Record Turnout for 10th Annual League Play Series
   When the TGA unveiled the inaugural season of League Play in 2006, no one was sure how it would be received. No one knew how popular it would get, if at all. Fast forward a decade later and we have our answers. The unique team match play competition that pits Member Clubs against each other for the chance at a statewide team championship title and bragging rights celebrates its 10th season this year and it will do so in style.
   A record 44 teams are participating in TGA League Play this season. With teams comprised of both public and private Member Clubs, more than 720 individual members are expected to compete.
   “We’re thrilled with the participation numbers this season,” said Neil Gilman, the TGA’s League Play Coordinator. “We’ve had several teams return to action this year after short layoffs, and we have a couple brand new entries. I expect we’ll see another highly competitive season with several teams worthy of becoming the state champions.”
   The season began in earnest in mid-March. By May 28, 11 teams will advance to the League Play Finals at scenic Horseshoe Bay. Competitors play as a team for their home clubs, whether they’re regulars at a public course or private club members. Each team match consists of four two-man matches, played in team match play format. There is no limit to how many players each team can have; some teams have up to 20 players in rotation.
   There are 11 conferences this season – six in Dallas-Fort Worth; three in Houston; one each in Austin and West Texas – with four teams in each. The regular season progresses with home-and-away series between all conference members. Clubs devise their own conferences based on geography. Within each of the four-ball matches that make up one team match, there is one point award for winning the front nine, one for the back nine and one for the overall 18-hole match. A total of 12 points are available within each team match; at least 6.5 points are needed for a team victory.
   In addition to the rarity of team golf, another distinctive component of League Play is the use of the USGA Handicap System. Handicaps are used in three of the four matches in each team match; the first match is always played at scratch. The use of handicaps highlights the inclusive nature of League Play, where golfers of all skill levels are welcome.
   The social characteristic of League Play is another attraction. Friendships are made and renewed each year during League Play. Some teams take the competition more seriously than others, but everyone who has played even a single match will tell you that there’s a friendly atmosphere to League Play.
   With the increased participation came some first-time team entries. Two of the Austin Conference teams, for example, are newcomers to League Play: Escondido Golf and Lake Club in Horseshoe Bay and Spanish Oaks CC in Bee Cave. Several teams made a return to League Play after short layoffs. Among those back in the fold are DeCordova Bend CC in Granbury, Riverbend CC in Sugar Land, Iron Horse GC in North Richland Hills and a trio of private clubs in Houston: Lakeside CC, Royal Oaks CC and BraeBurn CC.
   There was some realignment following the 2014 season that in two instances pits two conference winners from last season in the same conference this year. Dallas Athletic Club and River Crest CC in Fort Worth won their respective conferences last season but play in the same conference this year. The same is true for SugarTree Golf and CC in Lipan and Arlington’s Tierra Verde, who happens to be the two-time defending TGA League Play champions.
   Tierra Verde team captain Shawn Walsh said his team feels some pressure to repeat again this year.
   “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it,” Walsh said. “We have a really tight group of players, and it would be really fun if it happens. But a lot of things would have to go our way to even get back to the Finals.”
   Walsh’s squad got off to a good start this season with victories over SugarTree and Canyon West GC in Weatherford in March. The team Tierra Verde took down in last season’s championship match of the League Play Finals was Lochinvar in Houston. Lochinvar head professional Rodney Houston, who also plays on his club’s team, said his squad is eager to get back to Horseshoe Bay because they enjoyed the experience so much. He said he wasn’t surprised at all by the increased participation this year.
   “I think our League Play is only going to get bigger,” Houston said. “Word is getting out, and I expect it to get more and more popular. I know our guys are really looking forward to it. Our guys love the competition. It’s something to flip the calendar to and get excited about.”