Michael Cotton uses back-nine run for Texas State Amateur win
DALLAS, Texas — Michael Cotton from Katy
torched the back nine of Bent Tree Country Club
with a sizzling 7-under-par 29 to rip away the
106th Texas Amateur from a host of worthy
contenders. Cotton finished the weather-
shortened championship at 9-under 204 overall,
three shots clear of his friend and frequent
playing companion Preston Stanley, also from
2015 Texas State Amateur champion
Michael Cotton (TGA photo)
“I’m kind of a streaky player,” said Cotton in the
understatement of the year. “I’ve been putting
well all week, but nothing was going in. I got
one to drop, got hot and they all started
Cotton, a 19-year-old sophomore at the
University of North Texas, began the final round
two shots behind leader Grant Bennett from
Lewisville. With his father Steve caddying for
him on Father’s Day, Cotton opened with four
bogeys on his first eight holes.
With slumped shoulders and his head down,
Cotton felt the tournament slipping away from
him. That’s when his dad stepped in – as any
good caddy would – and offered encouragement.
“My dad just told me, ‘I still believe and you
need to, too,’” Cotton said.
The words, few in number but ever-so impactful,
gave Cotton a jolt of energy. He stood tall again,
took a few deep breaths and started his round
over in his mind.
What happened next will go down in Texas
Amateur lore as one of the best 10-hole
stretches in the 106-year history of the most
prestigious amateur tournament in the state.
Cotton birdied No. 9 and the floodgates opened.
Two more birdies on the 10th and 11th holes. A
jaw-dropping eagle on No. 13. Then more birdies
coming in on Nos. 15 and 16. Meanwhile,
Stanley put together a string of six birdies
against three bogeys and posted a final round 3-
under 68. It wasn’t enough. Bennett lost control
of his driver and faltered with a 2-over 73. With
the championship in hand, Cotton brought it
home in style, pouring in a 5-footer for one last
He played the final 10 holes at 8-under.
“I played pretty well today, just ran into a buzz
saw on the back nine,” said Stanley, a junior at
Houston Baptist. “The guy shot 29 on the back.
What are you going to do? He’s a great player
and I’m happy for him.”
Cotton, who plays out of Memorial Park Golf
Course in Houston, was understated in his
comments moments after the championship.
Perhaps he was in shock. Twenty-nines on the
final nine holes of major amateur championships
don’t just fall out of the sky.
“It feels good to win this championship,” he said.
“It gives me a lot of confidence going into the
rest of summer.”
In his acceptance speech, Cotton began with the
two most important people in his life: his father
Steve and mother Deanna. While dad toted the
bag, mom followed along step for step, jotting
down stats and keeping notes.
“He had 11 putts on the final nine,” Deanna said.
“Twenty-seven for the round.”
For his part, Steve said his son’s victory was the
best Father’s Day present he could have
imagined. A high-handicapper himself who only
plays the occasional weekend round, Steve said
his job was to hold the bag, keep the clubs clean
and offer a little encouragement here and there.
It was the last of those duties that turned the
tide and reversed his son’s fate.
“I’m just really proud of him,” Steve Cotton said.
“He’s always played well, but to see him break
through and win the Texas Amateur is really,
During the torrid, 10-hole streak, Cotton made
more than 50 feet in birdies. And that’s not
including the 12-foot eagle he poured in on No.
Last year’s Texas Amateur champion Will
Zalatoris, a member of Bent Tree, was on hand
to witness Cotton’s scorching performance.
Zalatoris unfortunately was unable to play in the
championship because he was still recovering
emergency appendectomy surgery in late May.
Zalatoris, who went on to win the Trans-
Mississippi Amateur and U.S. Junior
Championship last summer after his Texas
Amateur title, said he shot an 9-under 27 on the
back nine at Bent Tree a few days before his
“It’s one thing to do that when you’re out
messing around,” Zalatoris said. “But for Michael
to do it under pressure and on the final nine
holes of this great championship, that’s really