HOUSTON, Tex. (June 13, 2013) -- Thursday’s opening round of the 104th Texas Amateur Championship presented by Insperity saw one hundred and forty-four of Texas’ top amateur golfers begin their journey in chasing down the coveted title of Texas Amateur Champion and hoisting the H.L. Edwards trophy. Playing just shy of 7,100 yards, the par 72 Lakeside Country Club welcomed players from across the state with pristine fairways and near flawless greens creating a backdrop primed for this storied championship. Consisting of both a morning and afternoon wave of players, Thursday provided a myriad of excitement as several players made early charges toward the top of the leaderboard. Houston native and Redstone Golf Club member, John Hunter, opened his morning round with a birdie on the par-3 tenth hole before quickly adding three more within his first six holes.
“It’s a fair course”, Hunter stated, “It’s about getting the ball on the right part of the fairway so that you can get it to the right part of the green” and he was successful in doing just that.
Carding an opening nine of three under par thirty-two, Hunter, playing in his first Texas Amateur, continued his stellar play carding two more birdies on his first three holes of the back nine. Looking unstoppable, Hunter’s momentum stumbled when he found trouble on the par-3 fourth which resulted in a double-bogey, five.
A bogey on his last hole gave Hunter an opening round of three under par, 69.
Also carding a morning round of three under par was the 2012 North Player of the Year, Mike Calef, whose round consisted of three bogeys and six birdies, four of which came on his closing eight holes.
Defending Texas Amateur champion, Thomas Birdsey, looked to come out strong in defense of his title and finds himself tied for twelfth after an opening round of two under par, 70. Two players found themselves sitting atop the leaderboard after the morning rounds had completed. Wesley McClain of Diboll and Lewis Stephenson of Mansfield both carded opening rounds of five under par, 67.
“Hitting the fairway off the tee is very important”, McClain stated “I hit 17 greens today and when you do that your chances of going low are pretty good.” McClain, who plays for the University of Houston, is playing in his second Texas Amateur with a field that consists of seven of his collegiate teammates.
“It’s fun playing with my teammates out here. We’ve got a stacked team.”
Matching McClains 67 was Lewis Stephenson who got things going early posting three birdies in his first four holes.
“I was very fortunate today because I got the speed of the greens very quickly.”
At 53 years old, Stephenson comes into the Amateur with the main focus of making the cut.
“There are so many good young players here. It’s very exciting and very humbling at the same time because there is always that next big name to show up on the leaderboard.” With his wife caddying for him, Stephenson is just trying to enjoy his time at Lakeside this week and “do one for the old guys.” Heading into the afternoon rounds, players knew that low scores were accessible. Battling the same heat and humidity that the morning wave faced, the last several groups of the afternoon also faced a suspension of play due to inclement weather in the area. After a 45 minute delay play was resumed and the final ten groups were able to head back on course to complete their rounds. Houston local Stephen Marland looked to make his run at the morning leaders from the very beginning. After back to back birdies to open his round, Marland followed up a bogey on the par 3 fourth hole with two more back to back birdies. After four straight pars on the back Marland added birdies at holes fourteen and sixteen to post a five under par, 67, placing him in a tie for second. Marland along with Lewis Stephenson and Wesley McClain find themselves chasing round one leader, Doug Manor. Manor, who currently lives in Austin, took charge of Lakeside Country Club posting an opening round of seven under par, 65. His blemish free round included seven birdies and not a single bogey.
“I was able to keep it in play all day and only missed a few fairways”, Manor stated. Hitting the ball well off the tee was a start but Manor’s stellar performance around the greens is what allowed him to post such a great opening round. ”I putted extremely well making three or four long putts and then chipped in several times when I missed the green. I’ve been playing a lot of golf lately and feel that if I can stay rested this week there shouldn’t be much I need to change.” Manor heads into tomorrow’s holding a two shot lead over three players tied for second and a total of twenty-three players who posted under par opening rounds.