World Golf Hall of Famer Ben Crenshaw last visited Tyler in 1988 for the Eisenhower International Golf Classic and the two-time Masters champion said he wasn’t going to miss another opportunity to experience the Rose City.
Despite his original flight being cancelled because of the plane unable to leave due to weather, Crenshaw found a way to get to Hollytree Country Club on Monday afternoon as the keynote speaker for the 30th Anniversary of the UT Tyler Patriot Golf Classic.
“I have been so lucky in my career and fortunately have been around people who love the game,” Crenshaw told those in attendance at a luncheon held in between the morning and afternoon sessions.
“Golf does so much for so many people. Can you imagine how many people in this world that golf has helped and gave them inspiration and friendship? It’s still the greatest game in the world for social (interaction). It’s a game that you can’t master, but you learn from it every day. It teaches you something every day.”
Crenshaw was introduced by Dr. Rodney H. Mabry, who is retiring as UT Tyler president this year after 18 years. Mabry said the Patriot Golf Classic and UT Tyler Suddenlink Patriot Million Dollar Hole-In-One contest combined have built an endowment of more than $2 million in scholarships for UT Tyler students.
This year’s golf tournament featured 50 teams and 200 players.
“Over three decades the people in this room and others have done great work in building a legacy that have benefited now two generations of students,” Dr. Mabry said. “A lot of things have changed at UT Tyler, but not the need for scholarships.”
Crenshaw began playing professionally in 1973 after leading the University of Texas to three NCAA championships, and became only the second player in PGA Tour history to win the first event of his career, the San Antonio Open.
He produced five runner-up finishes in Major championships before breaking through in 1984 to win his first Masters. He totaled 19 victories overall on the PGA Tour, including a second Masters win in 1995. He also captained the United States Ryder Cup team in 1999 when the USA pulled off a miraculous comeback victory in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Since 1986, Crenshaw has partnered with Bill Coore to design 25 championship courses and help redesign many others. He admitted to not being a fan of golf courses being lengthened everywhere to accommodate the longer hitters of today’s game.
Coore & Crenshaw’s mission statement on its company website says, “… an architectural firm based upon the shared philosophy that traditional, strategic golf is the most rewarding, and the creation of courses that present this concept with the greatest artistry is the ultimate goal.”
One of the many courses Coore & Crenshaw are responsible for is Kapalua Plantation Course in Maui where the PGA Tour Hyundai Tournament of Champions is held each year.
Crenshaw said his favorite course is Augusta National, but said he also loved Oak Hills in San Antonio, where he won his first state amateur. He also is fond of Royal Melbourne in Australia and said “there is nothing like St. Andrews.”
“When you look at St. Andrews the first time and you’re like ‘what in the world is that about!’ It is still to me the most fascinating course ever to play,” Crenshaw continued. “Anybody of any ability can play that golf course and you are not dictated to how you have to play the course.
Another Crenshaw favorite course produced two of this country’s signature golf success stories: Justin Ouimet’s “Greatest Game Ever Played” win in the 1913 U.S. Open over British powerhouses Harry Vardin and Ted Ray, and the USA’s comeback to defeat Europe in the 1999 Ryder Cup capped by Justin Leonard’s miraculous putt to win his match against Jose Maria Olazabal.
“When I was 16 years old, I went up east for the first time and played in Boston at Brookline for a U.S. Junior (event),” Crenshaw said. “Ironically, this is where I captained the Ryder Cup in 1999. It was like we were destined to win on that last day. I’ll tell you what; Justin (Leonard’s) putt was like it was destined to go in.
“It was 40 or 50 feet and it was spooky … Francis Ouimet, a 20-year old amateur beat the two best British players Harry Vardin and Ted Ray in 1913, and he grew up across the street from the 17th green. During his tournament, he holed a 20 footer. Justin making that putt on the 17th green I thought was very strange - and I am so glad that it went in.”
PATRIOT POINTS: Joe Elliott and Steve Hellmuth were co-chairs of the 2016 event. … Kevin East, president of The Mentoring Alliance, gave the invocation. … Intermittent rains fell on the morning tournament.
2016 UT Tyler Patriot Golf Classic
Hollytree Country Club
Morning Tournament - 1, Chris Green, Steve Chaney, Jeff Haas, Daniel De La Rocha, 46; 2, Art Veneris, Justin Egdorf, Phil Hicks, 50; 3, Alan Jones, Cody Leifer, Johnny Willingham, Paul Willingham, 53.
Afternoon Tournament - 1, Ryan Slaughter, Eddie Dow, John O’Berg, Bryan Baker, 117; 2, Mike Terry, John D’Anna, Trent Brookshire, Chris Morris, 118; 3, Chris Hudnall, Tim Lassiter, Tim Hegwood, Stuart Hene, 121.