By Luke Hendry, Texas Golf Association :: Photography by Kelsey Grudle
This summer, during a four-week stretch, four Texans added their names to some of the most elite trophies in golf. McClure Meissner won the Southern Amateur. His brother Mitchell Meissner prevailed at the Texas State Open. Zach Heffernan claimed the Texas Junior Amateur. And Trey Bosco hoisted the H.L. Edwards Memorial Trophy at the 111th Texas Amateur. All four talented competitors share one important thing in common. They’re all guided by the same man.
Bryan Gathright, 62, started coaching golf in 1988 following a five-year stint playing professionally. Over the years, he’s worked with many high-profile players including four-time PGA Tour winner Notah Begay III and 2016 PGA Champion Jimmy Walker. Though he’s seen success with touring pros, Gathright spends most of his days now in Boerne, Texas, at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch, where he primarily works with junior and amateur golfers.
Gathright currently coaches about 400 golfers who range in age from 10 to 82. He’s passionate about their development and seeing his students succeed. The Meissner brothers, Heffernan and Bosco are just a few of the talented pupils Gathright instructs; however, their four wins in four weeks is an unprecedented highlight in Gathright’s 32-year coaching career.
“At no point in time have I had four different players win such prestigious events in such a short span of time,” Gathright said. “As a coach, it is my responsibility to make certain that they are both prepared and ready to win, but for four different players to have such incredible success in such a short span is impossible to put into words.”
It started with McClure (Mac) Meissner, a senior at Southern Methodist University. The 25th-ranked amateur golfer in the world carded seven birdies in the final round of the 114th Southern Amateur at Maridoe Golf Club on July 18. His closing 6-under 66 was enough to erase the six-shot deficit he faced to begin the day. Meissner was tied with David Perkins of East Peoria, Ill., through 72 holes at 7-under 281. On the first sudden-death playoff hole, Meissner’s routine par clinched the victory.
“I started off really well, and that kind of just set the tone for my round,” Meissner said following his win. “I’ve been struggling with finishing rounds. I just told myself just to keep being aggressive and keep giving myself looks.”
Meissner’s victory adds his name to a long list of renowned Southern Amateur past champions that include Justin Leonard, Bob Tway and Ben Crenshaw. Though this is the biggest win of the 21-year-old’s young golf career, he’s been a grinder since Gathright started working with him eight years ago.
“I can’t speak enough about his competitiveness,” Gathright said. “No one hates losing more than Mac. He’s a great driver of the golf ball and has the best short game of anyone I’ve ever worked with.”
Eleven days later, Heffernan made his own statement. He carded rounds of 66-73-70 at Horseshoe Bay Resort’s Ram Rock Course to win back-to-back Texas Junior Amateur titles. The 2021 Baylor University commit became only the third player in the tournament’s 94-year history to claim consecutive victories.
“It means so much to be one of three people to have won the Texas Junior Amateur back-to-back,” Heffernan said. “This year was really special to have all my family on the 18th green and watch me win. It’s still crazy to me the last time someone did this was in 1994-95.”
Gathright has been working with the two-time Texas Junior Amateur champion since he was 10 years old. Over the past six years, he has continued to watch Heffernan develop into a better and more confident player.
“The one thing about Zach is he loves bigger moments,” Gathright said. “Whether it’s a statewide championship or coming down the stretch in a high school event, he loves to win. He plays his best in high-pressure moments.”
Just two days following the Texas Junior Amateur, Mitchell (Mac’s older brother) won the Texas State Open at The Cascades Club in Tyler. Mitchell, who played collegiately for Rice University and won the 109th Texas Amateur in 2018, turned professional following his graduation in the same year. Even though he had some early success on the PGA Tour Latinioamérica, Meissner was still winless as a professional entering the 50th Texas State Open. His rounds of 67-65-63-66 to post 19-under secured his first win in the pro ranks by one stroke.
“I knew there were going to be a lot of low scores and that no one else was going to let up at the top of the leaderboard,” Meissner said after the round. “Winning this is pretty big. Just gaining confidence and learning that I can play under pressure and win when I’m presented the opportunity was awesome.”
Like Mac, Mitchell has had Gathright in his corner since he was a young junior golfer. They’ve built a unique relationship over the years as Mitchell has transitioned from junior golf to collegiate golf and now professional golf.
“I’ve tried to remind him to stay patient,” Gathright said. “He’s a great a player, but there is a difference between amateur and professional golf. He’s got so much potential and it’s great to see him finding that confidence.”
Two weeks, three players, three wins. But the run was not over. Bosco, who lives in Austin and started working with Gathright in June, was struggling with his game throughout the quarantine. The rising freshman at Baylor was showing frustration; however, things started to change two weeks before the 111th Texas Amateur.
“He was a little lost with his game,” Gathright said. “But he stuck with what we were working on, and he goes out and shoots 67 to win his qualifier for the State Am.”
Bosco’s 4-under 67 at Lighthouse Country Club earned him a spot in the 132-player starting field for the Texas Amateur at Boot Ranch. Without any expectations, the 18-year-old carded rounds of 72-71-67 to find himself tied for second place and two shots off the lead with 18 holes to play.
“I called him [Bosco] the night before the final round,” Gathright said. “I try to make a point to always talk to my players when they are in the hunt. I told him, look you’re 18 years old, no one is expecting you to win. Just go out there and play your game and I think you will. I always want to instill the belief that my players can win.”
The pep talk got Bosco believing, too. In the final round, he carded six birdies including three straight on holes 15, 16 and 17 to post 5-under 279 for the championship and claim a one-stroke victory.
“At the beginning of this summer I was struggling badly. I didn’t know which way the ball was going and it was frustrating,” Bosco said. “A future teammate referred me over to Bryan and ever since then it’s been a very fun process. There were a lot of tough days working on the things Bryan had me doing, but I always knew in the back of my mind it would click. Sure enough at the Texas Am everything came together and I played some of the best golf I have ever played.”
Mac, Heffernan, Mitchell and Bosco’s victories are all individual accomplishments. And Gathright will be the first to tell you they are all extremely hard-working and outstanding young men who deserved those titles. However, it’s no question there’s a common denominator.
“Bryan’s great at building relationships with players and will go out of his way to help you fix any issues you have,” Mitchell said. “He works from sun up to sun down. I can’t tell you how many times I have been at a loss with my game and texted him ‘Hey, I need some help,’ and for him to respond, ‘I’ll see you at 7 a.m. tomorrow.’”
It’s Gathright’s dedication, commitment and passion that stands out to those who work with him. Heffernan’s mother, Dana, explains Zach has not only improved as a golfer but also a person. “There are many things that make Bryan a special coach,” Dana said. “But from a parent’s perspective, his positive demeanor and disposition are a great fit. He has encouraged Zach since Day One and supported his big goals. I love that he is always so confident.”
As for Gathright, he isn’t looking to slow down anytime soon. He’s coaching many talented young players from across the state, in addition to his four most recent champions.
“My goal is that my players improve and get better every time they come see me,” Gathright said. “I recently told my wife, I am more excited now about the group of players I am coaching than I ever have before. I know their potential and it makes me work harder knowing how good these players can be.”
Bryan Gathright is the Director of Instruction at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch in Boerne. He is one of Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers in America. For more information or to schedule a lesson, Bryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 210.373.6055.