BOB WEST ON GOLF — Scheffler provides short-term answer for Houston Open

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Ever since the Houston Open was bumped from its prime date the week before the Masters to late fall in 2019, which meant an ongoing struggle with college football and the NFL for attention and attendance, there has been understandable angst for an event dating back to 1946.

Truth be told, if Houston Astros owner Jim Crane had not gotten involved, there might no longer be a Houston Open. Crane’s clout, and a move to renovated Memorial Park, was a necessary short-term lifeline with hopes of getting back to a spring date sooner than later.

In the meantime, relevance and attracting top players has become an uphill battle. Thanks to LIV poaching, which has led to a reshuffling of the PGA Tour schedule that further minimizes fall events, the Houston Open’s challenge has increased exponentially.

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Starting in January of 2024, the Fed Ex Cup part of the PGA Tour schedule will end each August, with only the top 70 qualifying for the playoffs. Fall events will be relegated to sort of a Q-school status for players not in the top 70 who are fighting to keep their playing card,

A year from now, then, the status of the Houston Open could be vastly different than it is now. You can bet Crane will use all of his resources to get the PGA Tour to treat Houston with the respect its storied history with professional golf deserves. But there are no guarantees, and the in-fighting will be intense.

Meanwhile, this year’s tourney, set for Nov. 10-13, won’t have a defending champion because 2021 winner Jason Kokrak defected to LIV. He’s now persona non grata at any PGA Tour stop, just like Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed and all the others who bailed.

What Houston does have to flaunt, however, is better than all the above. It already has a commitment from World No. 1 and Player of the Year Scottie Scheffler. The UT ex, who narrowly missed making Houston his first PGA Tour victory last year, went on to win four times, including the Masters.

Scheffler’s presence is a coup of sorts for the Houston Open and assures it will not get lost in the November football shuffle.

CHIP SHOTS: PN-G exes Chris Stroud and Andrew Landry both made the cut in the 2022-23 season opening Fortinet Classic last week. Stroud finished with a 5-under 283 to tie for 43rd and earn $24,760. Landry tied for 55th at 285 and pocketed $18,560.

Lamar ex MJ Daffue, making his first start as a regular PGA Tour member, missed the cut on rounds of 74-72. All three will be off this week, with the President’s Cup being contested in North Carolina.

Andy Meshwert of Bridge City ended a lengthy hole in one drought at Babe Zaharias by sinking a 9-iron from 126 yards on No. 2 last Friday. It was Meshwert’s third ace and second at Babe Zaharias. The shot was witnessed by Bubba Morgan.

Reece Williams, the 13-year-old son of 5 Under Golf CEO Austin Williams, has played his way into unique event called the Junior River Cup. Reece, who lives with his mother part time in Louisiana, will be part of the Louisiana Team in the Ryder Cup style event being played in Cleveland, Mississippi.

Each team consists of the top 20 players from each state, and the top four players in the state for girls 13-18 and Boys 12-13, 14-15 and 16-18. They play best ball one day, alternate shot one day and singles matches one day.

The Monday Senior 50 Plus game at Babe Zaharias was played in a three-ball format. Winning the front with plus 4 was the team of Ed Holley, Glenn Judice, Jake Selensky and Ron Mistrot. Minus 1 won the back for the foursome of Ron LaSalle, Gary Fontenot, Joe Gongora and Bill Hammond.

Closest to the pin winners were Cap Hollier (No. 2, 9 feet, 2 inches), James Vercher (No. 7, 6-7), Bob Luttrull (No. 12, 9-9) and Keith Mullins (No. 15, 6-10).

All points count was the format for the Wednesday Babe Zaharias DogFight. Wining with 29 points was the team of Mike Brown, Earl Richard, Robert Stansbury and Keith Marshall. There was a two-way tie for second at 28 points between teams captained by Vercher and Mullins.

Closest to the pin winners were Wally Istre (No. 2, 3-5), Eddie Delk (No. 7, 5-0), LaSalle (No. 12, 7-9) and Marshall (No. 15, 5-0).

One of the longest running tribute tournaments in the area – the 27th annual Joe Williamson Memorial Scramble – is set for Saturday, Oct. 1 at Zaharias. Entry fee for the two-person scramble is $50 per player. Teams will be flighted by the low handicap player, with each flight paying three places.

Anyone wanting to sign up should call Wendell Meaux at 409 790-8873 or the Zaharias pro shop at 409 722-8286. All proceeds from the tournament go toward scholarships for Nederland and Port Neches-Groves students.

If you have not seen the TV commercials, Beaumont attorney Brent Coon is bringing in some former Houston Oilers and Dallas Cowboys for what is being called the Brentwood Bowl. The event, which includes a Friday night, Oct. 7 dinner and golf the next morning, is set for the Brentwood Entertainment Complex and the Country Club of Texas.

Among former players and coaches participating are Wade Phillips, Dan Pastorini, Robert Brazile, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, Mike Renfro, Vernon Perry, Billy Joe Dupree and Clint Stoerner. To learn about playing opportunities or sponsorships call 409 840-9440.

Golf news should be e-mailed to rdwest@usa.net.