PORT ARTHUR —
It was open season on the Albatross, aka double eagle, Sunday on golf courses in Southeast Texas.
The game’s rarest bird, which sometimes goes a whole year without making an appearance, got bagged at both Bayou Din and Wildwood. Byron Inagaki of Bridge City meet Woodville native and former college baseball star Braden Riley.
Inagaki, who matriculated to Southeast Texas from Hawaii via the Coast Guard, got his albatross by holing his tee shot on the 274-yard, par 4, 16th at Bayou Din. Riley’s double eagle was a bit more conventional, if that’s the right word for going three-under par on one hole. He sank his 210-yard second with a 4-iron on the 485-yard, par 5, 11th at Wildwood.
“I was lucky,” said Inagaki, who didn’t see his ball roll into the cup on the dogleg left of the Bayou Back. “I saw the drive land on the cart path and take a big bounce. When we got to the green and didn’t see the ball, I figured it had rolled over. We looked behind the green, then I said, ‘well, maybe it’s in the hole.’ Sure enough it was.”
For Inagaki, who said he doesn’t have an established handicap but usually shoots in the high 70s, it was his fourth hole-in-one. The aces have come in Houston in a Coast Guard tournament, on No. 7 at Bayou Din and No. 2 at Babe Zaharias. The latest and most spectacular of those aces was witnessed by David Thornes.
Riley, meanwhile, was able to say he saw his against-the-odds shot fall into the cup.
“I watched it all the way,” he said. “It was a pretty cool thing to see. I hit a little bit of a fade into the wind. It hopped once, landed about a foot from the hole and rolled in. I’d never seen a double eagle, but I was watching when Louis Oosthuizen made his on No. 2 at the Masters last year.”
For the 24-year-old Riley, who says he’s pretty much a scratch player, the shot touched off a family celebration. He was playing with his dad, Martin Riley, his brother-in-law, T.J. Lingle and close friend Ted Borowski.
Prior to the albatross, his most memorable shot was a hole-in-one at Dogwood in Woodville when he was 9.
An assistant superintendent at Houston Country Club, Riley is better known for his hitting prowess as a baseball player at Sam Houston State. The highlight of his collegiate career was hitting .387 as sophomore for the Bearkats and leading Division 1 in total hits.
CHIP SHOTS: Ryan Mireles of Sour Lake won Boys 16-18 in the sixth and final stop on The First Tee of the Golden Triangle /Southeast Texas PGA Junior Winter Tour at Bayou Din. The 36-hole event, titled the Karlei Hemler Juniors Against Cancer Tournament, saw Mireles shoot 151 (73-78), then need a sudden-death playoff to get past Jeffrey Roundtree of Lumberton. Other flight winners were Felicia Sauceda of Nederland (159 in Girls 16-18), Josh Elmore of Port Arthur (168 in Boys 14-15), Ashley Young of Orange (213 in Girls 14-15), Peyton Weems of Lumberton (179 in Boys 12-13), Jack Burke of Orange (92 in Boys 10-11, 9 holes) and Micah Depew of Kountze (84 in Boys 7-9, modified tees) . . . Chris Stroud, who made only one cut and $13,392 in five tournaments on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, returns to action this week at the Honda Classic. Stroud should have good vibes playing the PGA National Champion layout in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., seeing as how he finished T9, collected $153,000 and became the first player to ever birdie the par 3, 17th hole at the back end of what’s called the Bear Trap in all four rounds . . . More good news rolled in last week for the March 28-31 Shell Houston Open. With three of the top 10 in World Golf Association Rankings — No. 1 Rory McIlroy, No. 5 Louis Oosthuizen and No. 8 Lee Westwood — already commited, the SHO got word that No. 9 Phil Mickelson, who won at Redstone in 2011, and No. 15 Keegan Bradley intend to compete in Houston. Players have until March 22 to commit . . . The Babe Zaharais DogFight ended in a tie between the team of Adam Noel, Jim Cooper, Cap Hollier and Gary Anderson (13&2) and the team of Roland Burris, Gary White, Charlie Huckaby and Jobie Irvine (13&0). Closest to the pin winners were Earl Richard (No. 2, No. 12, No. 15) and Steve Picou (No. 7) . . . The Super Saturday Game at The Babe was played in a two best ball format. On the front, the team of Gerald Huebel, Rick Pritchett, Harrell Guidry and Dan Flood finished minus 4 to edge the team of Bill Henley, Alex Espinoza, Harry Green and Larry Vicknair by one shot. On the back the Henley team won with minus 2, edging the foursome of Adam Noel, Raymond Darbonne, Thad Borne and Charlie Huckaby and the team of Craig Fontenot, Gene Rountree, Lowell Benoit and Steve Cameron by a stroke . . . The Babe Senior 50 Plus Game, played in a two-ball format, ended in a sweep of both nines by the team of Bill Hamond, Cap Hollier, L. Johnson and Pete Reobroi. They were minus 1 and on the front and minus 3 on the back . . . Jim Brown and Bill Taylor tied for first at plus 5 in the Friday Seniors at Belle Oaks. Rain washed out the Monday Seniors . . . Jerry Honza, executive director of The First Tee of the Golden Triangle, plans to put together a Junior Boot Camp during spring break week (March 11-15) for junior high and high school golfers. Cost, schedule and other details will be announced in next week’s Golf Plus. Interested parties can contact him ahead of time at firstname.lastname@example.org . . . Head pro Richard Cockrell has announced a fee change for Wildwood Golf Club. New rates are $22 for Monday-Tuesday, $26 for Wednesday-Friday and $30 for Saturday-Sunday. Afternoon rates remain $22 for rounds that being after 1 p.m. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, seniors get $3 off the regular fee.
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