When Dallas amateur Rob Couture walked his many green grass paths last week during the 103rd playing of the Texas State Amateur at Dallas’ Lakewood Country Club, he saw plenty of familiar places and plenty of familiar faces.
A Lakewood member since 2006, and an active competitor in Texas Golf Association events since 2005, Couture said last week’s state tournament was a very special walk in the park regardless of the final outcome.
It was a chance to play his home course, his favorite, in front of family and friends and fellow competitors he has learned to appreciate.
“It’s always nice to be able to play in Dallas and to play a meaningful tournament on your home course was a lot of fun,” he said. “You don’t get many chances like this and to do it at Lakewood was great.”
Couture, 36, grew up in the southeastern United States and played collegiately at East Tennessee State University. But by graduation he knew his career was not in the play-for-pay circuit, but as a career golf-loving amateur.
“I was always a role player, I knew pro golf wasn’t for me,” Couture said.
He came to Dallas in 1999 to work for Barney Adams at Adams Golf and was amazed and appreciative of all the golf opportunities he had with his new job.
Through a variety of roles at Adams, he came into contact with TGA Executive Director Rob Addington and began to play in TGA events.
“Rob has always been very loyal to tournaments and to the TGA and what we’re trying to do here in Texas,’ Addington said. “We have a wide variety of tournaments for a wide variety of skills, but the mid-amateur golfer is really important and plays a big role.”
Couture re-entered competitive golf in his new state in 2005 and since has won the Texas Mid-Amateur, for players 25 years and older, at Lakewood in 2008 and won the Canadian Mid-Amateur in the summer of 2011, which earned him a spot in this year’s PGA Tour Canadian Open.
He said returning to his home course last week for the Texas Amateur and the prestigious H.L. Edwards tournament, named for one of the true pioneers of Texas golf, was motivational for his goal of upholding the career amateur against the onslaught of college players that have dominated the TGA State Amateur recently.
“Lakewood is a unique course because from tee to green its not super challenging, but the greens are very challenging and you have to know the breaks and subtleties of the course,” Couture said. “You could see some of the young guys challenged to control their ball out there.”
Before the tournament, plenty of Couture’s friends and fellow competitors burned up the phone lines to get some advance tournament knowledge.
“I got a lot of calls about the course, but I didn’t want to spill everything I know,” he said.
At just 6,570 yards from the back tees, the par-71 Lakewood definitely emphasizes brains over brawn. It originally was designed by golf course architecture legend and Scotland native Tom Bendelow in 1912.
It has been renovated by Ralph Plummer, and most recently Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, still keeping its devilish charm where might doesn’t always mean right on the scorecard.
The average age for this year’s field was seven-years older than last year, when college star Kelly Kraft won at the more modern Austin Country Club and went on to win the U.S. Amateur a month later.
The TGA State Amateur past champions list is littered with familiar names like Bruce Lietzke, Bob Estes, Scott Verplank, Mark Brooks and Crenshaw, all of whom went on to win PGA Tour events and millions in prize money.
“To see players who have won the state amateur in Texas with as much history and success as this state has had is a pretty big badge of honor,” Addington said.
After leaving Adams in 2009, Couture formed a sports agency in Dallas and now works with professional golfers and others. His schedule often allows him to play one or two times a week at Lakewood and more time to practice for the big events.
“It’s definitely a home-course advantage,” Couture admitted. “Although I’d rather play than practice.”
But more than that, last week at Lakewood proved a celebration of a special golf home for a career amateur, happy to celebrate the game, what it means to him, and any victories that came along the way.
The prestigious Northwood Club in Dallas hosted a special celebration last week when it celebrated the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Open being held there in June 1952.
The Open was won by Julius Boros, who defeated favorite Ben Hogan, of Fort Worth, after Hogan drove it out of bounds on Northwood’s sixth hole.
To celebrate the anniversary, longtime head professional Bob Elliott hosted a panel of pros and amateurs, including Don January, a Northwood member, Dow Finsterwald Sr., Bill Trombley and Herb Durham.
All four played in the ’52 Open, the only one held in Dallas and only the second held in Texas. They shared memories of the classic course and the national championship that came to Northwood less than a decade after it had opened.
Longtime golf writer Dan Jenkins, who recently was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, also recorded a video tribute to the course and the Open he covered.
“It was a special time to have everyone come together to remember the Open at such a special course,” Elliott said.