Michael Salazar was the low am in the Texas State Open (Cascades photo)
By Art Stricklin
TYLER, TX (August 3, 2018) – El Paso amateur Michael Salazar shook off a self-described slump to finish tied for fifth and earn low amateur honors in the 2018 Texas State Open Friday at The Cascades Golf and Country Club.
The senior to be at Grand Canyon College in Phoenix fired a closing 70 for a 10-under-par 270 on a steamy Friday and finished four shots behind 2018 champion Ben Kern, the head golf professional at Georgetown Country Club.
“I felt I’ve been in slump with my play most of the summer, but to keep grinding and win low amateur really makes me feel good. There were a lot of really good amateurs out here, but to come out on top is really good.”
In the third round, Salazar shot the tied low round of the week, a 62 that included 8 birdies and an eagle.
This year’s statewide tournament had a record number of 11 amateurs make the 36 hole cut with five amateur players including Salazar, Ryan Grider and Pierceson Coody all finishing in the top 30.
“This was my first tournament playing against pros and it gave me a lot of confidence I can complete with them,” said Coody, the grandson of Masters Champion Charles Coody, who won the Byron Nelson junior championship earlier this summer and finished high on the leaderboard in the Trans-Mississippi amateur event.
“This is going to help me with my confidence and battle any self-doubt I might have,” said Baylor University sophomore to be Ryan Grider, who tied for 15th with a final day 70-274 total, 6-under par.
Tournament champion Kern entered the final day at The Cascades with a four-shot lead, saw it cut to a single shot with bogeys on holes 7 and 9, then churned out nine straight pars to clinch the two-shot victory, winning $42,500 in prize money for the head professional at Georgetown (Texas) Country club.
He shot a one under 70 in the both the first and fourth rounds, but had rounds of 64 and 62 second and third rounds to take the lead and never look back.
“I made it a little more exciting than I should have and let a lot of people in the tournament, but I made some great up-and-downs to keep the lead,” said Kern. “The up-and-downs at 10 and 17 were spectacular.”
He had an interesting route to joining a list of past winners list which included Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, Jeff Maggert, Bruce Lietzke and Homero Blancas who won as an amateur in 1960.
When the initial deadline passed, Kern was still working in West Texas, and let it pass because he didn’t think he could get off work. He was able to enter late, but was placed on an alternate list. After two other pros withdrew, he finally got in the field and made it pay off with the win.
“This is my fourth time in the Texas State Open and every year I have done better than the last.”
Kern has already qualified for the 2018 PGA Championship next week in St. Louis after finishing in the top 20 of the PGA Club Championship in June.
“This is great practice for next week because I was nervous today and I’m sure I will be nervous next week.”
Former Texas A&M golfer Andrew Paysse, the low amateur in the 2017 Texas State Open who recently turned pro, was second with a final round 62 for a 12-under 268 total. Dallas’ Charlie Holland shot a closing 63 to finish tied for third along with Kolton Crawford at 11 under 269, one shot ahead of Salazar.View results for Texas State Open
ABOUT THE Texas State Open
72-hole stroke play tournament open to
professionals and amateurs with a recommended
handicap index of 6.4 or less. Contestants are NOT
required to reside in Texas. Cut made after 36 holes.
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