News from Around the Green

The latest golf-related news, notes, and feature stories from the TGA.

Bills, Fulmer, Vinar Share Lead at 40th Texas Mid-Amateur 

MIDLAND – Gant Bills of Plano, Kendrick Vinar of Richardson, and Cedar Park’s Austen Fulmer share the lead at the 40th Texas Mid-Amateur after round one. They each fired impressive 3-under 69’s amidst windy conditions at Midland Country Club on Friday. A stacked leaderboard that includes 38 players within five shots of the lead are hot on their heels. 

“Pretty dang lucky,” Fulmer said of his first round. “I didn’t get in any crap (Midland CC’s native grass) in the practice round and then today I got in some crap and was able to save bogey like three times. I got out of the crap, learned about the crap, and then saved bogey.” 

Vinar jumped out to a hot start in route to his 69 as the leader of the morning wave. He made the turn at 3-under before finishing with a clean even par back nine.

“I was very pleased. My ball striking today was awesome,” Vinar said. “I hit 16 greens and kept the ball in front of me. It was fun to be out here. Got my dad on the bag which probably hasn’t happened since high school golf. It was fun. I had a blast.” 

Bills, the third co-leader, rolled in five birdies in Friday first round and made a clutch up and down on his final hole to finish 3-under. Bills and Fulmer also lead the way in the race for low mid-master (players 40+ years old). 

Sitting one shot back of the leaders are five players in a tie for fourth at 2-under. Two Midland Country Club members are included in the log jam. Lane Branum and past champion Terence Begnel had impressive showings on their home course. Each of them had four birdies and will look to continue their strong play this weekend. 

“It’s fantastic and what I was hoping for,” Branum said of how he felt after the round. “Didn’t play the back side like I wanted to but kept the round together. The front side was fantastic. I couldn’t ask for a better start.”

Also included in the group tied for fourth are Seminole’s Brady Shivers, El Paso’s Hee Beom Kim, and Argyle’s Marcus Jones.  

Two shots back of the lead in a five-way tie for ninth are Dallas’ Scott Maurer, Abilene’s Trey Todd, Tyler’s Clay Hodge, Fort Worth’s Cole Wiederkehr, and Ryan Zamorano of Dallas. Hodge, who won the 2013 Texas Mid-Am, was 3-over through eight holes but fought back to go 4-under in his final ten holes. His round was highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 12th hole.  

Six more players sit in a tie for 14th after rounds of even-par including two-time champion (2017 & 2018) Colby Harwell. 

This is the second Texas Mid-Amateur and 12th overall TGA championship to be held at the venerable West Texas club. In total, Midland Country Club has played host to six different TGA championships in its 96-year history, including the Texas Amateur, Women’s Texas Amateur, Texas Senior Amateur, West Texas Amateur, and Women’s Four-Ball. In addition, the club was also the site of the Tour’s (now Korn Ferry Tour) WNB Golf Classic from 2002-14. 

Founded in 1927, Midland Country Club began as a nine-hole course with sand greens. The club moved to its current location in the mid-1950s with an 18-hole course designed by Texas Golf Hall of Fame member Ralph Plummer. The course has undergone several modifications through the years, and in 2017 the architectural firm of Weibring-Wolfard Golf Design completed a comprehensive renovation in time for the club’s 90th anniversary.

The 11-month, multimillion-dollar project included building all new tees, greens, bunkers, and water features to enhance and fortify the strategic elements of Plummer’s original design. The par-72 layout, which can stretch to 7,450 yards from the back tees, is spread out across 350 acres and presents an exciting challenge to even the most accomplished players. 

The course average for the first round was over par at 77.1. That’s a testament to the challenge of Midland CC’s course but also the constant high winds on Friday. There were only 13 rounds under par while 100 rounds came in over par. 

Round 2 of the 40th Texas Mid-Amateur begins Saturday at 8:20 a.m. For more information, including complete scoring, click here.