Willow Brook Country Club in Tyler
is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and the best amateur golfers
from around the state will be in on the festivities.
As a highlight of the yearlong
centennial commemoration, and to salute its tournament heritage, Willow Brook will
play host to the 113th Texas Amateur. The championship, conducted by the Texas
Golf Association since 1906, will be held June 16-19.
“Willow Brook has a long history
of hosting prominent state championships, and we are very excited to have the
opportunity to host the 113th Texas Amateur during our 100th Anniversary,” said
Chris Hudson, Willow Brook’s Director
of Golf. “Willow Brook has always
been a huge supporter of the TGA, and the membership and staff are very much
looking forward to providing the players with a truly memorable experience.”
This will be the second Texas Amateur and ninth overall TGA championship to
be contested at the renowned East Texas club.
The last time the Texas Amateur was played at Willow Brook Country Club was
the summer of 1964, just a few months after the Beatles made their American
network TV debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. Marty Fleckman of Port Arthur, one of
the best amateurs in the country, won the title that year with a 2-and-1
victory in the final match against Richard Yates. It was also the last Texas
Amateur conducted as a match-play championship before switching to a stroke-play
In the years that followed, Willow Brook was the site of the 1967
Women’s Texas Amateur, 1993 Texas Senior Amateur, 1996 Women’s Texas Amateur,
2003 Texas Senior Amateur, and 2013 Texas Senior Amateur.
More recently, the club hosted the
2019 Texas Shootout and 2020 Texas Mid-Amateur Match Play, won by Aaron Hickman. It was an especially
satisfying victory for Hickman, a longtime Tyler resident and member of Willow
Brook who also serves on the TGA Board of Directors.
Additionally, from 1990-99, Willow
Brook was the home of the Eisenhower International Golf Classic, a partnership
between the University of Texas at Tyler and Sister Cities International. The
annual fundraising event would attract some of the biggest stars on the PGA
Tour, as well as an eclectic mix of celebrities and dignitaries from around the
“We are thrilled to bring another
Texas Amateur to this historic club that has been such a wonderful partner
through the years,” said Chris Untiedt, TGA Senior Tournament Director. “Many
great players have won at Willow Brook, and we look forward to adding the 113th
Texas Amateur champion to that illustrious list.”
Founded in 1922, Willow Brook Country
Club began as a nine-hole course. The club expanded to 18 holes following World
War II and was designed by Texas Golf Hall of Fame architect Ralph Plummer. The
course went through several modifications over its history, most notably in
1978 by Joe Finger, also a Texas Golf Hall of Famer, and in 2002 by PGA Tour
veteran Mark Hayes.
In the mid-2010s, with the milestone
100th anniversary on the horizon, the club hired Tripp Davis & Associates,
a respected golf architectural company based in Norman, Okla., to prepare an
overall master plan that would take the course into the next century.
Completed in 2018, the extensive
modernization and improvement project included the rerouting of several holes, rebuilding
and reshaping greens and rebuilding and shifting tee boxes and bunkers to
enhance and fortify the strategic design elements. To improve
playing conditions, all greens were resurfaced with TifEagle Bermuda and
fairways with Latitude 36 Bermuda. Davis and his team also renovated the practice
area and added a four-hole short course near the clubhouse.
“Willow Brook was very fortunate
to have Tripp Davis redesign the golf course beginning in 2014 with a
long-range plan,” Hudson said. “Tripp’s goal was to make the course more
challenging, requiring the player to use a strategic approach to playing the
golf course. I think he accomplished what he set out to do and made it a
Davis’ acclaimed efforts heightened
the old school nature of the golf course. Though not overly long by today’s
standards, the 6,782-yard, par-71 layout places a premium on hitting the narrow
fairways, pinpoint accuracy on approach shots to the small, well-guarded greens
and thoughtful course management.
“Willow Brook is a timeless classic and we are confident the newly renovated course will rigorously test every facet of a player’s game and identify a worthy
champion,” Untiedt said.
The TGA accepted 982 entries for the
113th Texas Amateur at Willow Brook Country Club, just three shy of the record total
of 985 set for last year’s championship at Midland Country Club. A total of 44 players
were officially awarded exemptions to the championship. To
determine the remaining 100 spots in the 144-player starting field, 18-hole
qualifiers were held at 14 sites across the state from April 2-June 6.
The list of exempt players is headed
by University of Houston senior Austyn Reily of Pottsboro, who won the 112th Texas
Amateur at Midland Country Club. Reily carded rounds of 70-71-67-70 to finish
at 10-under-par 278 and earned a one-stroke victory over runner-up Jake Doggett
of Hutto. He will look to defend his title and become the first player to win
back-to-back championships in nearly 20 years.
The format for the walking-only
championship is 72 holes of individual stroke play. All contestants play 18
holes on both June 16-17. After 36 holes the field will be cut to the low 54
scores and ties heading into the final two rounds on Saturday and Sunday.
When it comes to legendary courses
in Texas, Willow Brook is right up there at the top of the list where much of
the state’s significant golf history has been written. It may have taken 58
years for the Texas Amateur to return to the Piney Woods of East Texas, but it
was more than worth the wait to be on hand for Willow Brook’s centennial and to
help celebrate the past while showcasing the present.
For more on the 113th Texas
Amateur Championship, click here.