Texas Open started the historic San Antonio race at the Brackenridge Golf Club

In a city that keeps and celebrates its history with so much fanfare, the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Texas Open, the third-oldest PGA Tour event and the longest-running in a single host city, is an opportunity for the San Antonians to look back with pride and forward impatiently.

You don’t have to play or watch sports to appreciate this city’s past role in changing the course of the United States.. the history of professional golf and, today, its contemporary impact on charitable fundraising.

San Antonio became the birthplace of the so-called professional golf winter tour in 1922 when the pros left their familiar East Coast courses for overnight train rides to the Sun Belt and the first Texas Open held at the Brackenridge Golf Club, which opened in 1916. A plaque commemorating the birthplace of the Texas Open was unveiled in Brackenridge on Wednesday.

Jack O’Brien, then editor of the San Antonio Evening News, had the idea to bring the best golfers here for a winter tournament in sunny San Antonio. He did so by collecting over $ 5,000 in prizes, with $ 1,633 going to the eventual winner at a presentation dinner at the Menger Hotel.

Professional golfers had never seen a handbag like this, and the lure worked. Scottish-born pro Bob MacDonald, then a Chicago resident, won the inaugural tournament and declared himself “the luckiest man in the world” as he collected his winnings.

Over the next 27 years, some of golf’s biggest names – Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead – won the Texas Open. The winter tour that started here has spanned annual events ranging from Los Angeles to Miami.

Still, the Texas Open could very well have died 20 years ago as it lost sponsors, moved from golf course to golf course, and the busy PGA Tour schedule relegated the event. second class status.

Then everything changed. The reason, in a nutshell, is Valero. Under CEO Bill Greehey, the global energy refiner assumed sponsorship of the Texas Open in 2002. Greehey and Valero made the renamed Valero Texas Open the biggest charity event on the PGA Tour. Under his successor, Bill Klesse, and now CEO Joe Gorder, president of the 100th anniversary event, the Texas Open flourished. Since 2010 he has been played at TPC San Antonio.

Almost all of the $ 187 million in charitable funds raised over the tournament’s history has been raised at the Valero Texas Open in the past 19 years.

Last year, when Dallas native Jordan Spieth claimed the win, the event raised $ 16 million for charity. Spieth will be back from March 31 to April 3 to defend his title. With the 2022 Masters at Augusta National slated for the following week, the 2022 pitch could be one of the most competitive ever played at the Texas Open.

Larson Segerdahl, executive director of the Valero Texas Open, hosted a lunch program that included Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff speaking about the historic Brackenridge and its defining location near the sources of the San Antonio River.

World Golf Hall of Fame member and Dallas native Lee Trevino stole the show Wednesday at the Valero plaque commemoration event when he sat down for a conversation with the associate professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and sports journalist Kevin Robbins, who initially joked that a question-and-answer session with Trevino often left no room for real questions, only time for a series of gripping, well-told stories.

Trevino opened up professional golf to Mexican American players, working class players and others who roamed municipal courses far removed from country clubs and top college programs that produced white pros dominating the pro ranks and the PGA Tour. . He really didn’t take golf seriously until he left the Marine Corps at the age of 21 and landed a $ 100-a-week job to help run a public driving range in Dallas, this which gives him ample time to train for free.

At 5-foot-7 and 180 pounds, Trevino has become one of golf’s most accomplished shooters, winning the PGA Tour 29 times, including six majors, and 29 more times on the Champions Tour. He led the PGA Championship at the Pecan Valley Golf Club after three rounds in 1968, but told members of the public that he accidentally drank two glasses of Gatorade mixed with tequila in his hotel room refrigerator during the night, leaving it wobbly and off to a good start for the final round.

Trevino electrified audiences when he recounted the 1974 Western Open when he was struck by lightning, lifted off the ground and thought he saw the afterlife before being revived and rehabilitated over the course of the next five months.

Golf reporter Kevin Robbins takes a selfie with retired professional golfer Lee Trevino over lunch at Brackenridge Park Golf Course on Wednesday. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

His record included a victory at the 1980 Texas Open in a town Trevino said he loves and visits regularly.

Also in attendance was San Antonio resident and former PGA Tour pro David Ogrin, who now runs the David Ogrin Golf Academy in New Braunfels. Ogrin won the 1996 Texas Open at the La Cantera Resort Course, beating rookie Tiger Woods by two strokes in his only appearance at the event in his career.

“I beat Tiger Woods so badly he never came back,” Ogrin joked several times.

Valero is planning a series of additional 100th anniversary events over the next few months, which will include stops at the other seven San Antonio golf courses where the Texas Open has been held in the decades after he left Brackenridge. in 1959.

Robbins is the author of a book on the history of the Texas Open that will be published ahead of the 2022 tournament. His words on the plaque unveiled Wednesday tell a bit about that story.

“With clubs with hickory shafts and rubber mats that acted as tees, Bob MacDonald, a club professional born in Scotland in Chicago, won the first Texas Open at this venue in the winter of 1922… It all started here, under these storied oaks. and runny pecans that keep Tillinghast’s iconic (AW) imprint. A game at Old Brack is a walk through the history of the Texas Open and a peaceful community with the heyday of American golf course design.

Bob’s son Bill MacDonald was on hand to remember his father’s victory after audiences viewed this video of the event’s story.

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