DALLAS – With a steady round of 1-under-par 70 in Sunday’s final round, Ed Brooks from Fort Worth won the 2017 Texas Senior Amateur Championship.
For three days, Brooks kept his ball in the fairway and routinely found the Royal Oaks Country Club greens in regulation. That relentless precision led to a 54-hole total of 4-under 209, which was good for a two-shot victory over defending champion Lewis Stephenson from Mansfield.
“It’s an old cliché, but fairways and greens still works,” said Stephenson, who shot a final round 72 to finish at 2-under 211 overall. “That’s what Ed is. He’s fairways and greens. He had a couple of really impressive up-and-downs, too.”
Brooks and Stephenson began the final round tied for the lead at 3-under. Brooks promptly rolled in a 20-foot birdie the first hole. He extended his lead with a 12-foot birdie on the par-4 sixth hole while Stephenson bogeyed the fifth and six holes. Brooks maintained a two-shot lead for most of the back nine until Stephenson birdied the par-5 14th hole to close the gap to one stroke. Brooks then hit a towering wedge shot over two trees in middle of the 15th fairway to four feet. He sank the birdie putt to re-establish his two-shot lead.
“I laid up a little too short and had a very high shot to get over the over the trees and get on the green,” Brooks said. “If I don’t clear it, it’s going to hit the tree, go in the water and the tournament’s over. I took a chance and tried to put myself in a position to win it right there.”
Two holes later, Brooks missed a short par putt on 17th hole to bring Stephenson back to within a shot. The final hole provided some drama when Brooks uncharacteristically pushed his drive into trees. After he laid up to about 80 yards on the Royal Oaks’ par-5 finishing hole, Stephenson went for the green with his second shot. His 3-wood ended up on the green’s front fringe, giving him a potential look at an eagle with a chip-in.
Brooks then stuffed a sand wedge to five feet. Stephenson failed to convert the chip-in, and Brooks poured in one more birdie to claim the championship in style.
At 68 years old, Brooks is one of the more decorated amateurs in Texas. In 1997 he won the Texas Amateur and Southern Amateur titles. He also won the 1995 West Texas Amateur among several other victories.
“This is a really special one,” said Brooks, who finished third last year at Escondido. “I’ve won some events, and that’s been good. But I haven’t played any competition in 10-12 years. This tournament last year was the first one I’d played in 10 or 12 years. So to come back and win it and knowing I’m 68 years old and this probably isn’t going to happen again, this is really special.”
On a day when he didn’t have his best stuff, Stephenson said he was proud of the way he hung in until the end. Earlier in the week, he said his victory last year gave him a new sense of calm in the face of competitive adversity. He exhibited that ability Sunday when he bounced back from the two front nine bogeys to mount a charge that ultimately fell two shots short.
“Today didn’t really feel great,” he said. “I kind of just held it together. I was still there at the end, though, and that’s something I can take away.”
John Pierce from San Antonio finished in third place at even-par 213. It’s been quite a summer for Pierce, who advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Senior Amateur. He also won the Senior Division of the 2017 West Texas Amateur. Last year, he was the runner-up at the 2016 Texas Senior Amateur.
Amarillo’s Kyle Kelting finished in fourth place at 2-over 215. Royal Oaks member Lee Sandlin shot the round of the day with a sterling 5-under 66. The TGA Director and President of the TGA Foundation played in the first group off No. 10 and painted a bogey-free round that included three birdies and an eagle on the par-5 18th. Sandlin shared fifth place with Spring Branch’s Alan Hill at 4-over 217.
In addition to the stellar play from the state’s top senior amateurs, the theme of the week at Royal Oaks was the supreme condition of the golf course. Designed in 1969 by J. Press Maxwell, Don January and Billy Martindale, the tree-lined par-71 course was renovated in 2014 by Chet Williams. The players in the field loved the redesign, especially the pure bermudagrass greens.
Head Superintendent Kris Davis, along with his assistants Kory Crews and Seth Smith and the entire grounds crew, did a masterful job preparing and maintaining one of the best courses in Texas for the championship. The Texas Golf Association extends in sincere to all the hospitable Royal Oaks staff, including General Manager/COO J. Todd Harbour, PGA Head Professional Dean Larsson, Director of Catering and Events J.D. Arredondo and the entire membership for helping make this a memorable week.
We’d also like to thank all of the TGA volunteers for their tireless efforts throughout the year and particularly this week at the 2017 Texas Senior Amateur. We can’t thank them enough.
The 2018 Texas Senior Amateur heads to Austin and The Signature Course at The Hills Country Club. For more information about this year’s championship, including complete results, click here.