DALLAS – Ed Brooks from Fort Worth and Kyle Kelting from Amarillo shot matching 2-under-par 69s on Friday and share the first round lead of the 2017 Texas Senior Amateur Championship at Royal Oaks Country Club.
A steady rain persisted throughout much of the day at the beautifully manicured course near downtown Dallas. Brooks and Kelting played the entirety of their rounds in the rain, and both handled the elements like veterans. Brooks, who won the 1997 Texas Amateur, bogeyed his first hole and proceeded to play the next 17 bogey-free with three birdies. Kelting, a newly minted 55-year-old playing in his first senior amateur event, made four birdies on the day.
They hold one-shot lead over Alan Hill from Spring Branch and San Antonio’s John Pierce. Hill, the 2003 Texas Player of the Year, birdied three of his final five holes to get in at 1-under 70. Pierce, the 2016 runner-up, made three birdies on the day. Dallas native Chuck Palmer – a Royal Oaks Member who has won 16 club championships – is tied for fifth place with Jon Freeman of Flour Mound at even-par 71.
Brooks, who finished third at the 2016 Texas Senior Amateur, said he’s been working on a swing change to fight a nagging hook. It’s a work in progress, he said, but he managed his game well enough in Round 1.
“I was just steady all day,” said Brooks, who also won the 1997 Southern Amateur. “I didn’t make any big mistakes along the way. So that helped.”
Kelting, a two-time winner of Amarillo’s Tournament of Champions, played his final seven holes at 3-under.
“I pride myself on ball-striking, and I have been putting the ball much better lately,” Kelting said. “Of course, on greens like these, you’re going to putt well. They’re perfect, and I love them.”
Even with the wet conditions, players raved about the conditioning of the golf course. Originally designed by J. Press Maxwell, Don January and Billy Martindale in 1969, the family focused club was renovated in 2014. During the course upgrades, the putting surfaces went from bentgrass to the Mini Verde Ultradwarf Bermuda, and they roll perfectly.
The seniors are playing the tree-lined, shot-makers course this week as a par 71 at approximately 6,650. The 144-player field posted a stroke average of 78.50 in the first round. The back nine (39.69) played slightly more difficult than the front (38.80). The 451-yard, par-4 13th hole provided the greatest challenge and played to an average of 4.76. Players were able to rebound immediately, however. The 516-yard, par-5 14th hole played the easiest on the course at 5.15.
The field will be cut to the low 54 scores and ties following Saturday’s second round.
Regarded as one of the state’s supreme ball-striker’s layouts, Royal Oaks is playing host to its fourth TGA major championship. Previously, the club was the site of the 2015 Texas Mid-Amateur and the 2010 and 1974 Texas Amateurs.
Lewis Stephenson, the defending champion from Mansfield, put himself in good position with a 1-over 72 in the first round. He’s one of six players tied for seventh place. Stephenson started the day with eight straight pars before he made bogeys on the ninth and 13th holes. A birdie on the par-4 17th gives him some momentum headed into Saturday.
On Thursday night’s player reception at Royal Oaks, Stephenson picked up the 2016 Texas Senior Player of the Year award. In addition to his Texas Senior Amateur victory last fall at Escondido, the Mansfield resident was a runner-up at the 2016 North Senior Amateur, T25 at the Texas Mid-Amateur and T15 in the Senior Division of the Texas Four-Ball Championship with partner Doug Hopton-Jones.
The second round of the 2017 Texas Senior Amateur begins Saturday at 8 a.m. For more information, including complete results, click here.