When it comes to defending Texas amateur golf, San Antonio’s Chip Puhl and John Pierce feel they’ve found a cause worth fighting for.
The longtime amateur players and golf organizers have played in many tough tournaments and competed in many events together, but now they’re competing in one of the toughest competitions of their lives, trying to save historic Pecan Valley Golf Club in San Antonio, the site of the 1968 PGA Championship.
“This is the last thing this part of town needs, having more parking lots, driveways and apartments,” Puhl said. “We think this is a fight worth fighting for and one where we can prevail. The local neighborhood is united in wanting to see the golf course remain.”
The final decision likely will be made this spring. Course owner and developer Foresight Golf, which closed the course in January, wants to plow the layout to develop apartments or use the property for wounded veterans.
Foresight cited reduced play at Pecan Valley and several years of losing money since taking over the property six years ago as their reason for closing the facility, which also hosted three PGA Tour Texas Open tournaments.
Further complicating matters is that Foresight owns The Republic golf course, only five miles away, which has done very well financially. It leaves some to wonder if Foresight has a vested business interest in seeing Pecan Valley reopen, or ever prosper.
While Foresight closed the course citing poor business conditions, it can’t proceed with its plans of on-course housing without city council and planning and zoning approval.
Pecan Valley opened in the early 1960s, a par-72 design from Press Maxwell, the son of golf architect legend Perry Maxwell. It hosted the three Texas Opens, one won by future PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman, and the 1968 PGA Championship won by Julius Boros with Arnold Palmer a close second.
Later, Pecan Valley hosted the 2001 USGA Amateur Public Links along with dozens of amateur events, including the Texas Golf Association and the Northern and Southern PGA sectional tournaments.
If left shuttered, Pecan Valley would be the first major championship course closed since 1938.
Both Puhl and Pierce played in plenty of those events at Pecan Valley, which motivated them to lead the well-publicized fight when they received notice of Foresight’s plan to close the course.
“It’s like losing a friend, seeing the course close,” Pierce said. “That’s why we have to do what it takes to keep it going.”
Puhl, a San Antonio stockbroker, has worked to assemble a group of individuals who could buy the course and turn it over to the growing Alamo City Golf Trail, which oversees public golf in the city.
Of course, Foresight does not have the course up for sale and has stated it will not open again.
“We are going up against them (Foresight) in debates, in city planning and ultimately in the city council. We need urban green spaces. We need historic courses like Pecan Valley,” Puhl said.
Texas always has been the birthplace of great amateurs, great college players and great professionals, but the past few weeks have showcased that fact once again for the entire golf world to see.
On the last weekend in February, Hunter Mahan, who grew up in McKinney and now lives in Dallas, won the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play with a nationally televised thumping of Ireland’s Rory McIlroy in Arizona.
At the same time, across the Pacific Ocean in Singapore, Fort Worth’s Angela Stanford captured the LPGA event. And the following week, North Texas PGA member Paul Haley won the Nationwide Tour event in Chile. It’s a two-week, Texas three-step for more Lone Star pro golfing supremacy.
If you’re looking for the next Texas comeback story, it would be wise not to overlook 2004 Open Championship winner Todd Hamilton, who lives in Westlake, near the DFW Airport.
Still fully exempt in Europe, Hamilton has limited chances to play on the PGA Tour, but he recorded the first top-20 finish of the year in Puerto Rico last week and will look forward to playing more during the Texas PGA Tour swing this spring.
“It’s pretty nice to be playing on the weekend,” Hamilton said.
The first showcase junior golf tournament of the year, the Spring Preview for the TGA’s Legends Junior Tour was won by Longview’s Bryce Allen, who captured the boys open division with a 1-under-par 71 and a 145 total at Woodforest Golf Club at Fish Creek, outside of Houston.
Julia Beck, from Austin, won the girls open division title with a 151 total. Houston’s Travis Vick shot a dazzling final-round 69 after an opening 80 for a 149 total and a victory in the boys 14-and-under division.
The Legends Spring Preview was the first Texas junior tournament of the year offering Golfweek and Scoreboard national junior golf points..