News from Around the Green

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

John Dowdall Leads Texas Senior Amateur

KINGWOOD – John Dowdall of Fulshear leads the 82nd Texas Senior Amateur after firing an opening round 5-under-par 67 at Deerwood Club. Due to a two-hour-and-six-minute suspension of play Friday morning, afternoon tee times were delayed. Dowdall’s group was first off No. 1 tee in the afternoon and finished Round 1 minutes before play was suspended due to darkness at 7:10 p.m. 
“When we finally got started after the rain delay, I got off to a really good start,” Dowdall said. “I just played really solid.”
The 2007 South Texas Mid-Amateur Champion birdied the par-4 first hole and followed with birdies on the par-4 third and par-3 fourth. He was quickly 3-under through four holes and never looked back on Friday.
Dowdall’s only bogey of the day came on the par-4 13th hole, but the seasoned-veteran bounced back with a birdie on the par-4 14th. As Round 1 lost daylight, Dowdall carded two more birdies on holes 16 and 17 followed by an incredible par-save on his closing hole.
“I hit pretty much every green,” Dowdall said. “My last hole number 18, I made a really good up and down to keep the round together.”
Dowdall, who was a member at Deerwood for over 20 years, said he used his local knowledge throughout Friday’s round. He knew the good spots around the greens and relied on his consistent ball-striking to give him solid birdie looks all day.
“If you short side yourself out here, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble,” Dowdall said. “I just played smart. Hopefully I’ll be able to do it next couple days.”
Craig Hurlbert of Magnolia held the clubhouse lead for most the day after carding a 3-under 69 in the morning wave. He was even through six holes when he stood in the middle of the fairway on the par-5 seventh hole and the air horn signaled suspension of play at 11:09 a.m. Two hours later, he and his group returned to hit their approach shots. Hurlbert made a solid par, but followed with a bogey on the par-3 eighth.
The 2010 Montana Mid-Amateur Champion showed no lack of concentration. He bounced back with a birdie on the par-4 ninth to go out in even-par 36.
“It’s really more of a patience test than anything,” Hurlbert said. “It’s about getting in your rhythm and go through your routine.”
He did just that on his closing nine; a bogey-free 3-under 33. Hurlbert carded three consecutive birdies on holes 14-16.
“It helped out a lot that I hit 17 greens today,” Hurlbert said. “I’ve been hitting the ball good so I have a lot of confidence. I have kind of a simple little routine I’m going through, so I’ll just stick to that and let the chips fall where they may.”
Mike Lohner of Southlake is four strokes back of the lead and currently solo-third. The 2019 North Texas Mid-Amateur runner-up carded four birdies en route to a 1-under-par 71.
John Grace of Fort Worth and Peach Reynolds of Austin were among the players to finish on Friday and are tied fourth. Grace and Reynolds carded even-par rounds of 72. Gary Durbin of Houston and Kip Estep of Rockwall are six shots back in fifth place at 1-over 73.
The remainder of the field will complete Round 1 Saturday morning starting at 8:45 a.m. Round 2 will follow with tee times off No. 1 and No. 10 tees beginning at 10:00 a.m.
Deerwood Club and the TGA have forged a strong partnership over the years, working together to promote amateur golf. This year Deerwood joined an exclusive list of clubs in Texas to have hosted all four TGA Men’s Major Championships. Deerwood played host to the 1986 and 1999 Texas Amateurs, 1989 Texas Mid-Amateur, 2014 Texas Four-Ball and rounds out the distinction with this year’s Texas Senior Amateur. 
However, hosting this year’s championship was far from a gimme. The club endured great adversity just days before the championship.
On Sept. 17, six days prior to hosting the practice rounds for the Texas Senior Amateur, Deerwood was drowned by flood waters from Tropical Storm Imelda. The golf course took on more than 17 inches of rainfall within 14 hours. According to Golf Course Superintendent Jeremy Lewis, there was a four-hour span of rain dumping three and a half inches of water per hour. Twelve fairways were flooded, the green on the par-3 fourth hole was completely submerged and debris was scattered across the course.
“The opportunity to host a big-name event like the Texas Senior Amateur we didn’t want to give up on that,” Lewis said. “We were staring down the barrel of a gun thinking ok we’ve got six days to turn this golf course around to be ready for the first practice round.”
In five days, Lewis and his team restored the course back to championship condition. The Clubs of Kingwood hauled in 750 tons of fresh white sand from Arkansas to completely redo all 52 bunkers. Lewis had a crew of more than 50 working tirelessly leading up to the championship.
“We put every man we had first on Deerwood as priority just so we could have this tournament,” Lewis said.
After a few phone calls on Sept. 21-22, TGA Tournament Director Justin Guthrie drove out to Deerwood Club to assess the golf course. He made a final decision on the status of the championship that afternoon.
“It was incredible what Deerwood did in that short amount of time,” Guthrie said. “As of Friday, it seemed it would be impossible to host a championship. When I was out here on Sunday, the place was incredible. It showed how much the Texas Senior Amateur meant to the club.”
Despite the weather on Friday, Deerwood showed very little signs that it was under water seven days prior to the opening round. The new white sand bunkers, lush fairways and true greens surprised many of the players in the field.
“The fact that a club would work this hard to allow us to come play here is just really off the charts,” said the 2018 Texas Senior Player of the Year Lewis Stephenson. “Just the care and the amount of work that had to go in to it is very evident, so a big thank you from the players.”
Following completion of Round 2, the field will be cut to low-54 and ties for Sunday’s Final Round. 
For more information on the Texas Senior Amateur, click here.