Warming up at The Lakes at Castle Hills on Thursday, Fort Worth golf pro Clark Dennis was nervous.
Not about playing in the first round of the Bright Realty Texas State Open, a tournament Dennis won in 1992, but more so because he was trying to get updates on his son Will playing the second round at the Texas State Junior Championship.
“I caddied for him in U.S. Amateur qualifying and the junior Byron Nelson,” Dennis said. “I’ve never felt like that, ever. Not in a U.S. Open, not in the Masters. I mean I couldn’t control anything and it was nerve-wracking.”
Such is life for the former PGA Tour player, who in February, turns 49 and will be eligible for qualifying school on the 50-and-over Champions Tour in 2015.
The first round was delayed 2 hours, 36 minutes by flash-flood waters early Thursday. Many of the golfers were still on the course late into the evening.
Anthony Broussard had the early lead with a 7-under 64. Cole Howard of Burleson was second with a 65.
Kolton Crawford and Ryan Baca were tied for third at 66.
Dennis was among a group of five players at 67.
For Dennis, the effort is indicative of the life force that still lingers in his golf game. Still able to shoot low scores and compete at a high-level, he is without a full-time place to play despite significant success on tour.
Dennis has had two third-place finishes and nine top 10s on the PGA Tour and one win and 13 top-10s on the Web.com Tour in his 28-year career.
His last official Web.com Tour start was in October 2012 at the Neediest Kids Championship, and his last PGA Tour start was in April 2007 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
He finished tied for sixth at the 1994 U.S. Open and has threatened several times at Colonial during his playing career.
Although he has past champion status on the Web.com Tour, that category is only for those that have done so in the past 10 years.
Another category, which awards playing privileges to players with more than 150 cuts made, seems to be out of reach. Dennis has made 146 Web.Com Tour cuts.
“Yeah, that’s how it is, looking for a place to play,” Dennis said. “So getting to play in the State Open is a big deal. Our section really runs this tournament the right way. You would have thought with inflation the purse would be higher by now, but I know they’re doing everything they can to make this a first-rate tournament.”
What it does is give Dennis a place to compete and stay around the game.
“I know that I’ve kept my body in decent shape, and I talked with David Toms last week because he and I are close in age, so he’s looking toward the Champions Tour soon also,” he said. “I’ve played a few tournaments here and there. I won one in Center, Texas, last year, but didn’t do as well this season so I’m hoping to shake off some rust in the State Open.”
Dennis has maintained his game while also trying new opportunities in the oil and gas business. He’s working and helping raise funds for a project in South Texas with his brother.
Despite all that, he said he’s able to strike a balance.
“But my main thing is watching Will play and yeah it tears me apart some times, but I love it,” he said.