Texas Golf Hall of Fame honors 2017 Class with star-studded heartfelt ceremony

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SAN ANTONIO – The Texas Golf Hall of Fame celebrated its 2017 class with an induction ceremony for the ages.

Austin’s Ben Crenshaw drove down to make an impassioned plea to save the public course that helped him become a two-time Masters champion, PGA TOUR player Johnson Wagner spoke about his grandfather, and inductees Buddy Cook and Kelli Kuehne tipped their hats to country legend George Strait, seated in the packed ballroom at the San Antonio Country Club.

“I had no idea, Mr. Strait, that you were going to be in this room,” said Kuehne, who was inducted into the amateur category. “Ace in the Hole has been my family’s theme song. My brothers and I adopted your song as our own.”

Steve Elkington, a three-time national champion at the University of Houston and 10-time winner on the PGA TOUR, was inducted into the professional player category. Cook was honored for in the Golf Professional / Teacher category, and Austin’s Lions Municipal was added to the Texas Registry of Historic Golf Courses.

The dinner capped a day of activities that started with the unveiling of the Class of 2017 on a granite marker, joining other greats in the Walk of Fame at historic Brackenridge Park. The inductees also participated in a question-and-answer session and hit ceremonial first drives to kick off the Gathering of the Eagles tournament at Brackenridge. They received their Gathering of Eagles Trophy after their acceptance speeches.

“I think you can tell we are really passionate about this Hall of Fame,” said Jerry Smith, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Texas Golf Hall of Fame. “This is extraordinary; the biggest and the best golf hall of fame in America.”

Passion ruled the day. Kuehne, who posted one of the greatest amateur careers in golf history, talked about the importance of family. She developed her competitiveness playing with her brothers, Trip and Hank, who also won national amateur titles.

The Dallas native claimed four consecutive 4A individual state titles (1992-95) while at Highland Park High School. She won the 1994 U.S. Girls' Junior, the U.S. Women’s Amateur in 1995 and 1996, and the British Ladies Amateur in 1996.  An All-America at the University of Texas, she played on the 1996 Curtis Cup team before embarking on an LPGA Tour career highlighted by her 1999 Corning Classic victory and two Solheim Cup appearances.

That Kuehne managed to finish her speech was remarkable, coming just six days after the death of her mother, Pam. The family matriarch walked almost every step of the way during her daughter’s playing career. “Let ‘er rip potato chip,” Kuehne said, recalling her mother’s pre-tournament pep talks.

“My dad’s tough but I think my mom is tougher than all of us,” she said. “She should be the one standing here. She deserves to be in the Hall of Fame not me.”

Elkington established his Texas ties after moving from his native Australia to play golf at the University of Houston. He pioneered the movement of Australian golfers to the United States to play collegiately.

 Elkington helped the Cougars win national titles in 1982, 1984 and 1985. He also met his future wife there, settling in Houston after turning pro. He went on the claim 17 titles worldwide, including one major title, the 1995 PGA Championship.

He posted 10 top-10 finishes in major championships, highlighted by his 1995 PGA Championship victory. He also captured the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average that year. Elkington is a two-time winner of The Players Championship, the PGA Tour's signature event, and played in the first four Presidents Cups.

Elkington recalled the recruiting pitch he got from former UH coach Dave Williams.

 “I tell everybody that everything good that’s happened to me has happened in Texas,” Elkington said. “I came over here to be a better golfer, got married, started meeting people like Jackie Burke, my mentor at the Champions Club.

“My whole life I’ve been mentored by Texas men, some of them are in this room, either directly or indirectly.”

Cook, the 1999 Southern Texas PGA Golf Professional of the Year, served as tournament director of San Antonio’s Champions Tour event, and as chairman of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame from 2009 to 2015.

His 40-year career spans a long list of marquee courses, instructors and players. A true promoter of the game, he impacted virtually every phase of the golf industry in Texas and beyond. Strait was one of his many famous students.

Cook mentored 24 PGA Apprentices and Assistant Golf Professionals, including Randy Smith, Warren Chancellor and Bill Harmon. He has served as PGA director of golf and/or head professional at such places as the Royal Oaks CC in Dallas, Dominion CC, La Cantera GC, and Briggs Ranch GC in San Antonio.

“I know there are a lot of other people who deserve this award as much or more than me but fortunately they are not here tonight,” Cook said, laughing. “It’s been an honor for me; I love the game, I love the people. I’ve seen the left side of every golf course from here to Scotland.”

The late Johnson, a 1945 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, served as president of the Amarillo Country Club and the Panhandle Golf Association (1989-94).

As president of the of the Trans-Mississippi Golf Association board in 1967, he helped bring the Trans-Miss event to the San Antonio Country Club. He chaired three committees during his tenure on the U.S. Golf Association’s Executive Committee, and served on the R&A’s rules committee. He was honored with the 1987 Byron Nelson Award from the Northern Texas PGA and entered the Texas Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame in 1986.

“M.T. was such a legend in my family, such a legend in Amarillo, and such a legend in golf that it’s quite moving to actually be up here talking about him,” said his grandson, Johnson Wagner. “He was so into the rules of the game and how you conducted yourself. I learned very young that it’s not how you play but how you conduct yourself that’s important. M.T. really embodied the saying that golf is a gentleman’s game.”

Lions Municipal, created in 1924 and operated by the city since 1936, was Austin’s first public course. Its rich history includes the 1950 exhibition match involving Ben Hogan, Harvey Penick, Morris Williams Jr. and Ed Hopkins. Penick, of course, mentored Crenshaw.

The course, affectionately known as “Muny,” impacted national history in late 1950 when it became the first municipal facility in the South to racially integrate. The USGA formally recognized the desegregation as a milestone for the game.

Crenshaw, a longtime advocate for “Save Muny” and a renowned golf course architect, is working with others to keep the course alive. In February he unveiled plans to enhance the old layout’s playability.

“We’re fighting to save Muny,” Crenshaw said. “It provides us with recreation and enjoyment and a love for the game. I can’t thank these people enough for fighting for what we think will be a great outcome. The University of Texas and the city of Austin are in pretty good, serious talks. It’s a gorgeous asset right in the middle of the city.

“People tend to put a monetary value as a stamp on the property. I just say, ‘how can you possibly calculate what it has been worth to so many people’s souls and what it has meant to all of us who have been around the game and have played Muny.”

For more information on the Texas Golf Hall of Fame, please visit www.texasgolfhof.org

Nominations Now Open for 2017 Texas Golf Hall of Fame, New Board Members Elected

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                 March 1, 2017

San Antonio, TX.                                                                                  

Contact:         Jerry D. Smith, Board Chair – 972.998.6770

                      Mary Carriker, Managing Director - 210.736.8701

The Texas Golf Hall of Fame Board of Directors is pleased to announce that nominations are now being accepted for the 2017 Class of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame. All Texans and golf lovers are urged to nominate qualified individuals through and pursuant to the guidelines established on the Hall’s website at www.texasgolfhof.org.

The nomination period is open from March 1 to April 28, 2017. The nominees will then be reviewed for eligibility and voted on by the living Hall members, the Texas Golf Hall of Fame Board of Directors and select Texas golf media. The final selection will be announced in early July. Nominations are accepted only though the website.

Individuals or Texas courses can be nominated in one of five categories – Amateur Player, Professional Player, Golf Professional/Teacher, Lifetime Achievement and the Texas Registry of Historic Golf Courses.

On October 9, the Texas Golf Hall of Fame will induct its eighth class of inductees since reconstituting the Hall in 2009.  The Induction Dinner will take place at the historic San Antonio Country Club.  The 2017 Class of inductees will be commemorated on a new granite marker along the Texas Golf Walk of Fame at Brackenridge Park Golf Course.

Four At-Large positions were available on the Texas Golf Hall of Fame Board of Directors for 2017 and beyond. The Nomination Committee received approximately 20 names for consideration. In January, the Board voted unanimously and elected the following new At-Large Board Members: Marty Leonard of Fort Worth and 2011 Texas Golf Hall of Fame inductee; Robin Burke of Houston and 2016 Texas Golf Hall of Fame inductee; David Price of Dallas and 2012 Texas Golf Hall of Fame inductee and Stuart Bernstein of Austin.  Jeff Strong, the Honorary President of the STPGA was elected as one of two permanent positions on the Board from the Southern Texas PGA Section.   

           The Texas Golf Hall of Fame, the largest state golf Hall of Fame in the country, is located at the Brackenridge Park Golf Course clubhouse and the historic building adjacent to the clubhouse, the Borglum Studio.  The Board is comprised of fifteen state-wide directors, of which eight are Permanent and seven are At-Large. The TGHOF is a 501(c) (3) organization. More information is available at www.texasgolfhof.org.

2016 TGHoF Inductees just announced!

Five-Time TOUR Winner, Architect, Curtis Cup Captain Highlight 2016 TGHoF Inductees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

San Antonio, TX.                                

Contact:     Jerry D. Smith, Board Chair – 972.998.6770
         Mary Carriker, Managing Director - 210.736.8701

SAN ANTONIO – The current captain of the women’s U.S. Curtis Cup team, Robin Burke, one of Texas’ greatest architects, Joe Finger, and five-time PGA Tour winner Blaine McCallister, highlight the Texas Golf Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Inductees.

     Renowned Texas Teacher Lindy Miller is to be honored in the Texas Golf Professional / Teacher Category while Memorial Park Golf Course in Houston will be added to the Texas Registry of Historic Golf Courses, according to the TGHoF Board who conducted the statewide nomination process and voting for Texas’ highest golf honor.
The inductees will be honored at the 2016 “The Gathering of Eagles” golf tournament and induction dinner to be held on Monday, October 10th at Brackenridge Park Golf Course and San Antonio Country Club, respectively. Sponsorships are now available with more information available on the website www.texasgolfhof.com.
The Texas Golf Hall of Fame is located at the Brackenridge Park Golf Course, clubhouse, the adjacent Walk of Fame and a historic building adjacent to the clubhouse, the Borglum Studio.  

    “We are certainly pleased to have such great Lone Star Legends to enter the Texas Golf Hall of Fame for our class of 2016,” said TGHoF Board Chairman Jerry Smith. “It will be a great time to honor the best of the best in Texas golf for this year.”
Miller was a four-time All-American at Oklahoma State University and served for 22 years as the Director of Golf at Mira Vista Country Club in Ft. Worth. Since 2009 he has been the teaching Professional at Shady Oaks Country Club. “I was so excited, it was a real honor to be selected,” Miller said. “To join the group of golf professionals who are already there continues our tradition in the Golf Professional / Teacher category which is second to none. It’s all about the game and all about Texas golf.”

    Robin Burke is the wife of TGHoF member Jack Burke, Jr., one of the founders of Champions Golf Club in Houston where he still teaches. She will be honored in the Amateur category. They will become the first husband and wife in the Texas Golf Hall of Fame.  Aside from her 2016 captaincy of the American Curtis Cup amateur team this summer in Ireland, she is one of the greatest female Texas amateur golfers herself. Burke is a two-time Texas women’s amateur champion and an eight-time Houston women’s amateur champion.  She reached the finals of the 1997 U.S. Women’s Amateur championship and made the semifinals of three U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championships. Her 38 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur victories are tied for third most in American history.  She is also the two-time winner of the Southern Amateur Championship and is still active at Champions Golf Club with her husband, a former Masters and PGA Championship winner.

    A Houston native, Finger, who passed away in 2003 will be honored in the Lifetime Achievement category. He spent 45 years as an architect designing courses all over the world, and his widow Julia said he would be so very pleased to be included among the great Texas architects.  “He started playing golf in Texas at a very early age and played until he was a very old man here. The Texas courses and the ones he did elsewhere meant so much to him.”  Finger teamed with fellow TGHoF member Byron Nelson to design the Riverhill Golf Club in Kerrville in 1998 near where he lived and also did a total renovation of Scott Schreiner Golf Club in Kerrville for his final project.

    McCallister, a Fort Stockton native, attended the University of Houston on a golf scholarship where he roomed with Masters Champion Fred Couples and CBS Golf announcer Jim Nantz. Honored in the Professional Player category, he went on to win five PGA TOUR events highlighted by the 1991 HEB Texas Open. He also won the Hardee’s Golf Classic, the Honda Tournament in Florida, Bank of Boston Classic and the B.C. Open. He now plays on the Champions Tour.  “Growing up in a small town in West Texas, you couldn’t ask for a bigger honor. It’s very overwhelming, honestly,” he said.

    Memorial Park Golf Course in Houston was opened during the depths of the Great Depression, 1936, but has endured and been improved over the years as a shining symbol of great public golf in Texas’ largest city. It was designed by John Bredemus, known as the Father of Texas Golf, for his work statewide and over the decades has been played by the greats of the game, both in Texas and nationally.  It’s hosted the PGA TOUR’s Houston Open along with the 2008 NCAA Division II National Championship. In 1995, the course received a restoration with input from Houston architect Jay Riviere and Hall of Fame member Dave Marr, Jr. as the result of an extensive fundraising campaign. It remains one of the most popular public courses in Houston with more than 65,000 rounds a year at the layout located in the central city area.

For more information on the 2016 induction banquet, October 10, and ceremonies along with sponsorships, contact Mary Carriker, Managing Director of the TGHoF at mary@golfsanantonio.org or 210-736-8701.