All posts by Brandon Crosby

First PGA Tour win for Todd at Byron Nelson

 

Atlanta, Ga. native Brendon Todd shot a sparkling, bogey-free, 66 in the final round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship to win his first PGA Tour event. Todd defeated former Masters champion, Mike Weir, by two strokes, finishing the Tournament at 14 under par.

Todd’s victory earned him a two-year PGA Tour exemption, as well as, his own invitation to next year’s Masters.

“Yeah, I’m excited about the relief of feeling like I finally have a chance to play the PGA Tour for multiple years. Number one, going to Augusta for the Masters is a dream come true,” Todd said.

Weir’s second place finish marked his best result since 2009, when he was runner-up to Dustin Johnson at Pebble Beach. The Canadian suffered a partial ligament tear in his right elbow in 2010, but appears to have finally returned to form for the first time since the injury.

Weir’s final round 67 put him at 12 under for the Tournament. Charles Howell III and Marc Leishman tied for third at 10 under. Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, was paired with Todd in the final group, but shot a 74 to finish at 6 under in a tie for 11th.

While Weir led early on in the final round, Todd took the lead for good with consecutive birdies on holes nine and 10. His most remarkable shot, however, would come on the 13th. An errant tee shot put Todd in an awkward position next to a tree, where he flipped his club backward and swung left-handed at the ball, managing to land it within 7 feet of the cup.

Todd, a University of Georgia graduate, is the fifth former Bulldog player to win on the PGA Tour this season. He joined Masters’ champion Bubba Watson, Harris English, Russell Henley and Chris Kirk.

Jordan Spieth, the 20-year-old Dallas native and University of Texas alum, struggled over the weekend to finish at 2 under with a final round 68.

“[A]lthough I would like to win this Tournament playing in front of family and friends, specifically, didn’t happen this week, but I’ve got a lot of years to go at this place, and look forward to ‘em,” Spieth said.

U.S. Junior Amateur Champion Scottie Scheffler, the 17-year-old from Highland Park, finished tied for 22nd in his first PGA TOUR career start. Scheffler, who earned a sponsor’s exemption to play in the event, had one of the highlights of the weekend with his ace on hole two in the third round.

North Texas LPGA Shootout win special for Texas native Lewis

Stacy Lewis, winner of the North Texas LPGA Shootout, stands triumphantly with her  trophy at the awards ceremony held May 4 at the Las Colinas Country Club. Lewis is a  texas native and a six-year veteran golfer. Lewis took home a whopping $195,000 for  her title win during the Shootout. / Photo by John Starkey
Stacy Lewis, winner of the North Texas LPGA Shootout, stands triumphantly with her
trophy at the awards ceremony held May 4 at the Las Colinas Country Club. Lewis is a
texas native and a six-year veteran golfer. Lewis took home a whopping $195,000 for
her title win during the Shootout. / Photo by John Starkey

The Woodlands, Texas native and University of Arkansas graduate Stacy Lewis captured a runaway victory on May 4, in the North Texas LPGA Shootout. Lewis finished the tournament at -16; ahead of Meena Lee, -10; and Michelle Wie, -9.

As Lewis made her way up the 18th fairway, during the final round at Las Colinas Country Club with a six-shot lead, she heard a raucous ovation from the fans lining the course. The only thing on her mind, however, was making her birdie putt.

“I never let up until I hit that last putt,” Lewis said.

Lewis sank that final birdie putt on the 18th hole to clinch the title, notching her 9th win on the LPGA tour and her first win of 2014. Her six-stroke margin of victory marked the largest on the tour in nearly a year and a half.

But this wasn’t just another win for Lewis. The feeling of winning in her home state made it a much more satisfying and special victory.

“I can’t tell you how special it is to be back in Texas and to win here in front of my home fans and my family. I can’t tell you how cool this is for me and it ranks up there as one of my best wins.”

One of the most remarkable things about Lewis’ win might not be anything about the way she played, but rather, how she even managed to become a professional golfer.

When she was 11, Lewis was diagnosed with scoliosis – an abnormal curvature of the spine. For nearly the next seven years she wore a back brace almost constantly – even when sleeping – removing it only to play golf.

Lewis also had to have a 6-hour back surgery following the time she spent in a back brace, with 5 screws being inserted into her spine. There was no certainty she would ever swing a club again.

However, not only did she regain her mobility and the ability to play golf, but she began to excel. In her four years at the University of Arkansas, she was a four-time All-American and won the NCAA title in 2007. And she’s managed to ascend the LPGA ranks, winning tournaments and contending for victories in almost every event.

However, in recent weeks, Lewis hasn’t been able to close the deal on a win, finishing no lower than 6th in all but one tournament in 2014.

Maybe that’s what makes a victory in her home state so much more special.

“To do it and to do it here of all places, it’s just one of those things that almost felt like it was meant to be.”

North Texas Shootout (with winner photos)

Photos by Brandon Crosby

Series of upsets precedes weekend play in the Irving Tennis Classic

Lukas Rosol (CZE) pumps his fist after winning the 2014 Irving Tennis Classic Singles Championship on Sunday, March 16, at the Four Seasons Club and Resort. Rosol defeated Steve Johnson (USA) in straight sets.
Lukas Rosol (CZE) pumps his fist after winning the 2014 Irving Tennis Classic Singles Championship on Sunday, March 16, at the Four Seasons Club and Resort. Rosol defeated Steve Johnson (USA) in straight sets.

Things are off to a hot start so far at the 2014 Irving Tennis Classic, which is taking place at the Four Seasons Hotel and Resort in Las Colinas. Entering the weekend, only a handful of favorites remain in contention to win the event.

In singles play, there were several notable upsets in the first two rounds. Perhaps the biggest surprise came in first round play when top seed Vasek Pospisil was knocked off by former Baylor Bear Benjamin Becker, who has since advanced to the quarter final round. A slew of second round upsets included second-seeded Federico Delbonis going down, as well as fourth seed Igor Sijsling and fifth seed Denis Istomin.

Becker and German Tobias Kamke have looked particularly strong through opening round play, as has Austin resident Ryan Harrison, who advanced to the quarter finals. Third seed Lukas Rosol also seems poised to make a push for the tournament crown.

In doubles play, hometown favorite and Four Seasons Sport Club member Alex Pier and fellow American Michael Russell were defeated in the first round by Argentinean duo Guido Pella and Federico Delbonis. American Rajeev Ram and partner Paul Hanley lost in second round action to Jesse Huta Galungand Rosol.

American Scott Lipsky and partner Santiago Gonzalez remain alive in doubles play heading into the weekend and will battle for the doubles title. Rosol and Huta Galung look to be strong candidates to win the tournament as well.

Tournament action will continue through the weekend at the Four Seasons, with semi final play on Saturday and finals for both singles and doubles taking place on Sunday afternoon. SMU will also take the court Sunday morning against Portland at 10 a.m.

Dynamic changes highlight ITC’s search for footing

The newly-minted Irving Tennis Classic, formerly the Dallas Tennis Classic, will kick off March 10 at the Four Seasons Hotel and Resort. While fans may be familiar with the tournament itself, what they may not know is the effect that the sponsorship change will have not only on the tournament, but on the City of Irving, as well.

Tournament Director Zoltan Papp said that negotiations with the City of Irving began in October and that their support is critical to the success of this year’s event.

“It is essential,” Papp said, regarding the City’s involvement and sponsorship. “There are a lot of resources from the City and also the financial support they show will help us showcase what we can do with our tournament.”

In February, the Irving City Council voted to give the Classic a $180,000 incentive. That money will pay for site preparation, scoreboards, chairs and internet setup.

Papp also said the tournament will garner a national and international audience to boost visibility for Irving.

“It’s unbelievable exposure for the city,” Papp said. “Having the City’s name in our courts will not only showcase it in the U.S. in 52 million households, but we web stream it to over 70 countries.”

However, Papp acknowledged that the Irving Tennis Classic is fighting an uphill battle to gain interest among local fans of more traditional professional sports. To that end, he said that the tournament’s attention to providing a quality social atmosphere is something he hopes will draw more spectators to the Four Seasons.

“Our player field will offer great tennis. But we try to figure out different ways of making it a social event,” Papp said.

That field will include premiere players such as defending tournament champion Jurgen Melzer, who is currently ranked No. 38 on the ATP World Tour. Other notable names in the tournament field include No. 27 Vasek Pospisil from Canada, No. 56 Denis Istomin, No. 47 Lukas Rosol, and former world No. 8 Marcos Baghdatis, who accepted a wild card to play in the event.

While these may not be household names to most fans, the quality of their play should speak for itself.

“There might be a lot of players that you may not necessarily have heard of, but the quality of the tennis will be insanely good,” Papp said.

For the first time, the tournament will include evening matches, which is a direct result of fan comments, Papp said.

“We listen to a lot of the feedback we get from our fans,” Papp said. “The feedback [last year] was that our audience and our fans would love to see night matches. We made sure that we fulfilled the request and we’ll give it a try this year.”

The tournament hopes to attract at least 10,000 fans throughout the week, Papp said.

For more information about the Irving Tennis Classic or to purchase tickets, visit www.irvingtennisclassic.com.

Amanda Casanova contributed to this report.