Ryan Grider (Texas Golf Association photo)
Ryan Grider won the 110th Texas Amateur late on Sunday after lightning and thunderstorms washed out the final round. The 20-year-old from Lewisville captures the victory with a 54-hole total of 11-under-par 205.
The final round at venerable Dallas Athletic Club began with a two-hour weather delay after overnight storms dumped an inch and a half of rain on the Blue Course. Showing the same determination and skill as he had in the first three rounds, Grider on Sunday had stretched his lead to four shots through 15 holes when lightning and thunderstorms forced another delay.
After more than two and a half hours, TGA tournament officials had no choice but to cancel the final round and revert to the 54 holes. For Grider, it’s a major championship victory, his first on the amateur level and exactly what he needed to get his summer off to the right start.
“I really wanted to finish all four rounds, but I’m glad I had a comfortable lead of four shots when it was called,” said Grider, a junior at Baylor University. “I didn’t want there to be any doubt. This is a great way to start the summer.”
By the end of it, no one doubted the fact that Grider was the best golfer in the field this week. He was the only player to shoot under par in each round. He finished with rounds of 71-65-69. He was 2-under through 15 holes when the tournament was called.
Addison’s Chris Wheeler took second place at 9-under 207. The 36-year-old mid-amateur said there were plenty of positives for him to take away from the week at DAC.
“I’m pleasantly surprised by the fact that I was able to compete with so many great players,” he said. “In the last couple days alone, I’ve met and played with college players who definitely have a future doing this for a living. To hang with them and be a part of the action was awesome. It makes me feel 20 years … well, maybe 10 years younger.”
Scott Abbott from Dallas and Arlington’s Paul Gonzalez shared third place at 5-under 211. Katy’s Michael Cotton, who won the 106th Texas Amateur in 2015, took fifth place at 4-under 212.
For the Griders, it was a total family celebration on Father’s Day. Ryan’s mom Denise was his caddie for the 110th Texas Amateur. She’s the Director of Junior Golf at the Golf Club at Castle Hills and has been a golf instructor for 15 years. Grider’s father Greg walked the margins of the fairways alongside his family all week. Once it was officially over, Greg was beaming with pride.
“It was an extra Father’s Day gift,” Greg Grider said. “For Ryan to come out and win the 110th Texas Amateur, I’ve known how hard he’s worked lately and over the past few years. I know how badly he wanted it. To be able to watch your kid reach their dreams is a dream of my own. It’s very special.”
Grider said he wanted to win this coveted championship for his family as much as for himself. His name now will be etched into the H.L. Edwards Memorial Trophy alongside the likes of Ben Crenshaw, Charles Coody, Mark Brooks, Scott Verplank and a host of other Texas golf legends.
That part of the victory is still sinking in for Grider. Minutes after the victory, he was more focused on his parents and appreciating all they’ve done for him.
“It’s so much more than golf in our family,” Grider said. “My dad is happy when I play well, but just being a good person and a good role model is what makes him the happiest. This week was just very special.”
ROUND THREE RECAP
Ryan Grider, of Lewisville, Texas, is 18 holes away from capturing the biggest amateur title in his young career. The 20-year-old Baylor University junior on Saturday shot a 3-under 69 in blustery conditions during the third round of the 110th Texas Amateur. He extended his lead to two shots over the field on Dallas Athletic Club’s Jack Nicklaus-designed Blue Course.
Grider backed up the stellar 65 he recorded on Friday with another strong performance. Through 54 holes, the 2014 Veritex Bank Byron Nelson Junior champion sits at 11-under 205. Addison’s Chris Wheeler, however, is looming at 9-under 207.
If Grider is able to close it out on Sunday, he’d join the likes of Ben Crenshaw, Charles Coody, Mark Brooks, Scott Verplank and so many other Lone Star State legends as Texas Amateur champions. There’s still a lot of golf to be played, but the significance of a victory was not lost on the highly talented and soft-spoken Grider.
“It would be very special,” he said. “Just the names up on that trophy, it would be a dream come true to be up on there with some of the great golfers in Texas.”
Grider made five birdies in the third round. Perhaps more impressive, he only suffered two bogeys as the field played through high winds that reached 30 mph in the early afternoon. Over and again, Grider saved par with touch and creativity around the greens. On the long par-4 17th, for example, his second shot came to rest on a downhill lie just inside a greenside bunker. He had no stance inside the sand trap; he had to stand outside of it and squat low to address the ball.
Then he splashed it out to 5 feet and drained the putt.
“It was tough,” he said. “I had to rely on my short game all day. I didn’t hit it great off the tee; it was very sporadic. I tried to get up and down from everywhere.”
Wheeler, a 36-year-old mid-amateur, just shook his head. Then he complemented Grider on the par save. A 2005 Tulane graduate and reinstated amateur, Wheeler finished his third round at 2-under 70. He made five birdies and an eagle against three bogeys and a double-bogey.
“It was another grind,” he said. “It was really windy, and the rough was tougher today than earlier in the week. I’m pleased with 70 even though I gave back a few there in the last four holes.”
With rounds of 64-73-70, Wheeler is rightfully proud of his performance so far. He and Grider have a bit of a cushion over the rest of the field. The next closest challengers are Scott Abbott from Dallas and Arlington’s Paul Gonzalez; they’re both at 5-under 211 overall. Abbott, the 2015 Texas Mid-Amateur champion, recorded a 3-under 69 in the third round. Gonzalez, a junior at UT-Arlington, came in with 1-under 71.
Michael Cotton, who won the 106th Texas Amateur in 2015, holds fifth place at 4-under 212.
The Blue Course at DAC is where Nicklaus won the 1963 PGA Championship. He returned in 1986 to renovate the original Ralph Plummer design. The old school parkland course features tree-lined fairways, thoughtful doglegs and water hazards on 12 of the 18 holes. In addition to the challenges the course presents, the severe winds on Saturday tested all 62 players who survived Friday’s 36-hole cut.
It was already whipping at 15-18 mph when the first players teed off at 8 a.m. By the time the leaders teed off at 9:40 a.m., the winds were up in the 20 mph range with gusts of 25 mph. At 2 p.m., when Grider and Wheeler were battling down the stretch, the gusts reached 30 mph.
“It’s guesswork to try and get the right yardage,” Wheeler said of playing in this kind of wind. “Especially out of the rough, anytime you’re doing calculations on roughly 10 yards affected, 15 yards affected (by the wind), it’s just one of those things where you hope you’re right.”
The 110th Texas Amateur’s final round looks to be a two-man race between Grider and Wheeler. Nothing is certain in major championship golf, however, and one of the other skilled players could go low early and post a number that makes the leaders nervous. It all gets started Sunday at 8 a.m.