Category Archives: Sports

Irving recruits new sports complex

 

Perhaps the only person more excited than Irving city officials to attend the July 20 hard hat tour of the new Drive Nation sports complex was the facility’s owner, Jermaine O’Neal.

“Obviously it’s been a long process to get to this point,” O’Neal said. “It’s taken a lot of long nights and a lot of long days, and to be honest, a lot of people thought it couldn’t be done.”

That process began two years ago, when the five-time NBA All-Star received a call from his Cowboys season ticket account manager. O’Neal was unsure if he was going to renew his tickets, because he had been struggling to get his sports complex idea off the ground in Keller, Texas. His account manager connected him with John Terrell, Vice President of Commercial Development at DFW International Airport and former Mayor of the city of Southlake.

The game changer, O’Neal admits, was this area panned out both athletically and academically for his daughter. Located off Rental Car Drive near DFW airport, the 85,000 square foot complex is designed for all ages and tailored toward youth athletes. It includes 6 basketball courts, 8 volleyball courts, a turf field, batting cages and pitching tunnels, a sprinting track, weight room, hydrowork training room, as well as offices, team meeting rooms, and a kitchen.

“This is a corporate headquarters,” O’Neal said. “I don’t believe a facility for amateurs should look like a box gym. When they walk through these doors, we want them to feel as if they’re walking into the Cowboys arena, as if they walked into the Mavs headquarters.”

Construction on the $10.4 million, 16-acre youth sports facility started roughly eight months ago and is slated to open in the middle of October.

The complex is managed by Sports Facilities Advisory: Sports Facility Management (SFA and SFM) and focuses on performance training, nutrition, and wellness education. This headquarter facility will incorporate some of the latest sports science and technology including a shot tracker where amateur and professional athletes can monitor their field goal percentages or free throw percentages. O’Neal says the technology is used as a compliment to helping kids grow mentally as well as physically.

“Kids are always going to get bigger, stronger, and faster by nature because they’re getting older, but it’s that mental process that sets you up for everything,” O’Neal said. “If your mentality is all wrong, it doesn’t matter whether you can shoot, dribble, or play the game, so we want to create this environment where life lessons and athletic lessons are the exact same thing.”

At the start of 2016, DFW airport’s commercial real estate team, led by Terrell, informed the city of Irving they had a prospect looking to build a facility within Irving’s city limits. O’Neal’s team was also looking at five other cities including Keller and Frisco.

“Jermaine was looking at other outlying areas,” said Jay Ory, director of business development and marketing for Drive Nation, “but with this being on the Dallas-Fort Worth airport grounds, we thought it would be centrally located to attract not only Dallas-Fort Worth participants from surrounding communities but also out-of-towners that come in for these elite tournaments. Just imagine, you can fly right into DFW airport and there’s a cluster of Irving hotels surrounding the location. It’ll be very easy and convenient for these tournament participants and families to get to Drive Nation.”

Upon hearing of O’Neal’s project, the Irving Chamber of Commerce, city officials, and Irving ISD acted quickly to sit down with O’Neal and the Drive Nation team to learn more about the project.

“Any time we have a business that comes to the city of Irving, we ask them how we can help,” Councilman Dennis Webb said. “It’s their vision, but we want to partner with them and assist, because it’s going to benefit us. We want them to be successful.”

Drive Nation estimates a $13.1 million dollar economic impact for the DFW areas and surrounding communities. The real value, O’Neal says, lies in education and that begins with the parents.

“The parent becomes paralyzing for the kid,” O’Neal said. “They want their kid to be so good, they think their kid is Michael Jordan and the kid can barely dribble. Some people grow early, some people grow late. That’s mentally, physically, emotionally. It’s important for parents to be patient. If the kid is working, don’t drive him or her to the ground where they don’t want to play anymore.”

For at least the first year, O’Neal will serve as the complex’s basketball director.

“I’m a very aggressive personality when it comes to doing it right,” he said. “There’s no concessions to a talented kid that wants special treatment because he or she can play. So we’re going to be as I lead. In order for us to be the best version to get to what we’re trying to do, we’ve got to have great leadership.”

Drive Nation was founded in 2016 by O’Neal in Dallas as a grassroots youth sports organization that also hosts a basketball skills academy and an AAU team. They have partnerships with some of the largest youth sports providers in the country including Nike and AAU, the largest amateur sports organization in the country. By hosting national tournaments including USA volleyball tournaments, AAU tournaments, and Nike EYBL, some of the top high school and college players and coaches in the country will come to the area. That economic drive, Webb said, will help propel other new building projects.

“(This venue) is going to draw people in who then can go to our music factory,” Webb said. “Once they get here, they can go right down the street and visit this world class music factory and entertainment venue.”

PINSTACK in Las Colinas offers new vision of bowling

 

The new PINSTACK on West I-635 is not your grandpa’s Wednesday night bowling league.

In fact, it might as well be a scene from a TRON movie with changing color patterns on the walls and floor, a large arcade and laser tag arena, and loads of LED-lit hand holds on climbing walls from a company out of Norway.

“When you hear gaming or bowling, it’s not what you’re envisioning,” said Gene Muncy, the Las Colinas PINSTACK General Manager. “If you’ve never been in, you wouldn’t imagine what you’re going to experience until you walk in the front door. I think the finish and the experience of the facility really tells that story.”

Alongside 28 bowling lanes, Las Colinas’ new 53,000 square-foot entertainment venue features a two-level laser tag arena, rock climbing walls, high-ropes course, a large arcade, and a full-service bar with beer and wine on draft. 

“Draft wine is starting to catch on and becoming more popular here,” Muncy said. “So we’ve increased it. We had six [drafts] in Plano, and we now have twelve in addition to all of our regular wines sold by the glass and bottle.”

Customers can even head outside during the hot summer, as a 2,000 square-foot, temperature controlled covered patio offers games including bocce ball and giant games in chess, connect four, and jenga.

Most of these areas are available for private parties and corporate events.

“We have meeting rooms that face the lanes,” Munch said. “We do full service banquet catering like you would find at any nice hotel property. We do a lot of corporate meetings where [corporations] have training. They’ve got a product launch or team building, and they’ll do food and beverage in their room and then come out and have lanes reserved for them and have their own private area to have an event.”

There are also features in games that are tailored for outings with a boss and work colleagues. One style of play in laser tag is called “lone wolf” and allows everyone to go after one player, which Muncy said is typically used to go after the boss.

Entertainment Properties Group, Inc. operates the new venue. Based in Dallas, they run three entertainment venues in Texas under the iT’ ‘Z Family, Food & Fun brand. PINSTACK is their latest location and first opened in Plano in 2015. Las Colinas marks their second location, and they plan to open their third PINSTACK in Allen in fall of 2017.

As part of their launch, PINSTACK in Las Colinas honored The Salvation Army of Irving and Irving Cares with a donation at a special VIP event attended by community leaders and PINSTACK executives.

“We look forward to being a good community partner,” said Mark Moore, president and CEO of Entertainment Properties Group, Inc. “We are confident the Las Colinas community and surrounding areas will enjoy PINSTACK’s many entertainment amenities, dining options, and more.”

The location has some differences than Plano’s, including a larger laser tag area. The Las Colinas venue used a subtle design change to add 700 square-feet to their laser tag arena without adding square footage to the building.

But the real draw is bowling.

A regular lane, which fits eight people comfortably, costs $18 during the weekdays for one hour and $22 for a VIP experience. Those prices rise to $34 and $45 during the weekends and shoe rental costs $4.

LED-lights on the sides and walls is coupled with advanced technology, including programmed bumpers for each bowler. This new type of bowling, Muncy believes, will be popular among young people.

“You don’t have to be a superstar bowler to have fun bowling,” he said. “Particularly millennials these days want to do fun activities together in a social environment but don’t want to be eliminating or isolating people who may not be experts. Bowling’s a great way to do that.”

Non-profits join forces for Irving Kids Charity Golf Classic

CORRECTED: The golf classic was postponed due to weather to Friday, July 21 at 12:30pm.

Local charities teamed up to support kids during the 5th annual Irving Kids Charity Golf Classic Kickoff Party, hosted at the Cool River Club in Irving on Thursday, June 8.

Originated by David Pfaff and Andy Nadel, the event is a collaboration between five different Irving charities: Irving YMCA, Irving School Foundation, Irving Healthcare Foundation, Irving-Las Colinas Rotary Club, and the La Buena Vida Foundation. Attendees raised funds for these charities by participating in silent and live auctions throughout the evening. The proceeds from the event and the golf event will be divided equally between all five organizations. Last year, the event raised over $200,000 and this year the goal is $250,000.

Crystal Scanio, executive director of the Irving Schools Foundation, feels this event is unique because the charities are working towards one common goal instead of competing against one another.

“Usually charities compete for money,” Scanio said. “Asking five charities to work together to raise money for one great cause was very different. But it’s completely worked out, and it’s a great partnership between these different charities to raise money for one great product, which is our children.”

For some organizations, the Charity Classic is their biggest fundraiser of the year. John Munoz, executive director of the Irving YMCA, explained that his charity’s portion of the funds will be used to ensure everyone can participate in YMCA programs.

“The money we raise from this event goes to help us provide scholarships and financial aid to individuals,” Munoz said. “That way, they can take part in the YMCA programs, whether they are kids getting free swim lessons, or cancer survivors coming to the Y for a free 12-week program so that they can find their new self, or members who need help because times are tough for them. We provide scholarships so they can all be part of the Y and the community.”

Joy Goodrum, executive director of the La Buena Vida Foundation, hopes the funds will go a long way toward providing new housing for young at-risk women in Irving.

“Irving Schools are telling us that there are female students who have no place to go,” Goodrum said. “As of right now, we don’t have the funds to be able to start a new apartment for them. This [event] could mean the start of a new apartment, which could change the lives of at least four young ladies who are enrolled in our Irving high schools.”

But it is not just one night out of the year that these five charities work together. Many of them collaborate on events year-round. Laura Manning, senior officer of the Irving Healthcare Foundation, said her organization has been working with the Irving Schools Foundation to help fight childhood obesity and this event will be a big help.

“We need the money to help support programs to fight childhood obesity,” Manning said. “Our main focus right now is diabetes. We’re trying to catch people early when they’re young, learn healthy eating habits, learn about fitness, and try to keep that from being a problem later in life.”

John Munoz of the YMCA said collaborating with these other non-profits throughout the year is part of what makes Irving so unique and it is the kids that matter most.

“Irving is really one of the most unique places in that all of the non-profits all year long work together,” he said. “We’re not very territorial. We all know that we’re here to service the kids and the community, and so we all band together to do whatever we can to help each other.”

Crystal Scanio added other cities can learn from Irving about how non-profits co-operate and not just compete.

“I think this could be a really great case study for other cities to see that you can work together, as long as you have a common cause,” Scanio said. “We’re all working for the best that Irving can be.”

Wounded warrior race supports veterans

 

More than 3,000 runners from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area woke up early Sunday morning, June 11, to race around the Urban Center as part of the ninth annual Wounded Warrior Military Miles half marathon, 10K, and 5K.

A post-race party followed the race with food, drinks, and live music. The race is put together by Dallas Athletes Racing and the money raised goes to three military charities: Wounded Warrior Project, Fisher House and Team Red White and Blue (RWB).

“There’s not a singular purpose, there are multiple purposes for this event,” said executive producer for Dallas Athletes Racing (DAR) Tom Ryan.

“If you look at one, it’s the whole energy that surrounds the military support here in the United States that’s the glue, but at the same time we’re heavy into health and fitness,” he said. “You combine high profile, active, benefitting charities along with health and fitness in a very active city; it’s a great recipe.”

DAR has partnered with Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) since the beginning of this event.

“Our original partner is Wounded Warrior Project, and then we added Fisher House, and last year added Team RWB,” Ryan said.

WWP provides a variety of services, programs, and events for wounded veterans of the military following 9/11. Fisher House helps military families by providing them a place to stay at no cost while a loved one receives treatment. Team RWB is the newest partner charity to benefit from this event. They supports veterans making the transition from military to civilian life.

Members from all three of the organizations actually ran the course and participated in the race. Jim Theisen, a member of Team RWB, ran the race before Team RWB became a partnering charity.

“I’ve run this race ever since its inception,” Theisen said. “I do this race every year because it supports the military and I’m a Vietnam veteran. I run it for the people overseas who cannot run it.”

The race grows bigger each year and brings more awareness to the partner causes. For the first time, Exeter Finance, a subprime auto finance company, gathered a group of their employees to volunteer and participate in the race.

“We have a program in our company called Xvets, so we recruit a lot of veterans to come work for our company,” said Hart Jackson, executive assistant for Exeter Finance. “When we found out about this run, we wanted to make sure some of our veterans and our employees got out here and participated.”

Jackson said it is important to show support for the veterans and military and he hopes to participate in all future Wounded Warrior races.

“I hope this is definitely something we continue doing, because this is who we recruit to work for us, our veterans,” Jackson said. “We are really big on recruiting veterans in our company. It’s just a great cause to support.”

Next year, the Wounded Warrior race will celebrate its 10-year-anniversary and Ryan is glad that the event continues to grow.

“This year we had more runners, the most vendor support we’ve ever had, and we’ve raised thousands and thousands of dollars for our three charity partners,” Ryan said. “The event is a win-win because it helps the charities, it helps the athletic community, it brings awareness to the charities, and it brings awareness to health and fitness in the community.”

The city of Irving will once again host the race next year for the 10-year-anniversary. Ryan said he hopes to go ‘big’ to celebrate the milestone.

“I don’t know what ‘big’ means today, but it will certainly give us more of an opportunity to celebrate 10 years,” Ryan said. “It has its own kind of buzz, so we have to support that buzz somehow.”

Irving ISD welcomes Hall of Fame members

Old embraced new during the Irving ISD Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony, as Brad Knouse, Hobart Lytal, Duane Miller, and Thomas Uhr joined 28 other Hall of Fame members at the 6th annual event held on Saturday evening, June 17.

“It’s evident what it does to bring the community together, and it connects the old with the new,” said Clint Roddy, Irving ISD director of athletics. “It’s a great opportunity for those from the previous generations of students to come back and see all of the great things that Irving ISD is doing now in addition to celebrating things that happened in the past.”

The event, held for the third straight year at the Sheraton DFW Airport Hotel, honors athletes, coaches, and community supporters who have contributed to Irving ISD athletics.

LOOKING FOR EXTRAORDINARY INDIVIDUALS

The selection committee, made up of the athletic director, the director’s immediate supervisor, the director of communications, and two Irving ISD Hall of Fame members, made their final decisions at the end of February.

The bottom line, Roddy said, is they are looking for individuals who have made a positive impact.

“You’re looking at people who have done extraordinary things as a player, as a coach, and as a community member,” he said. “Who have made positive contributions to the school district and have gone above and beyond.”

Anyone can nominate an individual, but to be considered, an athlete has to have graduated at least ten years ago and a coach can no longer be with the district. Community supporters can be nominated at any time, but no current Irving ISD employees may be considered. Also once an individual is nominated, they stay in a nomination binder and are reconsidered every year.

Honorees are usually introduced by a former coach or teammate. In Brad Knouse’s case, he was introduced by his former wrestling coach and father, Terry Knouse.

“Brad’s always been an overachiever and a leader,” Terry said.

In one example of Brad’s tenacity, Terry recalled a national wrestling tournament in Florida. Brad was wrestling for his third national title and hurt his arm. Refusing to forfeit, Terry told him to get the match over as quickly as possible.

“He went out and pinned the kid in a couple seconds,” Terry said. “His arm swelled up and come to find out, he broke his arm in two different places. That meant that freshman football looked pretty poor.”

Not wanting to miss the season, Brad talked the team into letting him play with a pad over his cast. He moved up to playing for the varsity team by the end of the season.

At Saturday evening’s induction, Brad thanked his father and mother for the sacrifices they made which allowed him to compete.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” Brad said. “There are so many people that help you to succeed, but the biggest people that help you to succeed in athletics are your parents.”

The first year that Terry and his family moved to Cleveland, Texas, the school did not have a wrestling program.

“My dad was not only my coach, he was my training partner, and in some cases, even my mother was my training partner,” Brad said. “There were no high schools around the Houston area that wrestled at that time. My dad called around and found some people that practiced at a boys club in Houston about 40 minutes away, and we’d drive there a couple times a week.”

SAME FACES EVERY YEAR

In 2012, the Irving ISD athletic director at the time, Joe Barnett, did research among school districts in the area and came up with guidelines to host an Irving ISD Athletic Hall of Fame.

The first year, eight individuals were inducted. That ceremony was held at one of the Irving ISD campuses and included a private dinner for the families before a larger ceremony.

The next two years, the athletic department transformed the event into a combined dinner and ceremony. In 2014, the school board decided to set aside budget money for the event, which allowed the athletic department to explore larger venues.

Beth Hindman, athletic office manager, contacted the Sheraton DFW Airport Hotel in 2014 and was told the hotel did not book a year in advance.

“I told them I want to book every June,” Hindman said. “Up until that time, we’d had it at a different place every year, which is not ideal.”

According to Hindman, working with the hotel has built a great relationship and allowed the ceremony to grow naturally.

“I predict the hotel is going to have to open another section for us,” she said.

Nominations for the Hall of Fame are accepted throughout the year. To be considered for this year’s class, nominations had to be in by Feb. 15. From there, the selection committee moved quickly and decisions were made by the end of February.

Knouse is joined by Hobart Lytal, who served as athletic director for Irving ISD for 13 years, Duane Miller, a three-sport standout who played football for the University of Texas and signed as a free agent with the Cowboys in 1991, and Tom Uhr, a coach across track, football and basketball.

The reason for choosing the class months before the ceremony, Hindman said, is because the Hall of Fame rings take about 12 weeks to come in. The rings are sponsored by the Irving Schools Foundation and are presented to each honoree after their acceptance speech along with a plaque.

One of the reasons for the event’s continued growth is a bond between former and current inductees. Roddy gives complimentary tickets to past inductees every year to encourage them to welcome the new class.

“I want that group to be a special fraternity,” Roddy said. “We’re starting to see people make it a point to be there every year, because they want to support the event. They want to celebrate the past but also be a part of the great things that are currently going on.”

Stop and smell the fishes at Irving Family Fishing Day

Shawneta Jordan braved scattered thunderstorms to attend the annual Irving Family Fishing Day in hopes of catching her first fish. She did not want a repeat of last year’s event, where she watched her son Michael Williams Jordan catch fish after fish as she went home empty handed. This year, Shawneta used the fishing pole…

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Byron Nelson tournament move triggers memories, impacts economy

Nostalgia marked this year’s AT&T Byron Nelson, which will be the last hosted in Irving, as players and tournament officials fondly remembered the historic golfer’s contributions to the tournament during its time at the TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas.

“What hurts me most on a personal level is the connection to Byron and working for him for ten years,” Diana Pfaff of the Irving Conventions and Visitors Bureau said. “He would sit on 18 and greet every player during every round as they come off the hole. He would sit there, even in his last year which was 2005. He was an amazing person. His tie was completely to this course.”

In the summer of 2013, it was officially announced that the Byron Nelson tournament would be moving to South Dallas, but talks of the tournament moving outside of Irving had been going on for years as outside clubs began pushing to win the event. Sponsors cited player concerns about the course as one reason for leaving Las Colinas.

“We’ve been hearing it for years,” Pfaff said. “We thought it would be Craig Ranch [Golf Club], because they’ve been trying to woo the tournament, but this took us completely by surprise.”

In 2013, Dallas City Council authorized a 40-year lease with the new golf course in a deal that involves the City of Dallas, AT&T, the First Tee of Great Dallas, and Southern Methodist University, whose school golf program will also use the course. That lease was contingent on the course entering into a 10-year agreement with the Byron Nelson.

The TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas had a contract to host the Byron Nelson Championship through 2018, but late last year both sides came to an agreement to end the contract a year early. The move prompted Irving officials to act quickly to make this year’s event special.

“We just found out this October that this was going to be the last one here,” Pfaff said. “We thought it would be next year, so we’ve had to really scramble to find funding, to reallocate funds, to be able to do what we wanted to do for a sendoff.”

Some of this year’s funds went to higher-end gifts for staff, media, and players. The most money was spent on Irving Live, a social-media activation area.

In 1997, the Irving Conventions and Visitors Bureau, in an attempt to keep the Byron Nelson in Irving, created a host city committee branded as “Irving Welcomes the PGA TOUR.” The initiative was aimed at enhancing the visitor experience around the event and involved staff and player housing, credential pick up, placing dinner reservations, and providing tickets to Stars and Mavericks games to the players.

“We were worried about the field dropping once Byron died, so we started a volunteer group called Irving Welcomes the PGA TOUR,” Pfaff said.

In 2005, ICVB had to disband the committee because of the economic downturn, but a lot of the services to the staff and players remained part of their responsibilities.

Trinity Forest Golf Club, the new home course of the Byron Nelson, is a 400-acre course built on land owned by the city of Dallas just five miles south of downtown. Formerly the site of an old landfill, the course was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw as a links style layout with no trees and little water. It is also only about ten miles away from AT&T’s downtown Dallas headquarters. Ironically, Crenshaw was the first winner of the Byron Nelson tournament when it moved to Las Colinas in 1983.

The city estimates that the tournament leaving will have a $40 million economic impact for the area. The absence of the tournament will also be felt among the players and staff, as this year’s sendoff included a party for volunteers and staff that had worked for 20 or more years with the event and a large number of party attendees had worked all 35 years at the Irving club.

The Las Colinas course also holds special meaning for the players. Jason Day, who finished second at this year’s event, earned his first PGA Tour victory at the 2010 Byron Nelson at the age of 22. Sergio Garcia shot a 62 at only 19 years old in his first round as a pro at the 1999 Byron Nelson. And Dallas-native Jordan Spieth regularly attended the tournament with his dad before teeing off as a 16-year-old junior in high school when he was just an amateur in 2010. 

“Mr. Nelson saw the greatness in these guys and gave them exemptions,” Pfaff said. “I know that they’re going to miss it. We’re going out on top as classy as we can possibly go out.”

Byron Nelson finishes final round in Irving

A one-hole, sudden death, playoff against one of the world’s best golfers, Jason Day, was needed for Billy Horschel to win the 2017 AT&T Byron Nelson golf tournament on Sunday, May 21. The suspenseful win marks the tournament’s 35th and final year in Irving

“I’m sad that it’s now leaving, unfortunately,” Horschel said. “I was not a fan of this golf course the first two times I came here. Then I was like, ‘wow, why did I not like this course?’ This course really fits my game from tee to green.”

The PGA TOUR event took place from May 15 – 21 at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas. The tournament began in 1968 when Byron Nelson lent his name to the Byron Nelson Golf Classic and moved to Las Colinas in 1983. That year, Ben Crenshaw won in front of a record crowd of 45,000. This year, 280,000 fans attended throughout the tournament week, with nearly 80,000 fans attending on Sunday’s final round.

Horschel missed the Byron Nelson cut in his two previous starts and snapped a 30-month winless streak, virtually mirroring Crenshaw’s 31-month drought when he won the tournament in 1983.

All proceeds from the tournament benefit the Momentous Institute, a nonprofit operated by the Salesmanship Club for over 95 years ago. Last year, the Byron Nelson raised $5.8 million for the organization that serves more than 6,000 kids and family members directly each year through mental health and educational programs. In total, over $155 million has been raised for the institute since the tournament’s inception, more than any other PGA TOUR event.

“We have hundreds of thousands of winners because of this event in raising money for Momentous Institute and we’re thrilled to be a part of that,” AT&T Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Global Marketing Officer Lori Lee said.

In addition to education and therapeutic services for kids and families, the Momentous Institute provides training and research to education and mental health professionals. In 2016, the institute trained over 10,000 professionals, with over 80 percent residing in the DFW area. The annual PGA TOUR event is Momentous Institute’s primary fundraiser.

The Salesmanship Club of Dallas, which has hosted the tournament since 1968, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming kids’ lives. The club began in 1920 and owns and operates the Momentous Institute as well as the AT&T Byron Nelson. AT&T took over as the title sponsor in 2015.

“We were blessed 49 years ago to become good friends with our namesake Byron Nelson,” said Alan Friedman, president of the Salesmanship Club of Dallas. “He really fell in love with our charity and the work we were doing. We continue to be blessed by the volunteer work in support of Ms. Peggy Nelson. In fact, she finished her 30th year as a volunteer this week.”

Over 11,000 volunteers helped at this year’s final event in Irving. The Four Season’s hopes to continue Byron Nelson’s legacy by keeping his over 9 foot statue, which sits near the first tee, watching over the course.

“The 9 foot 6 inch statue of Mr. Nelson that is the center point of our golf operation will continue to stand there and remind us every day of the kind and generous spirit that Mr. Nelson had,” said Paul Earnest, Director of Golf for Four Seasons.

The Nelson legacy began in 1945, when he finished his professional golf season with 18 victories, including 11 straight, and established a record for the lowest scoring average (68.44), which remained untouched for 55 years. During his career, Nelson won 52 PGA tour-sanctioned tournaments.

“It’s just so astonishing to realize how blessed I have been to have been married to an amazing man for twenty years and to be part of this starting back in 1987,” said Peggy Nelson, the widow of Byron. “It’s been such a wonderful ride. I’ve met so many amazing people and worked with so many people packing lunches and walking scores or doing whatever we needed to do to make the tournament as good as it could be.”

Jordan Spieth inspires at AT&T Byron Nelson Youth Clinic

During the trick shot portion of the annual AT&T Byron Nelson Youth Golf Clinic presented by Under Armour on Tuesday, May 16, it became obvious Jordan Spieth is a Dallas native. Kids started chanting his name as he took on Dan Boever, a long-driving specialist and full-time golf entertainer. Spieth and Boever competed in a number of friendly golf challenges including tic-tac-toe, target practice, closest to the pin, and smashing the coke can.

“Don’t you sit at home and go, ‘I wonder how I would do if I got to play against Jordan Spieth?’” Boever said in front of the hundreds of gathered kids and their families. “Well let me tell you how you would do, it wouldn’t be very good.”

Hosted at the TPC Four Seasons Practice Range, the event allowed kids a chance to get a picture and autograph with Spieth.

Dallas resident Patrick Carver and his sons, Langdon and Nathan, enjoyed watching Spieth lead the event.

“[The boys] have gotten really into golf because of him,” Carver said. “They’re interested in seeing what he does out here.”

Carver and his sons, who attended the youth clinic last year, look most forward to the event because of Spieth as well as its interactive nature created by Boever.

Boever hosts a half-hour show for the Golf Channel and encouraged Spieth to give advice to the kids during the competition, including the tic-tac-toe game where both Spieth and Boever were set up roughly twenty feet from a ply board and had their names written in each square they hit with their ball. Spieth gave tips on how to hit the ball differently to aim for the lower squares versus the higher ones.

Afterwards, Boever gave Spieth one minute to hit ten balls at a larger ply board set up further in the distance, with each ball making contact adding $100 to Jordan’s charity, the Jordan Spieth Family Foundation.

Spieth then answered questions from the kids, including how he got involved in golf.

“My parents started me out with a plastic set of clubs when I was really young, but it was with a soccer ball, a football, a baseball, anything,” he said. “They let me go have fun and figure out what I liked to do, and I just fell in love with golf. I wasn’t pushed into it at all.”

This will be Spieth’s 7th start at the AT&T Byron Nelson, with his best finish being a tie for 16th place. As a kid growing up in Dallas, Spieth attended the same AT&T Byron Nelson youth clinic. With this being the last year at the current course and the same course he hosts his foundation event, Spieth said it’s a very special place for his family and friends.

“It’s very bittersweet,” he said. “Obviously fantastic memories and I’m looking forward to creating new ones this week and hopefully the best ones yet.”

The Salesmanship Club of Dallas, a service organization founded in 1920 that runs the tournament, says the logistics behind the youth clinic are especially unique.

“There’s a lot of behind the scenes work,” said Robert Engstrom, member of the Salesmanship Club. “We’re using a live range where the pros are practicing getting ready for the tournament, so you can’t really set up until right before the event starts.”

The Salesmanship Club of Dallas focuses their efforts to support Momentous Institute, a group they own and operate which builds and repairs social emotional health for kids and families through education, therapeutic programs, research and training. The AT&T Byron Nelson is the Salesmanship Club’s primary fundraiser.

Jim Doherty helped with the youth clinic as part of The First Tee of Greater Dallas, an organization that has been volunteering with the youth clinic since 2004.

“It’s just an awesome experience for [the kids], to invigorate them and encourage them in the game of golf,” Doherty said. “To meet an icon of the game that’s really coming up and is still young, youth like this is just awe inspiring.”

The First Tee of Greater Dallas, one of many chapters across the country, seek to help kids and teens learn to play golf along with life lessons and leadership skills through programs that place a positive impact on participants, families, and their communities.

The organization’s managing director of programs Chuck Walker is encouraged that kids learn not just about golf, but also from a great role model like Spieth.

“We want to see a kid out of The First Tee grow up to be not just a fantastic golfer but a fantastic person,” Walker said. “You heard Jordan mention his family, you heard him talk about his foundation and talk about the way that he just gives back to the community, that’s all you can ask for out of someone with the accolades that he’s received through the years.”

Final playoff hole stretches LPGA tournament into nail-biter

Some of the finest female golfers in the world squared off against the elements and each other during the 2017 LPGA Volunteers of America Texas Shootout, hosted at the Las Colinas Country Club April 26 – 30.

Formerly known as the North Texas LPGA Shootout, this year marked the fifth anniversary of the tournament, which is the only LPGA tournament in the state of Texas. The Texas Shootout is unique in that it also allows amateur players to compete with professionals through a qualifier event. This year, four amateur players were chosen to compete in the tournament instead of the usual two. 

Kathy Whitworth, a former player on the LPGA tour, feels having the tour return to Texas has been a boon for golf fans as well as for some of the players.

“We used to have a lot of tournaments in Texas over the years, so I was just really thrilled when this was arranged and [the LPGA] came back to Dallas,” she said. “Dallas was always a big favorite, and we have a lot of fans in this area. Women’s golf has just grown, and we have a contingent of Texas players, which makes it fun for them to come here, because they do have their fans and followers, as well as everybody else.”

Out of 144 athletes, only the top 53 golfers advanced to the final round of play on Sunday, April 30, a round which proved to be a windy one. Very few golfers were able to shoot under par due in part due to the heavy winds, with some gusts hitting nearly 40 miles per hour.

In the end, the game came down to Haru Nomura of Japan and Christie Kerr of Miami, Florida. Both women were tied at the end of regulation play with a score of 76, and faced off on a playoff hole.

The playoff turned into a marathon, lasting nearly two hours as both women scored par on the 18th hole five times in a row. Finally, the sixth time was the charm for Nomura, who pulled ahead of Kerr to win the tournament and her third LPGA title.

Nomura was very happy with her win, even more so because of the support of her fellow golfers cheering her on from the sidelines.

“I’m very happy the players are supporting me and feel like I have to win this one really and I did it,” Nomura said. “I like windy and tough conditions, from fairway to green. I love it.”

Kerr, who ended up finishing second overall, said that even though she made a strong comeback, it was still a difficult week for her.

“It was a tough day. I had a great comeback to even be able to get into the playoff,” Kerr said. “I had her on that second playoff hole when I was behind the green there, and I just made an error, and you can’t do that in playoffs. You have to take advantage of when you have the chance, and I didn’t do that, so I lost.”

Rounding out the top 5 were third place winner Jessica Korda of Bradenton, Florida, Sung Hyun Park of Korea in fourth and Eun-HeeJi of Korea in fifth.