Bret Gray (Texas G.A. photo)
Bret Gray from San Antonio won the 114th Texas Amateur with a two-putt par on the first playoff hole Sunday at The Clubs at Houston Oaks. With a four-day total of 11-under-par 273, the Sam Houston State junior became the first wire-to-wire Texas Amateur winner in more than a decade.
“It hasn’t really set in yet. It still feels like a dream,” Gray said minutes after the playoff concluded. “I’m super excited and blessed. Just glad I could finish it off. It was a hard-fought day out there.”
Gray defeated Oklahoma sophomore Jase Summy in the extra session. The two talented competitors separated themselves from the rest of the field during Friday’s second round and dueled for most of the weekend. They finished seven shots clear of the rest of the field.
Gray held Summy at bay for much of the final round until Gray’s second shot on the par-5 16th. With a three-shot lead, he tugged a fairway wood into the thick, gnarly Bahia grass left of the green. Gray gouged out his next shot short of the green and suffered a bogey. Meanwhile, Summy walked in a 15-foot birdie. After that exchange, Gray’s lead was trimmed to one shot.
After pars on the 17th hole, Gray made another mistake on his approach into 18 green. Playing about 100 yards away in the right rough, Gray caught a flier. Instead of checking up on the green, it bounced hard and plunked into the water behind it. That led to another bogey. Summy made par to force the playoff at 11-under.
Gray’s drive on the extra hole rattled into one of the century-old oak trees in the 18th fairway. He caught a good bounce, however, and it finished harmlessly in the fairway. Summy blew his drive out to right and had a partially obstructed view on his approach shot. Gray hit his approach safely to 20 feet. Summy’s approach came up shot and left him 80 feet from the hole.
When Summy’s par putt just missed, Gray finally exhaled.
“That’s the first playoff I’ve ever won,” he said. “I’ve been in two others in my life, and one was when I was about 12 years old. I made a little bit better shot into the green the second time around.”
Gray becomes the first wire-to-wire winner since Texas Tech’s Chris Ward won the 101st edition at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas back in 2010. Also playing in that Texas Amateur were a pair of fresh-faced juniors who grew up to become Masters champions. Jordan Spieth, 16 years old at the time, finished T8. Scottie Scheffler, 14, was T14.
Now Gray has something Scheffler and Spieth don’t: a Texas Amateur victory. Gray’s name will be engraved onto the historic H.L. Edwards Memorial Trophy alongside the likes of Ben Crenshaw, Charles Coody, Scott Verplank, Mark Brooks, and Will Zalatoris.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “A special feeling, for sure. Hopefully I can have a great career like they all did.”
Not lost in all the drama was the fact that Gray’s victory came on Father’s Day. His dad John Gray walked the margins of the fairways all week in support of his son. Understandably, he was emotional after the win.
“I’m feeling wonderful,” he managed to say with watery eyes. “He played great golf all week. It couldn’t be a better Father’s Day than to watch him, then I get to go home and have dinner with my other sons.”
For Summy’s part, he was upbeat in defeat.
“For the week, I played all right,” he said. “All you can ask for is a chance to win, and that’s what I had. I’m thankful for that. I played pretty good, but it could’ve been a lot better.”
Travis Woolf, a mid-amateur from Fort Worth, finished in third place at 4-under 280. Plano’s Ethan Fang took fourth place at 3-under 281. Fifth place belonged to Baylor junior Luke Dossey with a 72-hole score of 2-under 282.
As it was all week, the temperatures climbed into the high 90s with triple-digit heat indexes on Sunday. The day saw some of the strongest winds of the tournament, however. There were gusts of 30 mph for most of the morning.
“The course played tough today, especially with the wind,” said Spring’s Carson Cooper, who finished T15 at 5-over 289. “Teeing it up at 8:40 in the morning, you’re not used to it gusting 25 mph on the first tee. It played tough, but it’s a championship-style golf course, and this is an elite championship. So it should play tough.”
Formerly known as Tennwood Country Club in the 1950s, Houston Oaks was reinvented into its current, majestic state after acclaimed architect Chet Williams led a multimillion-dollar renovation in 2016-17. Ranked as the No. 7 course in Texas according to the 2023 Dallas Morning News Top-100 rankings, Houston Oaks is the epitome of a championship-quality venue.
Stretched all the way back, the breathtaking par-71 course is 7,007 yards. The competitors in the 114th Texas Amateur played it at 6,914 in Sunday’s final round. The brilliant routing snakes through rolling topography that features more than 1,000 giant oak trees. Houston Oaks also offers several natural water features to avoid, as well as thick, native Bahia grass waiting to gobble up golf balls that stray too far from the fairways.
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