The finest non-major golf tournament held in the United States takes place in Fort Worth this weekend at Colonial Country Club. The event – dubbed the Fort Worth Invitational this year – has been held at the same site longer than any other tournament. As a result, CCC and the PGA have this tournament working like a finely-tuned, well-oiled machine. The facilities for the spectators are fabulous, there is ample room at most holes for up close viewing of the action and the overall layout is spectacular and compact. You can catch action on every hole without having to walk miles in the process. The venerable course holds up as well and while scores can be low only once has more than 20 under been the winning score.
The only downside has been the inability of to attract a better field in recent years – and the sometimes brutally hot weather in late May. The list of past champions, however, is impressive and includes such all-time greats as Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Cary Middlecoff, Billy Caspar, Ben Crenshaw, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth.
Look for Red on Sunday relaxing in a luxury skybox by the 13th green with cool beverage in hand.
From the Annals of the Highway – In 1949, professional golfer Ben Hogan and his wife Valerie were seriously injured in an auto accident. Hogan was born in Stephenville but raised in Dublin and Fort Worth. After his father committed suicide when Hogan was 9, he began to caddy at Glen Garden CC south of town where he met his later tour rival Byron Nelson. He turned pro at age 18 but struggled for almost a decade before winning a professional event. But before his accident in 1949, Hogan had won 54 times on the PGA Tour including two PGA Championships and one U.S. Open victory.
The Hogans somehow survived the early morning head-on collision with a Greyhound bus on a fog-shrouded bridge east of Van Horn. Hogan threw himself across Valerie in order to protect her. He likely would have been killed otherwise as the steering column punctured the driver’s seat. Hogan suffered a double fracture of his pelvis, a fractured collar bone and left ankle and a chipped rib. He also suffered blood clots that would cause circulatory problems for the remainder of his life.
It seemed doubtful that he would ever compete again at the high level to which his fans were accustomed. After 59 days in the hospital, Hogan began his rehabilitation – mostly by extensive walking. He was back on the course by November and returned to the PGA Tour to start the season at the Los Angeles Open at Riviera Country Club. He finished tied with Sam Snead but lost in a playoff. Hogan would go on the win the U.S. Open in 1950 and five more major championships before he retired in 1959.
The renovation of one of the most historic golf courses in Texas is under way. Gus Wortham Golf Course bills itself as the oldest golf course in continuous use in Texas. Some might argue that Hancock GC in Austin is older (dating from 1899 when it was the original course for the Austin Country Club) but it was chopped in two by the City in the 1960’s when it sold off the back nine for the now nearly defunct Hancock Shopping Center. Brackenridge Park GC in San Antonio also bills itself as the oldest course in Texas but that is clearly wrong. Gus Wortham along with those courses, Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Memorial Park in Houston and Cedar Crest in Dallas are the crown jewels of the “ancient courses” in Texas.
GWGC was the site of the original Houston Country Club. When the HCC moved to its current site 60 years ago, the course was sold to HCC member Gus Wortham who operated it as the Houston Executive Golf Course until selling it to the City of Houston in 1973. The City pretty much abused the grounds for decades – allowing a series of incompetent managers to run the course. Red remembers playing it in the late 1990’s when there did not appear to be a living blade of grass on any of the fairways and walking on the greens was like walking on a sponge. The course has been much better managed in recent years, but still needed a major redo.
The poor condition of the course threatened its survival more than once. It was proposed as a site for the Dynamo Stadium and for a Houston Botanical Garden. But a concerted effort by the HGA has save GW and when it reopens in 2019, it may well surpass Memorial as the premier public course in Houston.
Photo of the 7th fairway looking back from the green.
Red played on Saturday with a gentleman about Red’s age and two young studs who both thought they were pretty hot shit. It gave Red enormous pleasure to beat the studs on several holes. No doubt they bested Red on the final score card (thanks to a few rather errant shots to the green), but on any given hole Red could compete with these young Adoni. Which at Red’s advanced age is a reason to keep going out there.
And a special note to the player who decided it was too much trouble to rake the trap on the Par-3 15th hole where Red’s ball landed right in the depression in the sand where you took your shot – You Suck! I hope your next ball buries in the lip.
From the Annals of Golf – In 2003, Annika Sorenstam became the first woman to play on the PGA tour in 58 years. She did so at the storied Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. The Colonial Invitational invited her to play based on her stellar record on the LPGA in the preceding years. When she retired Sorenstam had won 72 LPGA events and 10 major championships. But for Sorenstam her two rounds at the Colonial provide a large part of her legacy. Sorenstam refers to the experience as “one of the highlights of my career.” She ended the day at 1-over par and missed the cut by a stroke.
On a personal note, Red was there for her second round on Friday and strategically placed himself where he could watch Sorenstam play on holes 5, 6 and 7, and managed to catch her only birdie of the day. The crowds were incredible and largely supportive. It was a fun day to watch golf.
And who was the last women to play in an PGA event before the striking Swede? It was Texan Babe Didrikson Zaharias at the Tucson Open in 1945.