Ben Crenshaw reflects on Valero Texas Open’s 100 years
March 29, 2022
By Kevin Robbins , PGATOUR.COM
- March 29, 2022
- Ben Crenshaw recently gave his thoughts on the history of the Valero Texas Open. (Darren Carroll/PGA TOUR)
SAN ANTONIO -- Back in the spring of 1973, Ben Crenshaw won his third individual NCAA title at the University of Texas. The junior from Austin then made a choice.
He left college early and registered for the PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament, which at the time comprised eight grueling rounds. Crenshaw wanted to see if he was ready for professional golf. The answer came in the form of an emphatic 12-shot victory at Q-School. Crenshaw announced that he would make his debut at the Valero Texas Open, seventy miles down the highway from his hometown.
The tournament moved in the fall of ’73 to Woodlake Golf Club, a Desmond Muirhead design with captivating bunkers and a par-5 finish flanked by water.
Crenshaw was 21. He had won a pair of Texas state junior championships at Brackenridge Park, the Texas Open’s original home. But he had never played Woodlake.
He shot 65 in the first round and 72 in the second. He shot 66-67 on the weekend, beating Orville Moody by two and George Archer by three.
Crenshaw became the youngest winner in the history of the Valero Texas Open, which began in 1922.
“This kid is going to be winning tournaments for many years,” Valero Texas Open official Gordon Glenz told reporters.
Glenn was right. Crenshaw won 19 times on the PGA TOUR, including the Masters Tournament in 1984 and 1995.
In February, Crenshaw spoke at an event marking the role of San Antonio’s Oak Hills Country Club in the 100-year history of the Valero Texas Open. The tournament spent 24 years at Oak Hills, where Crenshaw won his second VTO in 1986 and finished as runner-up to Bill Rogers in 1981. Crenshaw is not just one of the great players in the history of Texas golf, but also a noted golf historian, which made him an appropriate speaker at this event celebrating the sixth-oldest professional tournament worldwide and third-oldest on the PGA TOUR.A sign was revealed to celebrate the history of the Valero Texas Open. (Darren Carroll/PGA TOUR)
Below is a transcript of his remarks at the event. They are edited for clarity and brevity.
PGATOUR.COM: What are your memories of your first start as a professional at the Valero Texas Open?
BEN CRENSHAW: I was playing well at the time. There were three guys that I had to overcome. One of them was George Archer. And Orville Moody, who won the 1969 U.S. Open at Champions (Golf Club in Houston), and Mike Hill, Dave Hill’s brother. It got pretty tight at the end. As I remember, Woodlake had a par 5. The last hole had water on both sides. I made birdie on the hole and won. That was a really happy time. San Antonio, I’ve always regarded as my second home. The state junior was here, at Brackenridge Park. I first played it when I was 13 years old. It was my first introduction to players from around the state, who really keyed for that tournament. It was a big deal. I loved Brackenridge Park, and I still love it to this day. It means so much to the history of our state.
PGATOUR.COM One of the founders of the first Valero Texas Open was a newspaper editor named Jack O’Brien. He and the other organizers saw the VTO as a way to bring club professionals from the Midwest and Northeast to enjoy San Antonio in the heart of winter. The idea seemed to work, didn’t it?
CRENSHAW: What he (O’Brien) was trying to do was spread tourism. He did a beautiful job with that. I like to say the Texas Open is the first forerunner for the whole PGA TOUR itself. It was such a success. There was so much excitement about it. And I think it introduced a way of having the professional tour travel throughout the country, and have a schedule. The pros played wherever they could. You know, most of the pros back then had two jobs. They were players, but they were also club pros.
PGATOUR.COM: The VTO was played here at Oak Hills from 1961 to 1966, and from 1977 to 1994. What are your memories of those years?
CRENSHAW: Some of my happiest memories have been right here at Oak Hills. I was 9 years old. My brother was 10. And my dad brought us out here and we watched the 1961 Texas Open. We went out on the first tee box, and (Crenshaw’s brother) Charlie and I were on the right side, and here comes this big, burly guy named Mike Souchak (the winner of the 1955 Valero Texas Open). He pulled out this black-faced Macgregor 1-iron, teed it up on the right side, and he buzzed this 1-iron right past us. It was just the most amazing thing I ever saw. That was our introduction to professional golf. We followed Arnold Palmer (who won that year). Couldn’t get close to him. My father knew Jimmy Demaret. So we followed him a few holes.
PGATOUR.COM: In 1981, you and Bill Rogers produced some of the greatest golf in the history of the Valero Texas Open. You shot 64 in the final round. Rogers shot 63. You tied, resulting in a sudden-death playoff at Oak Hills. What do you remember about that year?
CRENSHAW: Bill Rogers is one of my dear, dear friends. It only took him one hole to knock me out. That year was one of the most special years for a player. Nobody could beat him that year. He won the British Open. He won the Australian Open. He won the world match play. (Rogers won four times that year on the PGA TOUR and finished second once, winning Player of the Year honors. He made the cut in 20 of 26 starts.)
PGATOUR.COM: The Valero Texas Open has endured many challenges in its 100 years, from a depression to a world war to revolving sponsorships. Now it has a stability in the form of Valero. It’s one of the leading tournaments on the PGA TOUR in terms of charitable giving and civic support. What do those say to you about the VTO and San Antonio?
CRENSHAW: That says quite a lot. It’s very important. And, believe me, the players know it too. If they know anything about the history of this event, not too many places have had a strong relationship with the community. And, as you know, the newspapers were very much a part of the impetus to get the word out to come to your town. We have to give thanks to companies like Valero to sustain the relationships with the players and also the community. I kind of think that San Antonio has served as a great model for the rest of the TOUR. I think of so many moments. Times where I’ve had near misses, but times I’ve triumphed too. San Antonio was a special place for me.