HORSESHOE BAY—Mac McGee from Midland finds himself in familiar territory Friday after he shot a brilliant 4-under-par 67 at scenic Escondido Golf & Lake Club. Through one round, McGee leads the 2016 Texas Senior Amateur by one shot over John Grace.
McGee, a 62-year-old owner of an oil and gas production company, shot the same score in the first round of last year’s Senior Amateur. Likewise, he led after 18 holes at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio. McGee ran into trouble in the second and third rounds last year, however, as the deep rough and tiny greens at Oak Hills brought him back to the field. By the end of the championship, McGee finished tied for 20th place.
This time, McGee sees a different result for himself.
“Last year was a different golf course,” said McGee, who hit 16 of 18 greens Friday and carded five birdies, including a chip-in from behind the green on the par-3 fifth hole. “When you miss a green at Oak Hills, it’s just very, very penal. This is a great course, too, but you have a chance to get up and down around these greens. It’s more wide open off the tee, too.”
(For complete first round scores, click here.)
McGee barely missed posting a 66. He almost jarred his short-iron shot on the 151-yard par-3 third hole. His ball stopped less than half a foot from the hole: a literal tap-in. McGee played Escondido’s five par 3s at 3-under par.
“I feel good about the way I’m playing,” said McGee, who in 2012 won the Senior Porter Cup at Niagara Falls Country Club in Lewiston, N.Y., and the Tower Invitational at Miramont Country Club in Bryan.
McGee leads by one shot over one of the most decorated amateurs in the country. The model of consistency, Fort Worth’s Grace shot his age – 68 – by hitting all 13 fairways and missing just two greens. That’s business as usual for him; Grace has won every major individual amateur title in Texas. He won the Senior Amateur in 2010, the Texas Amateur in 1994 and the Texas Mid-Amateur four consecutive years, from 1991-94. Grace also won last year’s inaugural playing of the Texas Super Senior Amateur.
Grace excels on the national level, too. He’s played in a staggering 45 USGA National Championships, including last year’s U.S. Senior Amateur. Fittingly, he was inducted into the Texas Golf Hall of Fame in 2012.
“I made all the putts I need to make,” Grace said of his work on Friday. “This is a good course. There’s a little bit of everything. There are holes where you have to hit it straight, and there are some places where you need strategy. The greens aren’t crazy with a lot of humps. It’s a fair test.”
Tyler’s Jerry Hudgins is in third place, two shots back. He posted a 2-under 69 thanks to five birdies, including a pair on the difficult par-4 16th and tricky par-3 17th holes.
“I kept it in play today,” said Hudgins, who in March won the Texas Super Senior Amateur at Las Colinas Country Club. “I made some putts, and I missed some, too. I missed an 18-inch putt on No. 14 or I would’ve shot my age. I just shut the face on it and it went left.”
Three players share fourth place at 1-under par. Steve Moran from Houston, Mike Peck from Irving and James Peebles from Fort Worth are all three shots behind McGee headed into Saturday’s second round.
The third of four major championships, the Texas Senior is open male amateurs with a GHIN Handicap Index of 6.4 or less, are at least 55 years old and are current Texas residents. With a starting field of 144 players, 54 holes of stroke play will identify the best senior amateur in Texas. Following Saturday’s second round, the field will be cut to the low 54 scores, including ties.
The beautiful and challenging Tom Fazio-designed Escondido Course is playing host to its third TGA championship. Most recently, Terence Begnel from Midland won the 2014 Texas Mid-Amateur here with a 54-hole score of 2-under 211. He survived a four-hole playoff against Houston’s Brandon Burke. Escondido also hosted the 2011 Texas Mid-Amateur Match Play.
In 2010, the lavish club with superior service and amenities was the site of the 2010 Texas Shootout, an elite invitation-only event that features the top-ranked amateurs from North and South Texas squaring off in a Ryder Cup-style competition.
At Thursday night’s Players’ Reception, defending Senior Amateur Champion Mike Booker of Houston received the 2015 Texas Senior Player of the Year award. It was the third time around for Booker, who won the honor in 2012 and 2014 as well. The former University of Houston All-American won last year’s Senior Amateur at Oak Hills, where he shot 3-over-par 216 to win by four strokes.
Booker amassed 2,225 Player Performance Points in 2015. Booker finished as the runner-up at the Texas Four-Ball Championship, South Texas Senior Amateur and South Texas Super Mid-Amateur.
The second round of the 2016 Texas Senior Amateur begins Saturday at 8 a.m. For more information, including live scoring, click here.