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Bobby Massa, of Dallas, eyes a putt during Friday's second round of the 113th Texas Amateur at Willow Brook Country Club in Tyler. 

Conventional wisdom in golf says one of the hardest things to do is follow a very low round with another one. The tendency is to compare the present round with the one the day before.

“Man, I was already four under at the turn yesterday and today I am struggling to just get under par,” the elite player inevitably says in private thoughts.

The only recourse is to soldier on — grinding they call it in the golfing vernacular.

Such was the case for long-hitting Bobby Massa during his second round Friday morning at the 113th Texas State Amateur.

An experienced player now 34 years old, Massa continued his good play but following his first round 62, a course record by two shots at Willow Brook Country Club that is celebrating its 100th year, was not easy.

Catching up with Massa on the par 5 16th, a hole he had eagled on Thursday, he had to lay up after an errant drive and then hit a wedge too deep, some 35 feet past the hole. He then negotiated his putt beautifully but left it about a foot short of going in and had to tap in for par.

Massa’s lag putt was a good one but he responded to a compliment by lamenting the wedge shot. Though typical of golfers, it revealed a mild frustration with a day that was not bad by any means except that it was following a superb round.

Then on the challenging par 3 17th, Massa was hitting a 7-iron from 200 yards away with just a little helping breeze. The hole was tucked back right behind the huge and deep bunkers that guard the right side of the green and Massa went straight for the pin but thinned his shot a little and found the bunker. He hit a splendid blast for another tap in par and then trudged the hill leading up the 18th tee, still 2-under par for his round.

Massa left his tee shot out to the right on the 18th but a good bounce brought the ball back to the fairway from where he hit the green but some 30 feet right of the hole. He banged his approach putt past the hole about 6 feet but drained the par putt and thus posted a 69 to go with his 62 for an 11-under 131. That left him three ahead of three challengers going into Saturday’s third round.

Following Massa on day two was his mother Mardi, who lives near Tyler. Visiting with her reminded me that golf is difficult to watch if you are pulling for someone. Yet she was delighted that her son is back competing in the game he loves.

The galleries were plentiful despite the heat as both Willow Brook and the Tyler community have embraced the tournament. The praise for the golf course has been universal and Greens Superintendent Ken Bowman and his staff are busy preparing the course as each day comes to a close.

Bowman is constantly asked about the speed of the greens as most golf fans are familiar with the Stimpmeter that measures how far a ball will roll out on the green. Bowman estimates the speed to be 12.5 or so, which is really fast. Making such speed appealing is the smoothness of the surfaces.

This state amateur serves as a re-entry point for Massa, who dropped out of sight in competitive circles around 2015 to pursue his career as a personal trainer. But now he is back in stride at Willow Brook. His length gives him a distinct advantage over many but golf is so much more than just the long ball.

Most impressive was his bunker shot on the 17th, a shot that needed to be soft and high and Massa came within a whisker of making it. He will need that in the final 36 holes as he is up against a slew of good players at his heels. There are 14 players within six shots of his lead and all of them are accomplished players. That being said, two more 69s and Massa will be hard to beat.

Playing with Massa the first two days was seasoned amateur Matt Van Zandt of Houston, who shot a nifty 67 Friday to mitigate his opening 74. Van Zandt joked that he needed a handicap the first day when Massa beat him by 12 strokes, but Friday it was Massa who could have used a couple of strokes. Golf is like that.

Van Zandt was asked if he was related to the late Townes Van Zandt, one of the greatest American country music songwriters of all time. He laughed as he said no.

“People always ask me that or Ronny Van Zant but I’m not related to either one of them,” Van Zandt said.

Noticing his affiliation with College Golf Fellowship, I asked about his involvement and Van Zandt said he has supported the group, a Christian fellowship for college golfers, for years.

“That is great that you know Marcus Jones,” Van Zandt said. “We call him 'The Ageless Wonder.'”

Jones is the regional director of College Golf Fellowship and still has game. Not long after my conversation with Van Zandt, Jones stepped to the first tee for his second round, a long one it turned out to be because of storm warnings that included lightning. Play was suspended for close to two hours but Jones shot a second round 71 to go with an opening 68. That is impressive for a guy who played college golf at Texas with Justin Leonard and is approaching his 50th birthday. Like all of the younger players, Jones is walking every step of the way in some serious East Texas heat.

The heat was beating down on the giant H.L. Edwards trophy to be presented Sunday afternoon to the winner at WIllow Brook. It was Edwards who won the first Texas State Amateur in 1906.

The presentation may require towels to lift a scorching hot trophy like the time Jack Nicklaus won the PGA at DAC in 1963.

It will be worth the trouble.

 
 

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