Stephenson leads Texas Senior with a pair of eagles
Lewis Stephenson (TGA photo)
Lewis Stephenson (TGA photo)

AUSTIN (Sept. 28, 2018) – The eagle landed – twice – for Lewis Stephenson in the first round of the 2018 Texas Senior Amateur at the Hills Country Club. The 2016 champion from Mansfield leads a talented field with a 4-under 68 that saw Stephenson jar a pair of eagle putts on the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course.

“I was very fortunate. I eagled the ninth and 11th holes,” said Stephenson, the 58-year-old dentist who finished as the runner-up in the 2017 Texas Senior Amateur. “I don’t know if I’ve ever made two eagles in the same tournament round before.”

The key to both eagles was the second shot, Stephenson explained. He hit a solid drive up the left side of the ninth hole, but his ball ended up a couple yards in the rough. Stephenson then smoked a 3-wood from 250 yards that trundled up close to the hole.

“It was kind of knuckling, and it kind of flattened out,” he said. “It just covered the front bunker and rolled up to 10 feet.”

Two holes later, Stephenson was in the fairway, about 240 yards from the green. He considered laying up to the right side and to attack the back hole location with a wedge. Ultimately, he decided to go for it.

“I hit 3-wood again, and it just hit perfectly on the front edge of the green and it rolled up to about 10 feet, too,” Stephenson said. “They were just two shots that turned out. Sometimes they don’t turn out, but this time they did. I was very fortunate.”

Stephenson leads Southlake’s Michael Lohner by one shot headed into Saturday’s second round of the 54-hole stroke play Major Championship.

Lohner, a 56-year-old entrepreneur, hit 13 of 14 fairways and made seven birdies on the day. That included a birdie-birdie finish on his final two holes to move into second place.

“It was one of those rounds that could’ve been 5- or 6-under,” Lohner said. “Some days things just go your way. Today was one of those days. There’s a long ways to go, though. I’m not counting any chickens.”

Two shots behind Stephenson in third place is Houston’s Mike Booker, the 2015 Texas Senior Player of the Year. Booker rallied from a slow start – he was 2 over through six holes – to play shoot a 2-under 70 in the first round at The Hills.

“I just hung in there like you have to do,” said Booker, the 63-year-old Founder and President of a financial services company. “I started making some putts. I made a change to my putting grip recently, and I feel really good over the putter right now.”

Booker said he switched to an unconventional grip that encourages a lower, straight-back-straight-through action.

“It’s a pretty dramatic change,” he said. “I started rolling the stripe (on his ball) straight, even on really long putts. I’m not necessarily making a ton of putts, but I feel really good.”

Four players share fourth place at 1-over 73. That group includes defending champion Ed Brooks from Fort Worth and 2015 champion Rob Kilby from McAllen.

ABOUT THE Texas Senior Amateur

The State Senior Amateur is the second oldest event of all the TGA tournaments, having first been played in 1937.

Eligibility: Entries are open to male amateur golfers with a GHIN Handicap Index of 6.4 or less and who are 55 years of age or older as of the tournament start date (first round of tournament play). All players will be competing in one division from the same tees and yardage.

Format/Field Size: Play will be contested over 54 holes of stroke play. All players will be competing in one division from the same tees and yardage. The field is limited to 144 players. At the completion of the 36 holes the field will be cut to the low 54 players and ties.

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