For more than 60 years, The Cascades Golf & Country Club has been hosting noteworthy golf tournaments and in late July the club will host the 49th Tanos Exploration II/Patterson-UTI Drilling Texas State Open.
The 2019 tournament will be a record eighth time at The Cascades when Georgetown’s Ben Kern returns to defend his title against a talented field of pros and amateurs.
Opening in 1957 as Briarwood Country Club, The Cascades course was only nine holes when it rolled out its first of 20 Briarwood Invitationals in 1958 won by Tyler golfer A.J. Triggs. The tournament became an annual event the first weekend of August and the second year it was won by Tyler’s T.C. Hamilton, the only member of Briarwood to ever win it.
Mark Triggs was the only other Tyler golfer to ever win the Briarwood Invitational with wins in 1971 and 1973. Through the years it was won by the likes of future PGA Tour winners Jacky Cupit, Homero Blancas, Dudley Wysong, Marty Fleckman, Mark Hayes and Blaine McCallister.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Briarwood hosted the Southwest Conference championship won by Payne Stewart in 1979 in a dramatic playoff over Freddy Couples and played in by the likes of Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee. That 1979 tournament was even witnessed by television superstar announcer Jim Nantz, then a manager for the University of Houston golf team.
Last year, after a six years in Dallas, the Texas State Open returned to Tyler for the first time since 2011, the year current PGA Tour regular Shawn Stefani won with a third-round 60 highlighting his superb play. In a previous tournament during its six-year run during the mid 2000s, Clark Dennis of Fort Worth shot a 59 for the competitive course record at The Cascades.
“We are honored to return to The Cascades in Tyler for this year’s Tanos Energy/Patterson UTI Drilling Texas State Open. This year marks a record eighth time that the Texas State Open has been played at The Cascades, surpassing both The Woodlands and Horseshoe Bay who had both hosted the championship seven times,” said Mark Harrison, Executive Director/CEO of the Northern Texas PGA. “It’s only fitting that The Cascades have this honor as it is a wonderful facility, with fantastic members and staff who have embraced the championship and make the players feel so welcome. Also, the Tyler community as a whole, roll out the red carpet for our players every year, so it’s a recipe for success that all tournaments look for. We simply love coming to East Texas each year.”
Harrison has been a busy man in 2019 since the PGA of America announced it will move its headquarters to North Texas.
“The PGA of America relocating its headquarters from Florida to North Texas is an even bigger event that most people can even imagine right now. We will play something like 25 championships between 2023 and 2034, ranging everywhere from the PGA Junior League national championship to the PGA Championship in 2027 and 2034,” Harrison said. “The economic impact for Frisco is estimated at more than $2.5 billion over 20 years, so it is huge. If you love golf, then North Texas is going to be the place to be. I know that the architects are finalizing all the last details and we’ll be moving dirt this fall. It’s incredibly exciting.”
Due to the efforts of The Cascades members and its Director of Golf Matt Cohen, the state open moved back to East Texas in 2018. Three of those members — Rick Maxey, Steve Braley and Jerry Irwin — were instrumental in securing title sponsors Tanos Energy II and Patterson-UTI Drilling.
“It’s a great event with a wonderful history of Texas golf,” Maxey said. “Just look at the previous winners like Homero Blancas, Jackie Burke, Lee Trevino and Ben Crenshaw. And the quality of play will be something golf fans in East Texas will want to see and be a part of.”
Recounting the history, Maxey said Blancas won the first tournament in 1960 as an amateur.
“And no amateur has won it since,” Maxey said. “And of course Homero won the Briarwood Invitational in 1961 while still an amateur. He did pretty well as a pro, too, winning the 1970 Colonial Invitational in Fort Worth.”
For some reason, the tournament was not played again until 1965 when Lee Trevino won his first of two in a row at Sharpstown Country Club in Houston. As many golf followers have said, this was before Lee Trevino was Lee Trevino. The greatest golfer to ever hail from Dallas would go on to win the 1968 U.S. Open and never look back with a total of six major championships that include two U.S. Opens, two PGA Championships and two British Opens.
In 1967, the now 96-year-old Burke won at his home course — Champions Golf Club. It was the only time the tournament was played at Champions, which will host the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open. Burke is now the oldest living former Masters champion who also has a PGA Championship title to his credit.
After Burke, Gentle Ben Crenshaw of Austin, a two-time Masters champion, reeled off three wins in the next six years, all of those tournaments being played at Horseshoe Bay near Austin at Marble Falls.
Kelly Grunewald of New Orleans, who played his college golf at Stephen F. Austin, won his third state open title the first year the tournament was played at The Cascades in 2006. Last year’s winner Kern of Georgetown will be back to defend his title after shooting the lowest 72-hole total of any club professional in a PGA Championship at the 2018 tournament won by Brooks Koepka at Bellerive Country Club near St. Louis.
The tournament kicks off with a pro-am on Sunday, July 28th and then continues with practice rounds on Monday and official play Tuesday through Friday of a 72-hole stroke play event. Harrison will give a “behind the scenes” presentation of the PGA of America’s move from Florida to North Texas after the pro-am.
Benefiting from the proceeds of the tournament is the Northern Texas PGA Foundation, a charitable partner of the Tanos Exploration II/Patterson-UTI Drilling Texas State Open. Each year, the Northern Texas PGA Foundation impacts close to 10,000 families with its programs.