Ben Crenshaw, Tom Watson had different experiences at the Texas Open
SAN ANTONIO — Ben Crenshaw and Tom Watson roamed the grounds at TPC San Antonio last week with wide smiles and fond memories. As part of the Valero Texas Open's 100th anniversary celebration, the two former champions took part in a dinner Friday night, a pro-am to honor military members Saturday morning, as well as the unveiling of a new signpost to honor the course that's welcomed the tournament since 2010.
But while the two both enjoyed reminiscing about their victories in San Antonio, the pair had wildly different experiences.
For Crenshaw, this tournament is a symbol of his youth. The Austin native remembers coming to the 1961 Texas Open when he was nine with his older brother Charlie and their father. The group followed Arnold Palmer, Jimmy Demaret and others — and young Ben's love of golf was officially solidified.
And when he emerged from qualifying school a dozen years later, Crenshaw found himself in the same event but on the other side of the ropes — this time battling with George Archer, Mike Hill and Orville Moody in his first event as a pro.
Crenshaw finished with a birdie on the final hole and secured his first PGA Tour title at Woodlake Golf Club in his debut, grabbing a two-stroke victory to take the Open's top prize of $25,000.
"I just kept playing after qualifying school," Crenshaw said. "I was playing well and things fell into place. It was a great time. Real special. San Antonio has always been like a second home to me."
While Crenshaw's first pro experience at the event was an indoctrination to the pro circuit, Watson's victory ended a long drought and gave him the winning share of what was — at the time — the PGA Tour's richest purse.
Watson held off Chip Beck and Paul Azinger to capture the 1987 Nabisco Championship at Oak Hills, securing a $360,000 payday in the process. The victory was his 37th on Tour and snapped a lengthy dry spell in the process.
"I hadn't won for three years and I had been struggling with my game a little," Watson said. "I come in here and win, and that made this very, very special for me. I was really appreciative."
Both Crenshaw, who won again in 1986, and Watson were thrilled to offer recollections of their wins in the Alamo City, but the pair also shared an eagerness to take part in multiple events this week honoring military members. The two were part of a lengthy presentation at the Night to Honor Our Heroes along with Lee Trevino and former PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman, and played in a pro-am with military members as well.
"When you have a chance to honor the people who protect the country — for peanuts, I might add — and do it with the style they do," Watson said, "it makes you really proud to be an American."
J.J. Spaun jetted from Valero to Augusta
J.J. Spaun, 31, captured the Valero Texas Open on Sunday and he, his wife Melody and their young daughter Emerson made the trip to Augusta on Monday morning in style, thanks to a jet provided by Valero.
“I think I’m still going through so much excitement and emotion that like even when I was registering, I was like, is this really happening? Is this a dream?” Spaun said. “I know it’s so cliche for people to say that, but it really was. It was like, am I here? It’s great. It’s a very special experience for anyone, and for me, for my first time, and I’m very excited to be here.”
Spaun’s victory in Texas was spurred on by his chipping. He holed out for eagle in the opening round on No. 8 from 87 yards, which gave him a boost of momentum.
“He told me, he’s like ‘Going from 1 over to 1 under is like the greatest thing ever,'” his caddie Mark Carens told Golfweek. “And then Saturday he chipped in on the par 3, dicey shot.”
Sammy Spieth in Augusta
Jordan Spieth's son Sammy was scheduled to make his debut at the Masters Par 3 Contest on Wednesday.
The Par 3 Contest, which dates to 1960, was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.
Samuel David Spieth was born on Nov. 14 and already has been traveling with the family to various tournaments.
Spieth added: “I remember watching Webb (Simpson) with his five or 10 kids, however many kids he has, out on the Par 3, and obviously mine’s not walking or running around or hitting any putts, but I think that will be a really cool day.”
Tim Schmitt is the managing editor for Golfweek, golf coordinator for the USA Today Network and lives in Round Rock.