Arlington resident Shawn Walsh rolled out of bed before dawn Saturday for a round of golf with his friends at Tierra Verde Golf Club.
This particular round was just for fun. But even so, Walsh and his playing partners displayed the camaraderie and competition that helped spur them to a Texas Golf Association League Play Championship on June 1 at Horseshoe Bay Resort in Marble Falls.
It’s the second consecutive year that Tierra Verde, an upscale public course in southwest Arlington, has claimed the state title.
“We’ve got eight really good guys who like to play golf, like the competition, like to hang out together,” said Walsh, 47, the team captain. “It’s just really good camaraderie. That’s what it is. The stuff that we’ve done the last two years is just an incredible memory that we’ll always have.”
The team consists of seven amateurs, one of whom is a scratch golfer, and Tierra Verde head golf professional Chad Williams. The state match-play tournament lasted three days with a championship round Sunday pitting Tierra Verde against Lochinvar Golf Club, a private club in north Houston. Tierra Verde won 7-5.
“It’s a great feeling because it’s the highest achievement in golf most of these guys will ever get to experience,” Williams said. “And for us to accomplish this as a public course going against a private course is even more outstanding.”
As a token of triumph, the Tierra Verde team — which includes Zee Siddiqui, Ben Hicks, Doug Foster, Joe Bauer, Bret Maison and Walsh’s playing partner, Sam Saxton — received a trophy plus a money clip on which is engraved the name of the team and its 2014 title win.
Walsh said each team member will get to take the trophy home and perhaps drink a beverage out of it. Then it will take its permanent spot in the Tierra Verde clubhouse along with the 2013 trophy.
“You’re not playing for money or pro shop credit,” Walsh said. “It’s all for the prestige of winning. It means a lot to us.”
Defending the title proved a tougher task than winning a year ago, Walsh said. Of particular difficulty was the May 31 semifinal match against Dallas Athletic Club, which Tierra Verde topped in the finals last year.
The event is played in what is called Nassau format. The eight-person teams are divided into four two-man groups. A team receives points when a two-man group wins the front nine, and another point is awarded for winning the back nine. A third point is up for grabs for the twosome whose 18-hole total is lower. After all the twosomes finished, Tierra Verde and the Dallas squad where tied at 6. Tierra Verde triumphed on a one-hole sudden-death playoff.
In the championship round, Horseshoe Bay’s 7,000-yard par 72 Slick Rock course presented a formidable challenge. The scratch twosome of Williams and Siddiqui — who, unlike their teammates, play the opposing scratch twosome straight up with no handicaps figured in — won all three points to get Tierra Verde off to a strong start.
Later, Walsh and Saxton clinched the match. Walsh was particularly proud of shooting par on the course’s second hole. It’s a 450-yard par 4 going uphill. Missing the fairway makes a bogey or worse a likely outcome. But Walsh made the green in two and then rolled his first putt within a foot of the hole.
“The more we talk about it, the better we get,” Walsh said. “The putts get longer, the drives get farther.”
Even though the tournament victory will gain a legendary status among the Tierra Verde team members, Walsh said the most important thing he’d like for golfers to take away from his golf team’s accomplishment is that he and his teammates are ordinary guys who love to play golf together a couple times a week. He encourages other Texas Golf Association courses in Dallas-Fort Worth to assemble their own team and enter the competition.
“We want to let the other courses know they have the same opportunity,” Walsh said. “We’re not the only guys who like to hang out and play golf together and be a competitive.”
But those other teams should understand that Tierra Verde is already taking aim at the 2015 championship. “We haven’t even gotten to enjoy this one yet, and we’re already talking about next year,” Walsh said.