TRINITY – Six months ago, Mitchell Meissner from San Antonio made what can only be called a dramatic switch in his golf game. After winning the 109th Texas Amateur Championship on Sunday at Whispering Pines Golf Club with a 72-hole score of 6-under 282, that change has more than paid off.
(For complete scores, click here.)
Last summer and throughout the fall, Meissner, a right-handed golfer who recently graduated from Rice University, had been hitting the ball great but struggling with his putter. He couldn’t make anything. It got to the point where he was nervous to pull the trigger on 2-footers. He tried everything – different grips, new putters, ball positions – and nothing worked.
So he did the nearly unthinkable and stepped on the other side of the ball to start putting from a left-handed position.
Suddenly he started draining putts from everywhere. Everything started clicking. His ball-striking improved, too, perhaps buoyed by newfound confidence in his flat sick. Since he switched putting styles last December, he’s won four of his last six tournaments. That includes the oldest, most prestigious championship in Texas.
“I definitely think winning this championship validates the switch,” said Meissner, a recent Rice University graduate who in April won the Ryman Hospitality Intercollegiate and Conference-USA championship in consecutive weeks. “What the switch has really helped me with is being patient because I know if I get off to a bad start, I can make birdies coming down the stretch.”
That’s exactly what he did Sunday at Whispering Pines.
After a bogey on the par-3 third hole, Meissner played the first seven holes of the final round at 1-over par. From there, he went bogey-free and poured in five birdies, including a 30-footer on the 72nd hole. He beat his good friend and former Alamo Heights High School teammate Levi Valadez by three shots.
Meissner’s birdie on the last hole is even more impressive considering he had to wait 26 minutes to hit his second shot. At exactly 1:30 p.m., just after the final group hit their final tee shots, a piercing thunderclap signaled lightning in the area. TGA officials had no choice but to halt play temporarily. At 1:56 p.m., players returned to the 18th hole to finish the tournament.
Meissner hit a smooth short iron just over the flagstick. A few minutes later he rolled in the long birdie that clinched his three-shot victory.
“Going to left-handed putting has helped my mental game a lot more, too,” Meissner said. “In the past, when I’d be putting righty and have a 6-footer for birdie, I’d be like, ‘Oh, I need to make this.’ Now I know I’m going to have my opportunities. My putting is good enough that I’m comfortable giving a 15-footer a run because if I miss, I know I can make the 4-footer coming back.”
He didn’t miss many down the stretch at Whispering Pines, the No. 1-ranked course in Texas for 11 of the past 13 years. Meissner shot 4-under 68 in the final round.
Valadez, a sophomore at Sam Houston State, was the only other competitor in the 144-player field to finish under par. His 3-under 285 made him the runner-up for the second straight time. He finished T2 last year in the 108th Texas Amateur at Lakewood Country Club in Dallas.
“I think Bobby Jones said it best when he said he never learned anything by winning,” said Valadez, who shot even-par 72 in each of the final two rounds. “It really came down to course management and putting, two of my biggest struggles this past school year. I really need to focus on those two things and keep grinding.”
McClure Meissner – Mitchell’s younger brother – finished tied for third place. He shot even-par 72 all four days at Whispering Pines. Their father Kurt Meissner walked the pristine fairways between his sons’ groups all week. He was beaming with pride Sunday afternoon, a perfect Father’s Day for the Meissner family.
“What a dream,” Kurt Meissner said. “This has been a lot of fun. I have goosebumps right now. It’s very special for them both to finish in the top three and Mitchell to pull off a win like that today. He really fought hard. This is a great Father’s Day.”
Kyle Hogan from Cypress shared third place with McClure Meissner at even-par 288. Chandler Phillips from Huntsville and William Moll from Houston tied for fifth place at 1-over 289. Moll, a 17-year-old Memorial High School senior, held the 36- and 54-hole leads but fell short on the final day. He had plenty of reasons to be proud of his play throughout the championship.
“I finished in the top 5, and I probably wasn’t expecting to finish that good,” he said. “I played good against older guys, and that means a lot.”
Wes Artac from Kingwood finished seventh at 3-over 291. Andrew Paysse from Temple and Pierceson Coody from Plano shared eighth place at 4-over 292. Alex Isakson from Argyle came in 10th place at 5-over 293.
Will Osborne from Fort Worth won Low Mid-Amateur honors for players ages 25 and older. The 33-year-old shot a final round 73 to finish at 6-over 294, good for 11th place overall.
As always, Whispering Pines offered the best amateurs in Texas a tremendous championship test. The 2000 Chet Williams-designed gem played to a four-day stroke average of 77.38. The 463-yard, par-4 18th was the most challenging hole of the week. It played to a stroke average of 4.58. The 550-yard, par-5 12th was the only hole to play under par; the field averaged 4.94 on the dogleg-left hole.
The TGA extends its most sincere appreciation to Whispering Pines Golf Club, its members and staff for all their contributions to the 109th Texas Amateur. Extra special thanks are due to club founder and owner Corby Robertson and his wife Barbara, General Manager Chad McCormick, Head Professional Chris Rowe, Director of Agronomy Michael Dieckhoff, Executive Chief Ralph Fernandez and Village Operations Manager Bob Mishler for all their tireless work. That sentiment holds true also for all the TGA Volunteers who gave their time to ensure all the competitors in the field had an enjoyable and memorable week. We thank them all.
For more information about the 109th Texas Amateur, click here.