Spring marks the PGA's Texas Swing

By David R. Holland, Contributor

FORT WORTH, Texas -- It's that time again in Texas -- spring and the Texas Swing. It will be hard to top the excitement of last year's Bank of America Colonial. Annika Sorenstam, the first woman to play in a PGA Tour event in 58 years, brought in huge galleries and Metroplex local Justin Leonard's 61 on the final day was a fitting finale.

This year Kenny Perry will defend his title the week of May 17-23, hoping to win back-to-back and the more than $900,000 first-place purse.

The Colonial has a rich history of giving to charities and 2004 will be no different. Cook Children's Medical Center is one that benefits from the money generated. The tourney began in 1946, known as the Colonial National Invitation, and is now the longest running PGA Tour event still held at its original site.

Byron Nelson Championship in Dallas

This year's EDS Byron Nelson Championship is scheduled for the week of May 10-16 and Vijay Singh is returning to defend his 2003 title.

For the fourth straight year, the EDS Byron Nelson Championship received the PGA Tour Tournaments Association Benefactor Award for leading the tour in charitable contributions. Set for the Four Seasons Resort and Club Las Colinas in Irving, the tournament is a superstar for charities -- last year $5.74 million in proceeds went to the Salesmanship Club Youth and Family Centers.

Singh registered birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 last year on Sunday to win by two strokes over Nick Price, earning his second victory of the 2003 season. If you remember, he said no to the Colonial because of Sorenstam's entry.

Shell Houston Open

When Fred Couples became the first former University of Houston player to win the Shell Houston Open last year he was proclaimed one of the most popular winners in the history of the event -- spanning 55 tournaments. This year's championship is set for Redstone Golf Club from April 19 to 25.

Couples pocketed $810,000 for his victory with a winning score of 267 on the Redstone layout designed by Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy. The Houston Golf Association's move from The Woodlands also resulted in easier parking, more grandstands open to the public and more money going to area charities. Contributions from the event have increased for 11 consecutive years.

Escondido near Horseshoe Bay

Talk comes and goes about more golf courses in this beautiful Hill Country area where Horseshoe Bay Resort draws thousands of travel golfers each year.

Horseshoe Bay includes the award-winning Ram Rock Course, Applerock and Slickrock, but a fourth course has been discussed for years. Talks are on-going and when I visited there several years ago I was taken to a site and told "this is where the new Flintrock course will be." Through the years Nicklaus Design has been consulted as was Randy Russell and Roy Bechtol of Austin. But another course is still a unfulfilled dream.

Now comes word that someone else has actually planned another golf course for the area -- an 18-hole layout designed by Tom Fazio called Escondido. Brady Oman, who built Northshore on Lake Travis near Austin, is the developer.

This master-planned golf community projects 300 single-family houses and 90 casitas located on the golf course. The 484-acre site is located three miles from Horseshoe Bay's layouts on the southern side of Lake LBJ and is closer to the scenic town of Marble Falls.

Horseshoe Bay Resort is also redoing its Marriott Hotel -- which is upping the room count by 250 to 349. Its grand opening is scheduled for October.

Escondido reports that PGA Tour veteran Fred Funk was one of the first to purchase. Sites for homes will be a half acre and larger, priced $175,000 to $500,000. Casitas will be large -- 1,700- to 2,700-square feet.

Fazio has some experience designing courses in the Hill Country. His previous works include the original course at Barton Creek called Fazio Foothills west of Austin, and the Canyons Course at Barton Creek. Canyons is ranked No. 1 by GolfTexas.com's list of top public-access courses and Foothills is No. 2.

This and that

Chris Wilczynski, lead designer for Arthur Hills, reports that they are working a new project near Bastrop, with a start date this summer. "It is called (for now) the Austin-Bastrop Resort," said Wilczynski. "It is an awesome, Top 10 site with no homes. The developer in the Woodbine Development Corp., out of Dallas. They developed the Hill Country Hyatt in San Antonio, Kierland in Scottsdale and a few others." The course hopes to open in 2006.

The Golf Channel's The Big Break II came to the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Irving on March 20 to select 10 players to join five other regional auditions for a chance to compete in the reality golf show.

American Golf Corporation has closed nine Nike Golf Learning Centers in Texas. Sites include Mesquite Golf Course, Plano's Ridgeview Ranch, Riverchase in Coppell, Irving's Twin Wells, Rockwall's Buffalo Creek and Rowlett's WaterView.

Bill Cawley has formed a new company to rescue troubled golf courses. Cawley Golf Inc. has hired Greg Smith, former director of golf at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, and its first project will be to save Tyler's Briarwood Golf Course. They changed the name to Cascades Golf Club, and it includes 300 acres that skirts the south shore of Bellwood Lake. Residential development will be part of the company's game plan.

Delaware Springs Golf Course, 12 miles south of Burnet, is one of Texas' hidden gems, but a group of citizens are voicing opposition to connect a new development called The Ranch at Delaware Springs, with the existing road system and golf course.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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