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Garry Rippy Golf offers golf lessons, golf coaching, golf instruction, golf classes and golf schools in Austin, TX. This blog contains golf instruction articles, golf tips and golf instruction videos by Garry Rippy, PGA.

Monday, April 27, 2020

The 1995 Shell Houston Open was Special

It was this week (April 24-30, 1995) in which Payne Stewart won the Shell Houston Open at the TPC at The Woodlands (The Woodlands, Texas).  I was the host professional for this event from 1989 through 2001 and now, knowing the fate of Payne, it makes this a special event to reflect on 25 years later.

Payne Stewart pictured with his long time caddy Michael Hicks
Payne won on the first playoff hole over Scott Hoch.  This was Payne's eighth of his eleven PGA TOUR titles including the 1999 U.S. Open.  If there was one golf swing I would watch over the years as host professional it was Payne Stewart.  Just the rhythm and fluidity of his swing was beautiful.  For weeks after the event, I seemed to play my best golf feeling like I was emulating his action.

Another reason this event is special is I qualified to compete that year and again in 1999.  From 1989 through 1996 the Southern Texas PGA Section hosted a qualifier for section members and four professionals would advance to compete in the Shell Houston Open.  I was fortunate to advance in 1995 as I won in a playoff for the 4th spot.  Beginning in 1997, the PGA TOUR changed the number of qualifiers from four down to two.  So to qualify in 1999 was very exciting and difficult.

In addition to competing in the tournament, this was also my busiest work week of the year as we would achieve almost 50% of our annual retail sales in one week.  So even though I missed the cut with a scores of 75-79 I was fairly satisfied with my play.  In 1999 I scored rounds of 79-80 and I was physically tired due to the number of hours worked that week and the week prior.  The event had grown since 1995 and there was so much more to do.  Fortunately I had a great staff and they did super job of covering for me while I would exit for 5 hours to go compete.

I'll never forget the nerves I felt on the first tee in 1995.  The crowds were large and I had lots of friends and staff there to encourage me.  I remember being on the putting green and walking between the ropes to the first tee.  As I approached the tee my heart rate was hard to control.  When the starter announced my name and the crowd gave me a welcoming applause I couldn't even feel my feet or the club in my hands.  The first tee shot was down the middle and from that point on it wasn't near as tense.  In the second round I almost holed my second shot for an eagle on the difficult 18th hole and the roar from the crowd was unbelievable!

Hard to believe it was 25 years ago but I will never forget my experience of competing in the Shell Houston Open or my tenure as head professional at the TPC at the Woodlands.

Following are a few pictures from 1995.

On the 14th tee with my friend and caddy for the week, Rene Nino

The official scoresheet from 1995

ABC televised the event in 1995 and I snagged a great souvenir

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