BEE CAVE—C.J. Brock didn’t hesitate when asked about the key to the 3-under-par 68 he shot on Friday to lead the 2016 Texas Mid-Amateur Championship after one round at Spanish Oaks Golf Club.
“Patience,” said Brock, a 39-year-old partner of a Dallas-based marketing and advertising firm. “This is a plodder’s course. You have to be patient and think out there. This course will eat you alive in a second if you try to step on the gas.”
Brock said his methodical approach helped him stay in the fairway for most of the day. He missed just three fairways in regulation and never took more than two putts on any green. He leads six golfers by one shot headed into Saturday’s second of three rounds at one of the more challenging courses in Texas.
“I hit a great drive on my first hole and had 111 yards to the hole,” said Brock, who started on the 388-yard, par-4 10th. “I hit my approach over the green and made a bogey. Normally, that would get me hot under the collar. But I told myself to stay calm. It’s a long tournament, and I was bound to make a bogey somewhere.”
Brock, who played in the U.S. Mid-Amateur two weeks ago, shook off the shaky start and remained engaged. He hit driver, 3-wood to six feet on his second hole, which was the 505-yard, par-5 11th. When he rolled in the eagle putt, he felt rewarded by the self-control he exhibited after the hiccup a hole earlier.
Among those a shot back is San Antonio’s Colby Harwell, a 31-year-old realtor who won a USGA National Championship in 2014 as one-third of the U.S. State Team Championship squad. Harwell’s 2-under 69 came thanks in large part from one swing of his trusty pitching wedge. He aced the 154-yard, par-3 14th.
“I teed the ball up a little higher than usual to take a little spin off it,” Harwell said. “It landed five feet short and 10 feet to the right. It turned over and rolled right in the cup.”
Also one shot back is Josh Irving from Dallas. He’s the reigning Texas Player of the Year and also made it to the Quarterfinals of this month’s U.S. Mid-Amateur at Stonewall Links in Everson, Pa. After advancing through the 36-hole stroke play Qualifier at Stonewall Links, Irving proceeded to win three matches.
The others who shot 2-under 69 on Friday and trail Brock by one shot include Andrew Wyatt from Midland, J.J. Wall from San Antonio and Kevin Doskocil and Scott Volpitto from Fort Worth.
Three more players are just two shots back. Patrick Datz, a Spanish Oaks member from Austin, Christopher Wheeler from Addison and Rick Sulzer from Carrollton all posted 1-under 70s.
Playing at only 6,925 yards as a par-71 track, the breathtaking Spanish Oaks course packed plenty of bite against a field of the best mid-amateurs in the state. The collective scoring average was more than seven shots over par at 78.08. Ranked as the third best private course in Texas by Golf Digest, Spanish Oaks challenges golfers with a series of blind tee shots and forced carries over hazardous canyons and ravines.
Designed in 2001 by Bobby Weed, the PGA Tour’s former in-house architect, Spanish Oaks also features large, rolling greens. The TiffEagle Bermuda grass putting surfaces have the kind of subtle breaks and gentle slopes that take time and repetition to understand, let alone conquer.
While many players struggled to find a level of comfort on the Hill Country course, 10 percent of the field – 13 golfers – posted scores of even par or better. Ten mid-amateurs finished under par for the first round.
“If you stay between the thick stuff out here, you can score,” Wall said. “The course is in such good condition, especially the greens. You just have to stay out of trouble.”
The second round of the 2016 Texas Mid-Amateur begins Saturday at 8 a.m. For more information, including live scoring, click here.