lake Travis High School, is currently ranked number 1 in the country.  Click here to see those rankings.

Kristen Gillman, who just graduated from Lake Travis High School is ranked number three.  Gillman beat the current LPGA star Brooke Henderson in the final match of the U.S. Women’s Amateur two years ago to claim that title.

Kristen Gillman - U.S. Women's Amateur Champion

Kristen Gillman – U.S. Women’s Amateur Champion

So, while Engleman may be a bit behind these gals in the junior golf rankings, she has four years to reach a similar position.  Chances are it can happen.

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Chris Benestante Wins Firecracker

Benestante with Serta TrophyChris Benestante shot 66 in the final round of the Firecracker Open to post 15 under par and win by three shots.  Benestante started the final round at 10 under par, one shot behind Robert Evans.  After posting two under 34 on the front nine, he birdied 10, made par on 11, and bogeyed 12. He was at  12 under par standing on the 13th tee box.

Jake Hendrix tee shot on hole #17

Jake Hendrix tee shot on hole #17

 

Jake Hendrix, who started the day at eight under par, shot three under on the front and added two birdies on the back to get to 13 under par after fourteen holes.   He made par on 15 and 16 and was at 13 under standing on the 17th tee box.  He bogeyed 17 and parred 18 to post 12 under par for the tournament.  He shot 65-69-67.  Good golf by any standard and normally this score would be good enough to win.

Meanwhile, Benestante proceeded to birdie 13, 14 and 15.  He was 15 under with three holes to play.  That included the difficult 16th, the par three 17th that was playing 196 yards, and the short par four 18th.  He made regulation pars on 16 and 17 with good two putts from 30 and 40 feet.

Benestante proceeded to the 18th with a three shot cushion, although he was not fully aware of the situation at that point in time and was grinding to play the hole well.

Chris Benestante's 2nd shot on hole 18

Chris Benestante’s 2nd shot on hole 18

He hooked his tee shot into the left rough and was faced with a run shot under the trees to the green.

Benestante's final putt to claim the 2016 Firecracker Open championship

Benestante’s final putt to claim the 2016 Firecracker Open championship

The shot finished just over the back edge of the green about 40 feet from the hole.  His third finished some five feet to the left and below the hole.  And, while not knowing that he had a three shot lead and thinking he needed to make the putt, he proceeded to hole it in fine fashion.

Robert Evans

Robert Evans

Robert Evans, who has emerged as a premier mid-amateur in the Austin area with multiple victories in the last two years, shot 71 in the final round and finished in third place with an 11 under par total.

Defending champion Nick Christea shot 71 in the final round and finished solo fourth.

Seven players tied for 5th at seven under par.  See the full field scores below for details.

The City of Austin staff, including Kevin Gomillion, Steve Hammond, Jimmy Olivares worked hard through two qualifying events for the Firecracker.  They are responsible for helping to identify the players eligible for the event, organizing the tee times, reporting all the scores in a timely fashion and the overall administration of the tournament.

Eric Lopez

Eric Lopez

Eric Lopez PGA Professional at Lions Municipal, did a fine job of marking the course and keeping play moving at a nice pace and helping with any rulings.

Mike Branski-Greens Superintendent at Lions fought a wet Spring that produced some difficult conditions on the greens but provided some of the best fairways that Lions has ever seen.  The greens were typical Muny greens and rewarded players that got the ball on top of the green surface and rolling.  Those players that drove their putts into the grain suffered.  The number of players that shot under par are a evidence that the course was in excellent condition.

Mike Branski-Greens Superintent at Lions Municipal

Mike Branski-Greens Superintent at Lions Municipal

Thanks to everyone who helped make this tournament such a success.  The players and the golfing public are appreciative of your efforts.

 

 

 

 

Full Field Results

Pos Player Today Thru Total R1 R2 R3 Total Purse
1 Chris Benestante -5 F -15 68 64 66 198 $750.00
2 Jake Hendrix -4 F -12 65 69 67 201 $600.00
3 Robert Evans E F -11 63 68 71 202 $575.00
4 Nicholas Cristea E F -8 67 67 71 205 $550.00
T5 Ben Carter -2 F -7 71 66 69 206 $437.50
T5 Jay Reynolds -2 F -7 69 68 69 206 $437.50
T5 Hagen Fell -1 F -7 69 67 70 206 $437.50
T5 Jordan Sanders -2 F -7 68 69 69 206 $437.50
T5 Stratton Nolen -1 F -7 66 70 70 206 $437.50
T5 Brian Noonan E F -7 66 69 71 206 $437.50
T5 Reid Davenport E F -7 67 68 71 206
T5 Jack Cersosimo +2 F -7 68 65 73 206 $437.50
T13 Jake Ezell E F -6 63 73 71 207 $308.33
T13 Forest Miller +4 F -6 67 65 75 207
T13 Henrik Olsson +4 F -6 67 65 75 207 $308.33
T16 Tony Underwood -3 F -5 71 69 68 208 $300.00
T16 Nicholas Costello +2 F -5 68 67 73 208 $300.00
T18 Michael Cooper -2 F -4 69 71 69 209 $275.00
T18 Steven Bright E F -4 69 69 71 209 $275.00
T20 Hudson Hansard -1 F -3 69 71 70 210 $275.00
T20 Jacob Sosa +2 F -3 64 73 73 210
T22 Hudson Ross -5 F -2 72 73 66 211 $245.00
T22 Josh Luongo -4 F -2 72 72 67 211 $245.00
T22 Redmond Lyons -3 F -2 73 70 68 211 $245.00
T22 Seth Stuart -1 F -2 68 73 70 211 $245.00
T22 Erik Henson +1 F -2 68 71 72 211 $245.00
T27 Kody King -2 F -1 70 73 69 212 $225.00
T27 Gene Black -2 F -1 75 68 69 212 $225.00
T27 Barrett Sandefur -1 F -1 72 70 70 212 $225.00
T30 David Collura -1 F E 72 71 70 213 $100.00
T30 Steve Paterson +1 F E 70 71 72 213 $100.00
T32 Mason Wyatt +1 F +1 70 72 72 214
T32 Thomas Holtzman +1 F +1 65 77 72 214
T32 Chris Shive +3 F +1 69 71 74 214
35 Mike Allen +3 F +2 70 71 74 215
T36 Mitchell Griffin -1 F +3 73 73 70 216
T36 Charles Neel White +1 F +3 75 69 72 216
T36 Steven Landry +3 F +3 69 73 74 216
T39 Matt Riley -1 F +4 75 72 70 217
T39 Jonathan Alden +3 F +4 75 68 74 217
T39 Patrick Shanahan +8 F +4 69 69 79 217
T39 Alex Woodward +8 F +4 69 69 79 217
T43 Nick Erickson +1 F +5 70 76 72 218
T43 Kraig Zimmerhanzel +3 F +5 74 70 74 218
T43 Will MacNeill +4 F +5 70 73 75 218
T43 Cyrus Turner +4 F +5 69 74 75 218
T43 Matt Fisher +4 F +5 68 75 75 218
T43 Trey Gillingwater +4 F +5 72 71 75 218
T43 Rob Ormand +4 F +5 69 74 75 218
T43 Nick Maynard +7 F +5 70 70 78 218
T51 Daniel Alba +4 F +6 77 67 75 219
T51 Chris Hartenstein +4 F +6 73 71 75 219
T51 Paul Romero +5 F +6 70 73 76 219
T51 Pj Collier +6 F +6 75 67 77 219
T55 Sam Wallach +2 F +7 74 73 73 220
T55 Drew Bell +2 F +7 74 73 73 220
T55 Cory Brown +2 F +7 76 71 73 220
T55 Kyle Bailey +3 F +7 76 70 74 220
T55 Jerry Thorn +4 F +7 73 72 75 220
T60 Logan Young +3 F +8 72 75 74 221
T60 Luke Condon +3 F +8 75 72 74 221
T60 Randy Zimmerhanzel +4 F +8 70 76 75 221
T60 Lee Krassner +4 F +8 72 74 75 221
T60 Grady Bruce +6 F +8 70 74 77 221
T60 Rob Albertson +5 F +8 75 70 76 221
T66 Jeff Williams +5 F +9 72 74 76 222
T66 Moe Rodriguez +6 F +9 72 73 77 222
T66 Will Ezell +7 F +9 73 71 78 222
T69 Zach Daroowala +5 F +10 71 76 76 223
T69 Michael Ramirez +11 F +10 67 74 82 223
T71 Randy Reynolds +8 F +11 72 73 79 224
T71 Nickolai Esau +12 F +11 71 70 83 224
73 Scott Roudebush +9 F +12 73 72 80 225
74 Payne Wilkie +9 F +13 70 76 80 226
T75 Mike Harkins +9 F +14 71 76 80 227
T75 Gabriel Vallejo +11 F +14 72 73 82 227
77 Lucas Garza +10 F +15 74 73 81 228
78 Rip McWlliams +18 F +18 69 73 89 231
Missed Cut
MC Trey Caldwell +6
MC Robert Specjal +6
MC Cody Price +6
MC Clark McCollum +6
MC Brandon Babineaux +6
MC Salvador Chavarria +6
MC Winn Smith +6
MC Ryan McGinley +6
MC James Gustafson +7
MC Taylor Greenway +7
MC Austin Cotton +7
MC Dallas Hankamer +8
MC John Perez +8
MC Brent Maples +8
MC Billy Clagett +8
MC Austin Campbell +8
MC Cameron Quinn +8
MC Matt Smith +9
MC Ross Becak +9
MC Kiley Hardy +9
MC Tristan Stalker +9
MC Tyler Gammill +9
MC Gavin Trevino +9
MC Tucker Tovar +10
MC Matthew Jungman +10
MC Mark Baldree +10
MC Andrew McLean +11
MC Eric Garza +11
MC Devon McCarley +11
MC Price Ferchill +11
MC Jon Roseberry +12
MC Peach Reynolds +12
MC Bruce Rawlings +12
MC Miles Hindsman +12
MC Gerardo Diaz +13
MC Clayton Sullivan +13
MC Shane Morris +13
MC Major Gammill +13
MC Myron Jordahl +13
MC Jimmy Hughes +13
MC McKay De La Vega +14
MC David Bosco +15
MC Matthew Stewart +15
MC Jackson Ingraham +15
MC Trevor Spring +16
MC Elliott Reese +16
MC Malachi Montgomery +16
MC Jeff Shell +17
MC Bobby Hughes +18
DQ Matt McAustin +2
DQ Daniel Northington +5
DQ Michael Short
DQ Dalton Hankamer
DQ Nick Winborn
JWD Cade Osgood +4
JWD James Gonin +17
JWD John Mansour
JWD Jordan Woolf

 

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Firecracker Set For Hot Finish

Robert EvansAfter two rounds of play in the 70th Firecracker Open,  Robert Evans holds a one stroke lead over three players.  Evans shot 63-68 and is at eleven under.

One shot back at ten under are Henrik Olsson, Chris Benestante, and Forest Miller.   Both Olsson and Miller play for Westlake High School.   Benestante is a local Mid-Amateur who is just returning to action after being sidelined with an ankle injury.

Jack CersoismoJack Cersosimo is two shots back at nine under while defending champion Nick Cristea and Jake Hendrix are three back.  Cersosimo had the pleasure of playing well in front of his 82 year old grandfather, who was out to watch his grandson play golf on Saturday.

Brian Noonan

Brian Noonan

Brian Noonan, who won the firecracker in 2004, Reid Davenport and Nick Costello are four back.   Davenport and Costello are also Westlake High School golfers.  Costello has graduated and will be playing for the University of Texas.

The field has been reduced to the top 72 players and ties and it took a score of five over or better to make the final round.

Highlights of first two rounds
In the first round, Robert Evans and Jake Ezell both shot 63.  Aside from a 62 several years ago by Michael Cooper, those are the lowest rounds ever recorded in the Firecracker.

Also in the first round, Stratton Nolen, who recently won the Big Twelve individual title at the conference tournament while playing for Oklahoma State,  shot 38-28=66.  He was three over after six holes and played the remaining 12 holes in eight under par.

Chris Benestante

Chris Benestante

Even more remarkable is the second round scorecard of Chris Benestante.  After a first round 68, Benestante was two over after eight holes of his second round and one under for the tournament.  He was in about 35th place.  He birdied nine of the next ten holes to record a 27 on the back nine and 64 for the day.   Ben Carter, who shot 66 in the second round and was playing with Benestante, said “aside from a chip in on number 17, Chris hit it inside 10 feet and made all the putts dead center.  It was awesome”.   Benestante has recorded 31-27=58 on the back nine over the last two rounds.  I call that amazing.

The leaders tee off at noon on Sunday.  The back nine should provide lots of fireworks for the fans.  Come out and watch.  Follow the real time scoring via the free Golf Austin App for IPhones or Android devices or via the GolfAustin.Org website.

Full Field Scores

Pos Player Today Thru Total R1 R2 R3 Total
1 Robert Evans 12:06 PM -11 63 68 131
T2 Chris Benestante 12:06 PM -10 68 64 132
T2 Henrik Olsson 12:06 PM -10 67 65 132
T2 Forest Miller 11:57 AM -10 67 65 132
5 Jack Cersosimo 11:57 AM -9 68 65 133
T6 Nicholas Cristea 11:57 AM -8 67 67 134
T6 Jake Hendrix 11:48 AM -8 65 69 134
T8 Brian Noonan 11:48 AM -7 66 69 135
T8 Reid Davenport 11:48 AM -7 67 68 135
T8 Nicholas Costello 11:39 AM -7 68 67 135
T11 Jake Ezell 11:39 AM -6 63 73 136
T11 Stratton Nolen 11:39 AM -6 66 70 136
T11 Hagen Fell 11:30 AM -6 69 67 136
T14 Jordan Sanders 11:30 AM -5 68 69 137
T14 Jacob Sosa 11:30 AM -5 64 73 137
T14 Ben Carter 11:21 AM -5 71 66 137
T14 Jay Reynolds 11:21 AM -5 69 68 137
T18 Alex Woodward 11:21 AM -4 69 69 138
T18 Steven Bright 11:12 AM -4 69 69 138
T18 Patrick Shanahan 11:12 AM -4 69 69 138
21 Erik Henson 11:12 AM -3 68 71 139
T22 Michael Cooper 11:03 AM -2 69 71 140
T22 Tony Underwood 11:03 AM -2 71 69 140
T22 Hudson Hansard 11:03 AM -2 69 71 140
T22 Nick Maynard 10:54 AM -2 70 70 140
T22 Chris Shive 10:54 AM -2 69 71 140
T27 Seth Stuart 10:54 AM -1 68 73 141
T27 Nickolai Esau 10:45 AM -1 71 70 141
T27 Steve Paterson 10:45 AM -1 70 71 141
T27 Mike Allen 10:45 AM -1 70 71 141
T27 Michael Ramirez 10:36 AM -1 67 74 141
T32 Steven Landry 10:36 AM E 69 73 142
T32 Barrett Sandefur 10:36 AM E 72 70 142
T32 Mason Wyatt 10:18 AM E 70 72 142
T32 Rip McWlliams 10:18 AM E 69 73 142
T32 Thomas Holtzman 10:18 AM E 65 77 142
T32 Pj Collier 10:09 AM E 75 67 142
T38 Redmond Lyons 10:09 AM +1 73 70 143
T38 Rob Ormand 10:09 AM +1 69 74 143
T38 Trey Gillingwater 10:00 AM +1 72 71 143
T38 Gene Black 10:00 AM +1 75 68 143
T38 Jonathan Alden 10:00 AM +1 75 68 143
T38 Kody King 9:51 AM +1 70 73 143
T38 Cyrus Turner 9:42 AM +1 69 74 143
T38 Paul Romero 9:51 AM +1 70 73 143
T38 Will MacNeill 9:42 AM +1 70 73 143
T38 Matt Fisher 9:51 AM +1 68 75 143
T38 David Collura 9:42 AM +1 72 71 143
T49 Kraig Zimmerhanzel 9:33 AM +2 74 70 144
T49 Charles Neel White 9:33 AM +2 75 69 144
T49 Will Ezell 9:33 AM +2 73 71 144
T49 Daniel Alba 9:24 AM +2 77 67 144
T49 Chris Hartenstein 9:24 AM +2 73 71 144
T49 Josh Luongo 9:24 AM +2 72 72 144
T49 Grady Bruce 9:15 AM +2 70 74 144
T56 Rob Albertson 9:15 AM +3 75 70 145
T56 Moe Rodriguez 9:15 AM +3 72 73 145
T56 Gabriel Vallejo 9:06 AM +3 72 73 145
T56 Randy Reynolds 9:06 AM +3 72 73 145
T56 Scott Roudebush 9:06 AM +3 73 72 145
T56 Jerry Thorn 8:57 AM +3 73 72 145
T56 Hudson Ross 8:57 AM +3 72 73 145
T63 Jeff Williams 8:57 AM +4 72 74 146
T63 Lee Krassner 8:48 AM +4 72 74 146
T63 Mitchell Griffin 8:48 AM +4 73 73 146
T63 Kyle Bailey 8:48 AM +4 76 70 146
T63 Randy Zimmerhanzel 8:30 AM +4 70 76 146
T63 Nick Erickson 8:30 AM +4 70 76 146
T63 Cade Osgood 8:30 AM +4 72 74 146
T63 Payne Wilkie 8:21 AM +4 70 76 146
T71 Daniel Northington 8:21 AM +5 71 76 147
T71 Lucas Garza 8:21 AM +5 74 73 147
T71 Mike Harkins 8:12 AM +5 71 76 147
T71 Luke Condon 8:12 AM +5 75 72 147
T71 Cory Brown 8:12 AM +5 76 71 147
T71 Sam Wallach 8:03 AM +5 74 73 147
T71 Logan Young 8:03 AM +5 72 75 147
T71 Drew Bell 8:03 AM +5 74 73 147
T71 Zach Daroowala 7:54 AM +5 71 76 147
T71 Matt Riley 7:54 AM +5 75 72 147
Missed Cut
MC Trey Caldwell +6
MC Robert Specjal +6
MC Cody Price +6
MC Clark McCollum +6
MC Brandon Babineaux +6
MC Salvador Chavarria +6
MC Winn Smith +6
MC Ryan McGinley +6
MC James Gustafson +7
MC Taylor Greenway +7
MC Austin Cotton +7
MC Dallas Hankamer +8
MC John Perez +8
MC Brent Maples +8
MC Billy Clagett +8
MC Austin Campbell +8
MC Cameron Quinn +8
MC Matt Smith +9
MC Ross Becak +9
MC Kiley Hardy +9
MC Tristan Stalker +9
MC Tyler Gammill +9
MC Gavin Trevino +9
MC Tucker Tovar +10
MC Matthew Jungman +10
MC Mark Baldree +10
MC Andrew McLean +11
MC Eric Garza +11
MC Devon McCarley +11
MC Price Ferchill +11
MC Jon Roseberry +12
MC Peach Reynolds +12
MC Bruce Rawlings +12
MC Miles Hindsman +12
MC Gerardo Diaz +13
MC Clayton Sullivan +13
MC Shane Morris +13
MC Major Gammill +13
MC Myron Jordahl +13
MC Jimmy Hughes +13
MC McKay De La Vega +14
MC David Bosco +15
MC Matthew Stewart +15
MC Jackson Ingraham +15
MC Trevor Spring +16
MC Elliott Reese +16
MC Malachi Montgomery +16
MC Jeff Shell +17
MC Bobby Hughes +18
DQ Matt McAustin +2
DQ Michael Short
DQ Dalton Hankamer
DQ Nick Winborn
JWD James Gonin +17
JWD John Mansour
JWD Jordan Woolf

x

 

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The Firecracker Open – Celebrating 70 Years

The moment Nicholas Cristea realized he won the 2015 Firecracker Open he broke down in tears.

“I held it together until that moment and then the wave of emotion came over me when I realized what I had done,” Cristea said.

He walked up to a gallery of spectators standing behind the 18th hole of Lions Municipal Golf Course. He said the crowd and news crews watching gave the moment a “professional-type tournament feel.”

Nicholas Cristea 2015 Firecracker Open Champion

Nicholas Cristea 2015 Firecracker Open Champion

Cristea remembered his competitors coming after him toward the end of the final round. He stayed focused on hitting the shots rather than winning. Cristea hadn’t won a tournament in a few years and that long, hot summer day at Lions gave him his confidence back. He was the new Firecracker Open Champion.

Cristea’s win is just one of the great moments in Firecracker Open history.

2016 marks the 70th Anniversary of the Firecracker Open, which began in 1946. The tournament has embraced the Austin culture for the last seven decades and remains one of the oldest traditional amateur golf tournaments in the state. This year, 153 golfers from around the state and beyond will compete for the coveted Serta Trophy that’s presented to the champion every Fourth of July weekend.

IMG_8549

The Firecracker Open wall of memorabilia which can be found in the Lions Municipal Golf Course pro shop 

To celebrate the tournament’s continuing tradition, a 70th Anniversary Ceremony will be held Friday, July 1, the opening day of the Firecracker Open. The ceremony, which will honor past Firecracker Open champions, will begin at 9 a.m. 99-year-old Walter Benson Jr., Bill Gainer, Sunny Rhoades, and Roane Puett, all former Firecracker Open champions, will hit ceremonial t-shots from the first tee. In addition, a ceremonial photo will be taken in order to commemorate all former champions.

The tournament, originally known as the Texas Public Links Golf Association Championship, began in 1946. Throughout the years the tournament took on many names including the Austin Golf Association Invitational Championship, the Fourth of July Championship and the Firecracker Golf Festival Championship. Overtime the tournament acquired its current name, The Firecracker Open.

Although most fans and players associate the Firecracker Open with the Lions Municipal Golf Course, the tournament was not always held there. After it opened in 1964 the Firecracker was briefly held at the Morris Williams golf course for three years, until it returned to its current location in 1967.

There are a number of qualities that make the tournament so special to those in Austin, one being the rich competition between old and young that Firecracker attendees can count on each year.

Michael Cooper, three-time Firecracker Open champion, said that’s one of the unique qualities of the tournament.

Michael Cooper with his daughters after his 2013 Firecracker Open win

Michael Cooper with his daughters after his 2013 Firecracker Open win

“Lions knows no age barrier,” Cooper said. “It stood the test of time and you’re liable to play with a kid who’s a sophomore or junior in high school and I’m about to be 47 years old. Name me very many events where you see that happen and has that type of tradition like Lions does. I think that’s pretty special.”

Cristea agreed with Cooper.

“There’s a lot of times where you’re going to be playing with high school and college kids who could potentially play professionally,” Cristea said. “And you have a lot of the historic seniors who won in the 70’s and 80’s.”

Cristea explained how he has played alongside both Mike Allen and Billy Clagett, former Firecracker Open champions.

“It’s that tradition of playing with the present, past and future champions of the Firecracker that’s really impressive,” he continued.

Billy Clagett holds the record at six Firecracker Open wins. Clagett, who was born and raised in Austin, has played Lions since he was a kid. He remembered caddying for golfers in the Firecracker Open when he was young and knew he wanted to play in the tournament someday. Clagett played in two or three Firecrackers before he won for the first time in 1988. He was 42 years old. The success continued in the years following. Clagett won again in 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994 and 2001.

Billy Clagett playing in the 2003 Firecracker Open - Photo: Austin American Statesman

Billy Clagett playing in the 2003 Firecracker Open – Photo: Austin American Statesman

Despite his great success competing in the Firecracker Open over the years, when asked about his favorite tournament memory, Clagett didn’t reply with moments from any of his six wins, but rather the environment of the Firecracker Open.

“I just think the fun of everybody gathering up, having a good time before and after the tournament [is my favorite memory],” Clagett said. “Hot dogs, soda, water, keg beer…everyone just having a good time. Sure a lot of people want to win and do well, but no matter what you do, you have fun. I think that’s what I’ll take away [from the Firecracker] after my time’s up.”

Clagett said he remembered the time when the Firecracker Open was one of the biggest tournaments in the state. In the past, the tournament used to attract golfers from all over the state of Texas. Now, Clagett said the tournament has become more local – one of the many aspects that makes the Firecracker so special to Austinite’s.

The University of Texas currently owns the land on which Lions Municipal Golf Course is located. University officials have announced that the lease will expire in May of 2019 with the intent to develop the land. A sentimental feeling toward the historic course and tournament has evolved among Firecracker players as the 2019 date quickly approaches.

“I definitely think there’s a huge thought that (Lions) could close down,” Cristea said. “So we’re treating each year as kind of a special time to enjoy Lions.”

Clagett shared a similar thought about the future of Lions and the Firecracker Open.

“When 2019 comes around and nothing has been resolved I imagine the tournament field is going to be full because after that year it may not be there anymore,” Clagett said. “I think there’s a lot of significance in that people will want to play just so they can say they’ve played the Firecracker. You know the course and the tournament go together…I’m sure if you talk to any player there they’re going to say I hope they don’t take it (Lions), but you never know what’s going to happen.”

Being 70 years old and this being the 70th Anniversary of the tournament, Clagett has decided to make 2016 his final appearance in the Firecracker Open.

“It started in ’46 and I was born in ’46 so I thought this would be a great time to play one last time and call it up,” Clagett said. “I don’t know how I’m going to play, but I’m going to be out there trying and having fun.”

Billy Clagett and Michael Cooper will be competing in this year’s tournament along with Nicholas Cristea, who will return to the course to defend his Firecracker Open title. Those around the area are welcome to go watch the golfers in action and join in the ceremonial and Fourth of July festivities beginning this Friday morning.

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