Texas Course Design Firm Coping with Tough Economy

As it has been with many United States-based golf course architecture firms, Bechtol Golf Design has been adversely affected by the recent global economic challenges that have slowed the pursuit of leisure-time activities in lieu of the day-to-day battle for security and stability in troubled times.

Rather than ignore the current conditions, Bechtol and Bechtol Golf Design of Texas have aligned with individuals and companies that are among the world's most reliable, a move that will ensure success in the coming months and years.

Courses designed by golf architect Roy Bechtol and his Austin-based firm continue to grab headlines even as the company looks to break ground on a handful of new tracks in the first quarter of 2009.

"We know things are tough and we have felt the pinch here just like every one else," Bechtol said. "But we are also undaunted because we have been through situations like this before. We know there is a light at the end of this tunnel, and we believe that tunnel may be shorter than some people think."

Here is a sampling of some news items that have featured Bechtol and his courses in the past several months:

Black Bear Golf Course

In July 2008, Roy Lang III of the Shreveport (Louisiana) Times wrote a feature on the Bechtol-designed Black Bear Golf Course in Delhi, La., in which he lauded the course for its conditions, layout and entire golfing experience. "Black Bear is a challenge, but if you come off the course feeling beat-up, you likely did it to yourself," Lang writes. "This course gives your every opportunity to make something of your round, but makes you earn everything fair and square."

Lang considers Black Bear's daunting sixth hole "one of the best par-3s in the state of Louisiana."

"The green is only about 10 paces deep in most parts and leaves no room for error," Lang wrote. "Your ball will disappear for good in water left of the green and long. Waiting short and right are more bunkers."

Black Bear - located in the far northeast corner of Louisiana about 30 minutes from Vicksburg, Miss. - hosted the Adams Golf Pro Tour Series' Guarantee Bank Classic October 2-5. And for the second consecutive year Black Bear proved a tough test for the professionals, as just 14 of the 90 players finished below par during the four-day event.

Patrick Sullivan of Maumelle, Ark., emerged the winner and claimed the $15,000 first prize check after posting rounds of 73-65-66-75 for a 9-under total of 279. He finished two shots clear of a group in second place after starting the day four strokes to the good. Sullivan's four-day total was the second-highest tournament score on the Adams tour this season.

Sullivan's victory at Black Bear didn't come easily. He was cruising to victory in the final round as a birdie on the 13th hole got him to 15-under par for an eight-stroke lead. But then the wheels came off, and Sullivan needed every bit of that cushion to get home with the win. After bogeys on Nos. 14 and 15, he double-bogeyed the 16th. He made par at the short par-5 17th and then, still holding a four-stroke lead, made another double on 18 but still managed to win.

"I had just birdied 13 and was walking off the green and I looked up, and saw I had an eight-shot lead," Sullivan said. "That kind of got me out of my rhythm a little bit, and I was just trying to get it in the house. The final part of the final round was a grind."

For the week, Black Bear - which opened in July 2006 and is a stop on the Louisiana Audubon Golf Trail - played even tougher in 2008 than it did during the 2007 edition of the Guarantee Bank Classic. The average score for the 266 rounds played during the tournament this year was 74.32 as compared to 73.98 for 2007. In the final round the players only managed a score of 73.26 and just 11 participants broke par on the fourth day.

Bechtol played in the pro-am portion of the tournament on the afternoon of October 1 and found the course fair but tough. "I cannot be any more pleased with the way Black Bear has been cultivated and I am impressed at how the track has matured and has shown even more of its attributes after just 27 months of play," Bechtol said.

Black Bear spans varied topography that range from tree-lined holes to open approaches. Because it is set atop 300 acres of the Macon Ridge, there are elevation changes that are uncommon in almost all Louisiana golf courses. Although technically in the Mississippi Delta region, which is characterized by flat terrain, Black Bear winds up and down and through wooded creek bottoms, providing golfers with a feeling of isolation.

For additional information about Black Bear Golf Club, visit http://www.blackbear-golf.com.

University of Texas Golf Club

The past and present of Longhorns women's golf gathered at the Bechtol-designed University of Texas Golf Club November 2. Everyone was on hand to recognize Pat Weis, as the practice area was named in Weis's honor.

Weis was Texas' first women's golf head coach and served in that capacity from 1973-93, marking a 21-year span in the program's storied 36-year history. "I can't put into words what this means to me," Weis said. "This is an absolute honor, and for once in my life, I'm speechless. This practice area is part of the ongoing women's golf legacy at The University of Texas."

Weis began the women's golf team in 1969 as a club team before it earned varsity status in 1973. Under Weis' tutelage, the Longhorns earned seven Southwest Conference titles and finished in the Top 10 nationally 11 times.

A 1991 recipient of the Gladys Palmer Award, the highest honor bestowed by the National Golf Coaches Association, Weis earned five conference coach-of-the-year awards, was selected national coach of the year in 1987 and '88. She mentored 11 All-Americans during her tenure as head coach.

"This honor really sums up how much Coach Weis means to all of us," said Sherri Steinhauer, an eight-time LPGA Tour winner and 1985 UT graduate. "She made such a difference in our lives. It would be difficult to describe in words the impact she made on each of us. Through the Pat Weis Practice Tee, her legacy and honor will always be remembered by all Longhorns."

Bechtol, who designed the club's standalone practice facility for the team as well as the course, said he was "honored to have been a part of something that so honored a coach that has meant so much to the University of Texas.

"The UT Golf Club is a special place to play and it is a special place for these student-athletes to practice and improve their games," Bechtol added. "Coach Weis has been a good friend to me for a long time and I feel great to have this facility at the course I designed named for her."

The course hosted the 2007 NCAA Women's Central Regional Golf Championships and the track will conduct an NCAA men's regional in the spring of 2009. Club officials are also in hot pursuit of hosting the 2012 NCAA Championships on the course.

For more information about University of Texas Golf Club, visit http://www.utgolfclub.com/Club/Scripts/Home/home.asp.

For more information about Bechtol Golf Design, visit http://www.bechtolgolfdesign.com/web/index.cfm.