Hill Country Strong

By Robert Rodriguez :: Photography courtesy of the PGA TOUR

While other Texas PGA TOUR stops face uncertain futures, the Dell Match Play and Valero Texas Open continue to thrive

It’s been quite a resounding (and tumultuous) past 12 months for the PGA TOUR stops in Texas.

The AT&T Byron Nelson Championship will unveil its new home for the tournament this May, Trinity Forest Golf Club. That’s part of the resounding news.

The tumultuous news — sponsorship issues have haunted the Fort Worth and Houston stops. Dean & DeLuca is still the title sponsor for the invitational tournament at Colonial, but reports surfaced that the relationship is expected to prematurely end. Meanwhile, Shell abruptly terminated its long-standing title sponsorship with the Houston PGA TOUR event, and the 2018 edition will simply be known as the Houston Open.

As for the Texas Hill Country PGA TOUR events — the World Golf Championships — Dell Technologies Match Play and the Valero Texas Open, life is good … very good, and for different and resounding reasons.

For the Dell Match Play, it’s all about starpower, and the tournament provides plenty of that. Of all the events in Texas, the Dell Match Play boasts the best field. The tournament, which occurs March 21-25 at Austin Country Club, pits the top 64 players based on the Official World Golf Rankings.

The top-ranked player in the world, Dustin Johnson, won the tournament a year ago and is expected to defend his title. Current No. 2 player in the world, Jon Rahm, also is expected to be in Austin. So, too, is former University of Texas great and current British Open champion Jordan Spieth, PGA champion Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Austin’s newest resident and reigning Masters champion, Sergio Garcia.

Another reason why the Dell Match Play gets an elite field is the golf course. The Pete Dye-designed Austin CC layout is the most picturesque of all four Texas TOUR stops. The players also enjoy the playability of the course, and how suited it is for match play.

And there’s Austin, one of the more attractive cities in Texas. The event has thrived based on the fan experience for everyone; thus, tickets and passes for the Dell Match Play are once again a hot commodity.

Closer to home, the San Antonio event did something its compadres in Fort Worth and Houston couldn’t — solidified its title sponsor. This past October, the PGA TOUR Valero Energy Corporation announced a 10-year extension of Valero’s sponsorship of the Valero Texas Open.

An interesting caveat, and one that will make this tournament an attractive business investment — the new deal positions the Valero Texas Open as part of the spring sequence of events that will precede the Masters Tournament. Beginning in 2019, expect stronger fields in Valero Texas Opens, as players will use it to fine-tune their games prior to the Masters.

That’s not to say this year’s event won’t be an exciting one … far from it. Kevin Chappell will defend his Valero Texas Open title April 16-22 on the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio. Chappell fired rounds of 69-68-71-68—276 (-12) to win by one shot over Brooks Koepka.

It was Chappell’s first win on TOUR but it wasn’t easy. He nearly had a chance to win in 2011 on TOUR — coincidentally at the Valero Texas Open — but faltered at the end to lose to Brenden Steele. In the 2017 tournament, Chappell had a hungry field of young players chasing him Sunday, including Koepka, who would become the U.S. Open champion two months after his VTO runner-up finish.

This year’s field will be chockfull of young players looking for their breakthrough win on TOUR, plus a grab bag of cagey veterans and Texan touring pros. Boerne resident and 2015 champion Jimmy Walker, Spring’s Patrick Reed and other Texans are slated to play. Also expect to see 2016 champion Charley Hoffman teeing it up in San Antonio, as well other notable TOUR stars Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar, Luke Donald and Zach Johnson.

The Valero Texas Open is known for setting the standard among Tour events it terms of charitable donations. A year ago, the tournament raised $11 million for charity through various activities and events, reaching $117 million in total funds raised.

Special corporate and charitable events are scheduled throughout tournament week including Executive Women’s Day, a Dash to the VTO 5K run/walk, Children’s Golf Clinic, the 19th Hole Fiesta after Saturday’s round, and Night to Honor Our Heroes.

Good Any One Day, hospitality and clubhouse tickets, and sponsorship packages for the Valero Texas Open are available. Ticket prices start at $25, while hospitality packages start at $80. Military ID cardholders (Active, Guard, Reserve, Retired) receive special benefits, while children 12 and under are free.

For more Valero Texas Open ticket information, visit www.valerotexasopen.com/tickets.

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