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Colonial: Where Ben Crenshaw nearly kicked his way out of golf

Tim Schmitt
Ben Crenshaw, shown here during the 1979 season, has fond memories of Colonial Country Club — and one painful one.

Expect a healthy dose of glowing tributes if you're tuning in this week as the PGA Tour rolls through the familiar cowtown of Fort Worth, marking the 75th anniversary of the stop at pristine Colonial Country Club.

The event is one of the few invitationals remaining and attracts a healthy field, including last week’s surprise PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson, even if a rearranged schedule has pushed the PGA Championship just ahead of it on the Tour schedule.

Among those on the Wall of Champions adjacent to the first tee are some Texas golf icons, including Ben Crenshaw. The Austin resident and former University of Texas standout won here in 1977, but it’s a memory from 1980 that still plagues him — a painful reminder of an uncharacteristic outburst.

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Crenshaw was in contention and playing with Jerry McGee, a four-time champ who later became father-in-law to Annika Sorenstam. The pressure mounted on the back nine.

“I have a nice round going, but then I three-putted the 16th green, which you can do because that's an undulating green,” Crenshaw said recently while enjoying a morning out at Lions Muni, a course he’s working hard to protect.

“I was just steamed. Steamed at myself. So I kind of walked up through the people and there was this big garbage can; it was an oil drum. And I just kicked it — and I made full contact with it.”

Crenshaw was instantly in pain, and McGee suggested his playing partner find some scissors to cut out part of this shoe so he could continue. Instead, he simply trudged on.

“I hobbled over to the 17th. I mean, my big toe just crumpled. Thankfully, I had only two holes to play, but I just kind of crept around,” Crenshaw said. He finished the tournament as runner-up to Bruce Lietzke.

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And while the kick might have released a little anger, it did some lasting damage. Crenshaw admits the result was a lifelong annoyance that could have done significant damage to his storied career.

“I had to have two surgeries. I broke the sesamoid bone in my toe on my right foot. When I was 45, I had the surgery done," he said. "It bothered me for a while, but it was self-inflicted."

Still, Crenshaw adores Colonial, a site where he later won again in 1990, beating John Mahaffey, Corey Pavin and Nick Price by three strokes. Others on the famous wall include Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, longtime Texas resident Lanny Wadkins, Tom Watson, Mickelson, and more recently University of Texas product Jordan Spieth and defending champion Daniel Berger.

“I kind of feel about (Colonial) like I do Augusta National Golf Club,” Crenshaw said. “You stand on the first tee and you see all the names that are on the wall, some of the greatest to play of all time. Now my name is up there, and I feel a real sense of honor having my name up there along with so many other great players.”

Longhorns ready for NCAA Tournament in Arizona

It’s a big week for the University of Texas men’s golf team, ranked No. 4 in the latest Golfweek Collegiate Rankings, as the squad starts the NCAA Tournament on Friday at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The Longhorns captured their ninth regional title in Noblesville, Indiana, two weeks ago and the late push has been led, not surprisingly, by Pierceson Coody. It’s been a spectacular spring for Coody, who briefly climbed to the top spot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking earlier this month — he’s currently No. 4 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings — and was also named a Ben Hogan Award finalist. Texas A&M’s Sam Bennett was also named a semifinalist for the Hogan but didn’t make the final cut to three as Coody did.

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The Longhorns have grown accustomed to having a finalist for the award — Doug Ghim won the honor in 2018 while Beau Hossler (2016) and Jordan Spieth (2012) have both been finalists. Hossler lost to Jon Rahm while Spieth was edged out by Patrick Cantlay.

• The news wasn’t as good for the University of Texas women’s squad as it fell on Tuesday to No. 5 Ole Miss by a 3-2 count, clinching a second straight fifth-place finish.

Sara Kouskova and Agathe Laisne collected points for the Longhorns, but Ole Miss star Andrea Lignell topped Kaitlyn Papp in 22 holes and the Horns fell in the other two matches.

Chips and putts

• A number of courses throughout Texas are taking part in Patriot Golf Day, which raises money for Folds of Honor, a nonprofit that provides educational scholarships to spouse and children of fallen and disabled service members, and PGA Hope (Help Our Patriots Everywhere), which is part of the PGA of America’s PGA REACH foundation.

Among the courses formally taking part in the event are White Wing Golf Club in Sun City Georgetown and Lakecliff Golf Club in Spicewood. Since it was started 15 years ago, Folds of Honor has provided more than 10,000 academic scholarships worth about $50 million.

• Those interested in competing in the city of Austin’s Firecracker Open need to, well, get cracking. The longstanding event that plays out during the July 4th weekend has an entry deadline of June 9 with qualifiers to begin on June 14. Call ATX Golf at 512-974-9350 for details.

Tim Schmitt is the managing editor for Golfweek, golf coordinator for the USA Today Network and lives in Round Rock within a driver and subsequent wedge from Dell Diamond.