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Howard, Huddy top Texas Mid-Amateur leaderboard after Day 1
Jeff Howard (TGA photo)
Jeff Howard (TGA photo)

Jeff Howard from Plano and Walker Huddy of Dallas sit tied for the lead after one round of the 2019 Texas Mid-Amateur Championship. Both players fired rounds of 1-under-par 71 on Friday at vaunted Maridoe Golf Club.

Howard, a 33-year-old recently reinstated amateur, made four birdies on Maridoe’s perfectly conditioned, yet tricky greens. The former St. Edwards University All-American played five years as a professional on various mini-tours, but the USGA reinstated Howard’s amateur status in July.

While in school, Howard led the Hilltoppers to the NCAA Division II national championship in 2008. He shot a 66 in the final round to get St. Edwards into a playoff, where the team ultimately finished in second place. In addition to earning All-American honors his senior year, Howard was a two-time academic All-American at St. Edwards.

“If you keep it in play you’ve got some chances out here,” said Howard, who was inducted into the St. Edwards Hall of Fame earlier this year. “The greens are in such great shape that there are opportunities. But there are also mistakes to be made everywhere out here, too. It doesn’t take much to snowball on you pretty quick.”

Huddy, who moved to Dallas from Los Angeles less than two months ago, made an eagle on the uphill par-5 fourth hole to go along with two birdies. Huddy played collegiately at Cal-Berkeley, where he notched six career top-20 finishes. Huddy is in his second year as a sports agent working for Hambric Sports. Among their clients are former TGA and Legends Junior Tour standouts Scottie Scheffler and Cody Gribble.

“I kept it in play, which is key around here,” Huddy said. “My speed was pretty good around the greens. I just didn’t get in trouble. I had an eagle on No. 4 and I was 2-over at that point, so it kind of turn things around.”

On a hot, sticky day at Maridoe, the most difficult golf course in Texas with a Slope and Rating of 80.5/155 from the back tees, only Howard and Huddy finished under par. They share a one-stroke lead over Rob Couture of Dallas and Carrollton’s Rick Sulzer. Couture and Sulzer both came in with rounds of even-par 72.

Two shots behind the leaders at 1-over 73 are Mike Louden of Frisco, Austin’s Alex Woodward and Marcus Jones from Argyle. That trio shares fifth place headed into Saturday’s second round of the 54-hole championship.

The talented field of 132 of the best mid-amateurs in the state combined for an 80.94 scoring average in the first round. While the scores were understandably high on such a demanding course, there are 24 players within five shots of Howard and Huddy.v San Antonio’s Colby Harwell, the two-time defending Texas Mid-Amateur Champion, finished the first round at 3-over 75. He’s tied for 12th place.

Since opening in 2017, Maridoe has gained a reputation as an ideal competitive player’s course. Demanding off the tee, the course features surprising elevation changes, looming water hazards and difficult green complexes. The hip-high wispy grass that paints the fringes of play adds to the venue’s natural beauty but also gobbles up errant shots. Even the best players can labor at Maridoe. The club’s world-class practice facilities, including a sprawling two-ended driving range and a three-acre short game area accentuate the club’s stature.

The 2019 Texas Mid-Amateur is the third TGA Championship to be played at Maridoe. In its short existence, the club has welcomed the 2018 Texas Four-Ball and 2017 Texas Shootout. The club also played host to this summer’s 116th Trans-Mississippi Amateur and the annual Maridoe Collegiate Invitational. Maridoe is also scheduled to host the 2020 Southern Amateur Championship.

Previously known as The Honors Club and before that Columbian Club before the most recent redesign, Maridoe was recognized in 2018 by Golf Digest as one of the best new courses in the country. The par-72 course has five sets of tees and measures 7,834 yards from the tips with a rating of 80.5 and a slope of 155.

ABOUT THE Texas Mid-Amateur

Eligibility: Entries are open to male golfers with a USGA Handicap index of 8.4 or less, and who are 25 years of age or older by the first day of championship qualifying.

Format/Field Size: 54 holes of stroke play. At the completion of 36 holes the field is cut to the low 54 players and ties. The field is limited to 132 players.

Mid-Master Recognition: In addition to the overall champion, an award will be given to the low Mid- Master finisher. (Mid-Master – any player 40+ years of age)

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