Jul 30

By Louie Avery

Perfect playing conditions at Texarkana Country Club added up to two incredible performances by local teenagers Thursday in the 2010 Arkansas State Golf Association’s Mountain Valley Junior Stroke Play Championships.
Sixteen-year-old  Sean Romero left most of his competition in awe with a 5-under-par 67 in the final round, and a 54-hole score of 200 for a 11-stroke win over 17-year-old Corbin Renner of Little Rock.
The only other golfer to shoot under par in the tournament was Texarkana’s Cole Kennedy, who brought TCC to its knees with a spectacular course-record 62 to finish at 215. Cabot’s Colby Benton shot even par on the final day for a 217 total.
Heber Springs’ Katie Webb put an exclamation mark on her 2010 player of the year journey by shooting 80 Thursday for a 245 total and 3-shot victory over Jessieville’s Grier Bennett, who had entered the final round tied for first place with Webb.
Romero’s playing partners—Renner and Benton—knew early in the final round that their prospects of catching him were slim at best. Romero drained a 40-foot birdie putt at the first hole, and he got up and down from the sand at the par-5 second hole for another birdie. It marked the third straight day he had started with birdies on his first two holes.
There was more drama at the long par-3 third hole.
“I was just trying to throw the ball at the center of the greens today and hopefully make a few putts,” Romero said. “I almost had a hole-in-one at the third hole. I was just an inch from dunking, but it rolled about six feet past the flag and I missed the putt.
“I didn’t hit the ball as well today. My goal was to play bogey-free and I did that. I hit a bunch of bunkers on the front, but got up and down each time. That helped my momentum going to the back.”
Romero finished 3-under on the front, scoring a third birdie at the par-5 seventh. He final two birdies came at 10 and 18, with several close calls in between.
“I’ve gone under par several times in a row, but never this low,” Romero said. “This has to be my best tournament. I’ve been told the more low rounds you have, the more comfortable you are about getting there. I’m really glad I did it this week before the Junior PGA, so I can have some confidence in Indiana and know I can go low.”
Romero indicated how focused he was on his performance by admitting he had no idea his friend Kennedy had set a new course record.
“I walked in and signed my scorecard, and I was hearing 62,” he said. “I had no idea who had shot it, but wasn’t surprised to see it was Cole. That’s amazing.”
And so was Romero’s 3-day performance.

Jul 29

By Louie Avery

What’s a golfer to do when he’s entering the final round of a 54-hole tournament and facing a 22-shot deficit?
Realistically, winning was not likely for 16-year-old Texas High junior Cole Kennedy, who had posted scores of 75 and 78 during the first two days of the ASGA Mountain Valley Junior Stroke Play Championship at Texarkana Country Club.
“My plan going into the final round was to just take it one shot at a time and make as many birdies as I could,” said Kennedy, who scored 10 birdies on his way to a competitive course-record 62. Kennedy was one of three players to finish the event under par at 215.
“My previous best score was 67, so this is a big deal for me. It’s going to help, I’m sure my confidence has to go up.”
It might surprise some to know Kennedy wasn’t shocked that he went so low after two disappointing rounds.
“I play golf with Sean (Romero) all the time, and we’re very competitive,” Kennedy said. “Sean had two great rounds coming into the final round, and I absolutely knew I could shoot the same type of scores.”
That fact became evident early Thursday after Kennedy buried short birdie putts at the second and third holes. His putter was just beginning to warm up as he converted birdies at 5, 7, 8 and 9 to shoot a 6-under 30 on the front nine.
The course record was in sight after birdies at 12 and 13. He tapped in from 18 inches for birdie at 15 to tie the record previously held by professional Brandel Chamblee. Near misses followed at 16 and 17, but with arms raised he celebrated a new record on the 18th green after sinking a slippery 18-footer for his final birdie.
Celebrating with Kennedy was 19-year-old Jade Scott, an all-conference selection in Conference USA this spring at Rice, who volunteered to be Kennedy’s caddy.
Scott, an all-stater during his schoolboy years at Daingerfield, is a member at TCC, and practices several times each week with Kennedy.
“I was just walking him and keeping him relaxed,” Scott said. “I tried to keep him from thinking about what was going on, and for the most part we didn’t even talk about golf until late in the round.”
Kennedy said his good friend deserved more credit then that.
“The biggest point in the round for me came at No. 6 where I hit left of the green,” he said. “Jade told me to hit a shot that I would have never dreamed about. I was on a down slope and ready to hit my sand wedge, but he told me to hit my 52 (wedge). I ended up making a 10-footer to save par. He made me think around the course.”
Could it have been better?
“Oh yes, I honestly thought I had made a birdie putt at 16,” Kennedy said. “I had a downhill 15-footer for birdie at 17 and left it just short. But seriously, I couldn’t be happier.”

Jul 28

Sarah Bush scored a hole-in-one Wednesday at Oak Grove Golf Club. Bush used a 9-iron to ace the 90-yard ninth hole. Witnessing the shot was Elaine Flanagan, Nan Fry and Janie Pappas.

Jul 28

By Louie Avery

Sean Romero hopes he’s gaining momentum going into next week’s Junior PGA Championships at Sycamore Hills Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Ind.
The 16-year-old Texarkana golfer followed Tuesday’s 64 with a 3-under-par 69 in Wednesday’s second round of the 2010 Arkansas State Golf Association’s Mountain Valley Junior Stroke Play Championship at Texarkana Country Club.
Romero remains seven shots in front of Little Rock’s Corbin Renner going into today’s final 18 holes. Renner is the only other golfer in the field to shoot under par both days, matching Romero’s 69. Five strokes farther back in third place is Cabot’s Colby Benton, who followed an opening round of 75 with a 2-under 70.
The girls title is up in the air after 36 holes with 2010 Player of the Year Katie Webb tied with Grier Bennett of Jessieville at 165. Bennett survived TCC’s lengthy challenge with a tournament-best 79 for the girls, while Webb shot 83 in the second round.
“This is a tough course, and longer than anything I’ve played this summer,” Webb said. “There’s a lot of holes that I can’t reach in regulation, and to score you’ve got to hit greens, and when you don’t you’ve got to get up and down. Today I struggled to get up and down.”
ASGA officials said NCAA golf coaches had urged them to set the girls’ course up between 5,800-6,000 yards for scouting purposes.
Bennett was surprised by her performance, and excited at the prospects of winning a big tournament.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming into this event,” she said. “I played in the USGA Junior Girls in North Carolina last week. I had an awful two days three, but now I’m back on track a bit. This summer is the first time I’ve taken golf seriously.”
Starting on the front nine Wednesday, Romero was thinking about going real low again after birdies at his first two holes. He followed that with a long chip at the 216-yard third hole that hit the flagstick.
“I got a little lucky at the first hole when I hit my tee shot into the right woods,” Romero said. “I punched the ball to about five feet and made the putt for birdie. I had an easy up and down for birdie at the second hole (par-5).
“The ball was going in the hole at No. 3. It should have gone in, I don’t know how it didn’t.”
Romero’s first bogey of the tournament came at the par-4 eighth where he 3-putted from 12 feet. He also bogeyed the par-4 14th, but chipped in for birdie at the par-5 16th, and 2-putted for birdie at the short par-4 17th. He missed a 12-footer for birdie at  18.
“I’ve got to go out there and play like I did the first two days,” he said. “My goal is to play bogey-free golf, and take that momentum to Indiana.”
Both Renner and Benton expect Romero to be under par again today.
“There’s nothing you can do about a kid shooting 64-69; It’s just unbelievable,” Renner said. “I’m playing well, just wish I could make a few more putts. I missed a couple of short ones today.”
Renner started his round on the back nine, and was 1-over on his round until converting a 7-foot birdie putt at 16. He made the turn at even par, and charged strong with birdies at 1, 2 and 3.
“We actually got lucky today because the rain last night softened up the greens,” Renner said. “They were still pretty fast. After the birdie at three I was just trying to make pars coming in. I didn’t know what Sean was doing until I finished.”
Renner’s response after seeing Romero’s score was, “Oh my!”
Benton said he was surprised that Romero didn’t go lower in the second round.
“I’ve heard he’s a good player,” said Cabot’s 2009 conference medalist. “My only chance Thursday is to start hot with a couple of early birdies. I’ve got play solid golf the entire round.”
That wasn’t necessarily the case for Benton in the secound round where he mixed six birdies with a double-bogey and two bogeys.
The only other boys to break the 150 barrier were Conway’s Tim Netherton (148) and Harrison’s Dylan Lovell (149).

Jul 27

By Louie Avery

If 16-year-old Sean Romero was fatigued, it wasn’t apparent Tuesday during first-round play in the 54-hole 2010 Arkansas State Golf Association’s Mountain Valley Junior Stroke Play Championships at Texarkana Country Club.
Romero walked 36 holes at Tulsa Country Club Monday in a failed attempt to qualify for the USGA Amateur, where he shot 69-73. He arrived home in Texarkana near midnight.
“I was tired pretty much all day,” said Romero, who posted a personal-best 8-under-par 64 for a 7-shot lead over Little Rock’s Corbin Renner. “I’ve been walking a lot lately and played a lot this summer. I’ll be good tomorrow with a good night’s rest.”
Heber Springs’ Katie Webb is in the driver’s seat for the ASGA girls points title, enhancing her first-place position with a first-round 82 and 2-shot lead over Taylor Kline of Springdale. Grier Bennett of Hot Springs was the only other girl to break 90 with an 86.
Renner, a senior-to-be at Arkansas Baptist High School, also walked 36 holes Monday in a USGA Qualifier at Memphis’ Colonial Golf Club, where he shot 75-66 but came up short of qualifying.
“I got home around 7 o’clock Monday night, then got up at 5 and drove to Texarkana,” The 17-year-old said. “I’m kind of surprised that I shot under par today. I did come in here with a little momentum after shooting that 66 (Monday).”
Romero had several records in view besides a personal-best score. He finished only two strokes off the course record 62 held by several, including Miller Barber. One more birdie would have equaled his dad’s (club pro Art Romero) personal best.
Texas’ high school 3A state medalist got off to a spectacular start, draining a 50-foot birdie putt at the 10th green, his first hole. He followed with a 30-foot birdie at the par-3 11th hole. Romero also birdied 15, 16, 17 and 18 to shoot 6-under 30 over his first nine holes.
“I’ve been playing well the last couple of weeks and knew coming to my home course I could go low,” Romero said. “I did just that after making some long putts to get me going.
“I was trying to birdie two of the last three holes to tie the course record. I knew my best chance was at seven (par-5), but I missed a short putt that was hard to read. I only missed one green today and just can’t imagine it being much better.”
Romero’s tee shot at the 215-yard third hole sailed right, but he got up and down to save his par.
Romero’s previous best was 66 last May when he led Pleasant Grove to the 3A team championship in Austin. Since then he has verbally committed to New Mexico University.
“New Mexico plays a tough schedule, and I’ll be able to practice a lot out there,” he said.
Renner also got hot on TCC’s back nine with birdies at 12, 13 and 14. He gave a shot back at the short par-4 15th after hitting his approach into 6-inch rough.
“I played here last year and just love the course,” Renner said. “It’s awesome here; the greens are just perfect. They’re going to be quick by the end of the week. There’s two more days left in the tournament and anything can happen. You can shoot 64-80 out here. It just depends on how the day goes.”
Cabot’s Hunter Smith has his eyes on a second straight ASGA junior points crown and was in position to share second place Tuesday until calling a penalty stroke on himself.
The 17-year-old all-stater was peering at a 6-foot birdie putt at the par-4 eighth hole when his ball moved.
“Nobody else saw it, but I did,” said Smith, who has won five straight ASGA events.. “Someone told me that nobody has won the points title back-to-back since the 70’s, so it means a lot to me.
“I played with Romero a lot when I was little; he’s very good. I’m going to get out to the course earlier tomorrow and practice my putting. I got here a little late today.”
Fordyce’s Hayden Wynne and Conway’s Tim Netherton are tied for fourth place at 74, with four more deadlocked at 75, including Texas High junior Cole Kennedy.

Jul 24

An open letter from Donovan Solis:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all Northridge members, and Texarkanians that welcomed my wife Amy, my son DJ, and myself into your town, your homes, and into your lives.
The past two years will be two of the most memorable years of my life. Northridge will always be the club where I attained my first Head Golf Professional position, and that can never be taken away or changed.
I would like to express gratitude to the members and non-members that “Junior Golfers” which were involved in anyone of many programs I was involved with. Your kids were special to me, every one of them. From seeing the excitement of stepping on the first tee of America’s finest courses that we visited, or meeting the world’s best professional golfers, to watching the joy of winning their very first competitive tournament.
I truly hope I was able to pass something along to them. Not just golf, but lessons of life. Thank you Texarkana…thanks for the memories.

Jul 24

By Louie Avery
Assistant Sports Editor
Mikel Martinson changed his strategy with his first tee shot, and his 5-shot advantage Saturday in the 2010 Orr Hyundai Texarkana Classic had disappeared completely going to the back nine.
Martinson’s playing partner, 27-year-old Ryan Baca (pronounced Ba-cha), shot his third straight 4-under-par 67 at Northridge Country Club for a 72-hole total of 273 and a 1-stroke victory over Oklahoman Ryan Spears, who also posted a 67. Martinson rallied late for a 74 and share of third place with veteran Chad Ginn at 275.
Shaun Melville of Lubbock, Texas, finished alone in fifth at 276, while Bronson Burgoon of Houston and defending champion Mark Walker tied for sixth at 279.
The 25-year-old Martinson had hit driver over the trees during the first three rounds of the dog-leg first hole, but he played it conservative Saturday, hitting a hybrid down the middle. However, he air-mailed his second shot over the green and couldn’t get up and down to save his par.
In the mean time Baca left his second shot at the first hole 25-feet short of the flagstick, but he drained the long birdie putt to cut his deficit to three strokes.
“It really helped me being in the final pairing,” said Baca, a 2006 graduate of Baylor, who earned $10,500 for his second professional win. “I saw Mike get off to a shaky start, and then I made birdie right off the bat which helped a lot.”
The two were tied at 9-under for the tournament going to the 10th tee, but it could have been different if not for the par-3 seventh hole where Baca and Martinson both scored double-bogeys.
“I caught a couple of bad lies on the front,” Baca said. “One cost me a bogey at the third hole. Neither Mikel or I could figure out the wind at seven. I hit in the left trap and barely got out because of a bad lie. Then I three-putted by getting too aggressive with my first putt. I was fortunate because Mikel also ran into trouble.”
That disaster possibly set the stage for Baca’s turning point. He drained long birdie putts at 8 and 9 to claim a share of the lead with Spears.
The back nine was a see-saw affair with Spears leading most of the way. Baca seized command at the par-4 16th when he hit a 52 degree wedge 12 inches from the cup, resulting in the tournament’s decisive birdie.
While Baca was converting lots of putts, Spears was struggling over the final few holes, missing birdie putts from 8, 7, 15 and 10 feet over the final four holes.
“When you start the day five shots back you have to get some help with the leaders coming back,” said Spears, who still earned his biggest paycheck ($6,040) as a pro since graduating from Wichita State. “You just hope to play well, and I did. I some opportunities at the end, but just couldn’t get the putts to fall.”
Several golfers struggled with Northridge’s slow greens, but not Baca.
“The course suits me perfect,” he said. “I don’t drive the ball long, but Northridge is a lot like the course I grew up on, and I made a lot of putts this week.”
This tournament marked the second straight week Baca started an event slow and finished strong. He was 4-over after six holes in Wednesday’s opening round, but rallied to shoot 72.
Baca knew he had a 1-shot lead over Spears and 2 over Martinson and Ginn teeing up the final hole.
“Mikel asked one of the Adams officials how Spears had finished as we got ready to hit our tee shots at 18,” Baca said. “I’d had that experience in college before. I didn’t want to know and it cost me. I figured I’d wanted to know this time.”
Baca reached the par-5 finale in regulation, and two-putted from 20 feet for par and the win after watching Martinson’s pitch for eagle bounce well past the flag.
“I tied for fourth place here last year at the Ranch,” concluded Baca. “I was playing with Mark Walker, who holed out from the sand on the final hole to force a playoff, which he won.”
Walker was in contention again this summer, but slumped over the final nine holes Saturday.
Texarkana’s Zack Fischer enjoyed his best performance in a professional tournament as the low amateur with a final round of 70, and 3-under 281 total. Fischer will be a senior this fall at the University of Texas-Arlington, and he plans to turn pro next year.

Jul 23

Geoff Jones, Chuck Gardner, Casey Yates and now Zack Fischer are just a few of the local guys that have played in professional golf tournaments at Texarkana Country Club, Texarkana Golf Ranch or Northridge Country Club.
These guys made the events more interesting and fun from a local perspective.
Nobody from Texarkana was considered a serious challenger during the 2009 Texarkana Classic, unless you knew Matthew Loving, and thought of him as one of the city’s adopted citizens like Geoff Jones and others did.
Loving posted rounds of 69 and 68 last summer and was only two shots out of the lead going into the third round. Unfortunately, he slumped and finished tied for ninth place in his final Texarkana appearance.
Later in the year Loving would make the cut at the PGA Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. Shortly after that the 30-year-old Texan was killed when his SUV crashed head-on into a bus.
That December tragedy hasn’t been forgotten, and won’t be soon by Texarkana golf guru Geoff Jones, who was asked to deliver Loving’s eulogy.
Jones, a former Texas High and University of Houston golfer, who has his own teaching center in Texarkana, moved back to the city in 1999 from Corpus Christi. It was there that Jones met a 13-year-old Loving and starting teaching him the fundamentals of golf.
“I was old enough to be his dad, but it was more like a big brother, little brother relationship,” Jones said. “We had all the same ups and downs, arguments, etc. Losing him was like losing my own son or brother. I’ll never have a relationship like that again.”
It’s also likely Jones won’t teach another golfer with Loving’s skills.
Today Jones will tell you Loving had one of the best golf swings in the world. He’ll go even farther.
“Matt was the best I’ll ever see as far as striking a golf ball,” Jones said. “He represents everything I believe. If you didn’t like his swing, then you don’t want to come to me for instruction. Some individuals believe Matt not only had one of the best golf swings in the world at the time of his death, but one of the best of all time.”
PGA veterans Bruce Lietzke and Billy Andrade made similar evaluations regarding Loving’s game.
Loving won the 2007 Texas State Open at the Cascades in Tyler, and Lietzke was on hand to make the trophy presentation.
“I was chit-chatting with Lietzke and he asked me if I had seen Matt’s final nine holes in that tournament,” Jones said. “Bruce said those nine holes were as good as any he had ever witnessed.”
Andrade played the final round of the Texas Open with Loving and had interesting words for the young golfer when they finished. Loving relayed that story to Jones during a visit prior to his death.
Andrade told Loving during his 23 years on tour that Matt had one of the finest swings and game that he had seen.
“But it’s one thing for your mama, daddy or coach to believe in you,” Andrade added. “If you don’t believe in yourself, you need to go find a job. If you do believe in yourself, you’re going to win a lot of tournaments and a lot of money.”
Jones said he remembers telling Loving that it only took Andrade 4 1/2 hours to figure him out.
“I told Matt what I thought Billy was trying to tell him,” Jones said. “He was wondering how in the heck is this kid (Loving) out here playing like this and I’ve never heard of him.”
Jones is a fan of the legendary Ben Hogan, who often said golf is 10 percent technique and 90 percent mental.
“I couldn’t agree more,” Jones said. “Matt had the skills. He just wasn’t that hungry. He never had that fire in his soul to be the best golfer in the world.”
That frustrated Jones and others, but who’s to say what Loving might have accomplished after making giant strides the final three years of his life.
Texarkana only knew Loving the golfer, but that was enough to call him a local favorite. It’s no exaggeration saying he’s missed by many this week at Northridge Country Club.

— Louie Avery

Jul 23

By Louie Avery

It has developed into a horse race on “Moving Day” at the 2010 Orr Hyundai Texarkana Classic
Three players, including last week’s Texas State Open champion Robert Gwin, share the 36-hole lead at 6-under-par 136 in this week’s Adams Golf Pro Tour Series event at Northridge Country Club.
Gwin, Todd Rossetti and Derek Busby all shot 68 Thursday for the second straight day, while first round leader Mikel Martinson is one shot back after surviving a swarm of bees to shoot 71. Defending champion Mark Walker posted a 68 and is tied with Martinson, while Brian Rowell and Ryan Spears are another shot back at 138.
A rare breeze, Northridge’s high rough and grainy greens prevented players from posting scores in the low 60s like so many expected earlier in the week.
“Tomorrow’s pins are typically the easiest pins—it’s moving day,” Gwin said. “It’s like I said earlier, whoever has the most patience is going to win at the end of the week. You’re going to have birdie chances, and when you hit a bad shot you’ve got to make par.
“After winning at Tyler last week there’s no pressure on me this week. If I play good, that’s good. If I play bad, well it’s like I won last week, so big deal.”
Gwin was under par his entire round after a birdie at the short par-4 third hole. That wasn’t the case for Rossetti and Busby.
“I got off to a really bad start today,” Rossetti said. “I was three-over through three hole on my round today, but played well afterwards. I did make a few putts today that some of the guys are struggling with. Friday is moving day and I hope to move a little farther up the leaderboard.”
Rossetti said he wouldn’t be shocked if somebody shoots 64 or better, but it won’t be an easy task in his eyes.
“I don’t think the golf course is going to change much,” he said. “The greens are not rolling the best, and the front nine is tricked up where it’s hard to attack. I do believe you’ll see some good scores on the back nine.”
The 26-year-old Busby was 2-over on his round after eight holes, but credited his patience for earning him a share of the lead.
“I knew I would have a lot of opportunities,” the Louisiana golfer said. You’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities, and I did that with three birdies on my final four holes today.”
For a while Thursday it appeared Martinson might run off and leave the field in his dust. He was 7-under for the tournament when he teed it up at the third hole. His ensuing shot hit a tree on the right side and kicked even farther right.
“My ball stopped next to an old stump and limb,” Martinson said. “We were moving the limb when we (Tournament Director Tyler Wolford and Martinson) got swarmed by bees. I know I probably got stung 40 times. Even now I can feel all the places I got stung. My eye is a little swollen, I’m just lucky I wasn’t allergic to the stings.”
Wolford was also stung several times, but not seriously injured.
Martinson went on to bogey the third, fourth and fifth holes before recovering with a birdie at the par-3 seventh hole.
“It’s something I’ll learn from, I can’t take it back,” he said. “I believe I’ll be fine tomorrow.”
Rowell was another player in position to post a lower number, but bogeys at his final three holes stalled his charge.
Defending champion Mark Walker was satisfied after shooting 68 to stay within a stroke of first place.
“The greens were a little faster today, but not much,” Walker said. “When I first played the course I thought you’ll have to go deep to win this week. During the Pro-Am I was thinking it would take about 20-under, but that’s not going to be the case.”
Kyle Morris, 25, of Scottsdale, Ariz., recorded Thursday’s best round with a 5-under 66. The former Seton Hall Golfer is confident he can go even lower in the final two rounds.
“Yesterday I hit 16 greens, but couldn’t make any putts,” Morris said. “The difference today was I made the six-footers that I missed yesterday. I can’t control what the field does, but I know if I play the game that I think I can play, I can take it pretty deep. Shooting 62 or 63 out here is not out of the question.”
Texarkana’s Zack Fischer was the only amateur to survive the 1-over-par cut after shooting 69.
“I only had one 6 today after having three yesterday,” said Fischer, who will be a senior this fall at the University of Texas-Arlington. “I three-putted from 10 feet at 18 today, which didn’t make me happy, but I hit a lot more fairways today and was hitting my irons well.”
Fischer remains confident he can challenge for the championship.
“My goal coming into the event was to win, and that hasn’t changed,” he said. “I’m glad I made the cut, that was my first goal today. But I wouldn’t have signed up if I didn’t think I had a chance to win.”

Jul 23
Holes-in-one
icon1 Admin | icon2 Uncategorized | icon4 07 23rd, 2010| icon3No Comments »

Turner Anderson scored a hole-in-one at Texarkana Country Club last week on No. 11, using a pitching wedge to cover the 130 yards. The shot was witnessed by Jeff Phillips, Mike Rogers and Nick Bass.

Reese Nichols, a participant in The First Tee of Greater Texarkana, aced the par-3 fifth hole at New Haven Golf Club with his driver. The shot was witnessed by Cole Nichols, Charlie Williams and Tim Rhone.