HOUSTON—Tommy Brennan from Covington, La., shot a second consecutive 71 on Wednesday at Houston Country Club and holds the 36-hole Trans-Miss Senior Championship lead at even-par 142. Mike Booker from The Woodlands, Texas, is two shots back after a pair of 72s brought his total to 144. The final round begins Thursday at 8 a.m.
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In the Legends Division for amateurs aged 70 years and older, Jim Martin from Dallas closed hard with an even-par 71 to win the 36-hole championship for the second straight year. He finished at 6-over 148 overall and defeated Trans-Miss Golf Association President Phil Patterson by four shots.
“This is special because I played my first Trans-Miss event right here at Houston Country Club for the 1982 Four-Ball,” said Martin, a 71-year-old CPA. “I’ve been playing in Trans-Miss events for 30 years now. I just think the Trans-Miss is the first-class operation of amateur golf, especially for seniors. I like giving back to the game through contributions. For our age group, I think that’s important.”
Martin made two birdies in his final round and said keeping his ball in the fairway off the tees was the key.
“Playing from the fairway on this course is what opens everything up,” said Martin, who also won the Trans-Miss Four-Ball in 1987 with Travis Thompson from Dallas. “I also made some good, par-saving two-putts today.”
Brennan, a 55-year-old who has worked for Merrill Lynch for 28 years, was the runner-up at the 1994 U.S. Mid-Amateur and has teed it up in 28 USGA national championships. He’s the reigning Louisiana Senior Amateur Champion and said the classic nature of Houston Country Club’s thought-provoking, tree-lined fairways and tricky, pushed-up greens make him more than just a little comfortable.
“This course reminds me a lot of home,” Brennan said. “I grew up playing New Orleans Country Club. All the oak trees, the temperature and humidity here and the overall feel of this place is very familiar.”
Brennan started his round on No. 10 and finished his first nine holes in a flurry. He made birdies on the 15th, 17th and 18th holes before turning to the front nine. He admittedly suffered some hiccups coming in; he made bogeys on his last two holes.
“I made a couple loose swings yesterday that cost me,” he said. “I made a couple more today. Overall, I’m driving the ball well. That works here.”
Booker also drove the ball in the fairway Wednesday. The 61-year-old founder and president of a Houston-based financial planning firm said he had a much better ball-striking day than on Tuesday. Booker won the 2015 Texas Senior Amateur at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio and said Houston Country Club shares some characteristics with Oak Hills.
“If you make mistakes on this course, you get caught off balance,” said Booker, a winner of nine Texas Golf Association championships and a 14-time USGA national championship contestant. “But it’s such a good driving course. It’s challenging. There are four or five short par 4s, so you think those are birdie holes. Actually, those are some of the toughest on the course.”
Alone in third place in the Senior Division is Trans-Miss Board Member John McClure, who shot the round of the day, a bogey-free 67 that he described as “stress-free.” Paired with his first round 78, McClure is tied with Chuck Palmer from Dallas at 3-over 145, three strokes behind Brennan. Palmer, one of three overnight leaders, shot a second round 3-over 74.
“I hit every green except the last one, and I hit every fairway except one,” said McClure, who lives in Los Angeles and grew up in Lubbock, Texas. “That’s what you have to do on this golf course.”
Winner of the Southern California Mid-Amateur in 2005, McClure started his round on the 10th hole and promptly missed a 3-footer for birdie. That was about the only thing that went wrong all day, however. He rolled in a downhill, 25-foot birdie on No. 14 and poured in another from 6 feet on No. 15. When McClure made the turn to the front side, he added birdies on the first and fourth holes. The par-4 first hole has been playing more than a half-stroke over par and had yielded only two other birdies all week.
Tied for fifth place at 5-over 147 are defending champion Jeff New from Scottsdale, Ariz., and Ramiro Romo from Burlington, Wis. Romo used a hole-out from a bunker on No. 4 and a subsequent 8-foot birdie on No. 5 to post 1-under 70.
An original Robert Trent Jones design from 1956, Houston Country Club played to a stroke average of 78.28 in the first two rounds for the Senior Division.
In the Super Senior Division (65 years and older), Gary Kirwan from McKinney, Texas, leads with 7-over 149. He backed up his 74 on Tuesday with a 75 in the second round. Kirwan is one shot ahead of Jody Vasquez from Aledo, Texas, who has fired rounds of 74-76 to get to 8-over 150. Vasquez, a former ball shagger for nine-time major champion Ben Hogan, won the 2014 Texas Super Senior Amateur at the Hawk’s home club of Shady Oaks Country Club in Fort Worth.
Five-time Trans-Miss Senior champ Chris Maletis from Portland, Ore., shares third place in the Super Senior Division with Mickey McDonald from Shreveport, La. They’re both 9-over 151.
Five players in the field have an extra advantage over the rest in that they’re playing their home course. Houston Country Club members Jimmy Burke is tied for eighth place at 6-over 148; Hunter Nelson shares part of 18th place at 11-over 153; Tracy Stephens is tied for 34th at 16-over 158; and Bob Palmquist shares 38th at 18-over 160. Loren Singletary is the lone Houston Country Club member in the Super Seniors Division. He currently sits in fifth place at 10-over 152.
About the Trans-Mississippi Golf Association
The Trans-Mississippi Golf Association is one of the oldest and most prestigious golf organizations in the United States. Established in 1901, the Trans-Mississippi is composed of over 200 member clubs located throughout the country. The Association is governed by a board of independent directors and is headquartered in Dallas, TX.
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