On a recent sunny Friday afternoon, longtime Ridgewood County Club member Hack Branch was out for a fun 18 holes with his friends and playing partner and had his game working in fine order. He unleashed good drives, fine chip shots and plenty of made putts, and at the end of his round managed to shoot his age, 79, for the third time ... this year.
While it might be cause for extreme celebration or exaltation for most, the chances of a golfer shooting your age on an 18-hole golf course is .000089 percent, or less than 9 people per million, according to golf industry statistics. However, for Branch it was just another day in the golfing office.
“I shot my age for the first time when I age 74 and have probably done it about 100 times since then. Long course and short course, resort and country clubs, I’ve really lost track to be honest,” Branch said.
While there are no official records kept on shooting your age by the United States Golf Association or anywhere else, Branch is likely among the Waco golfer leaders of that rare feat. And he’s still going strong.
“I don’t know if there is any secret to it,” he said. “Your short game has to be pretty good and you have to be a good putter, because I can’t hit it as far as I used to for sure.
“To do it now (shoot my age) at Ridgewood, I’ve really got to be playing good because it’s just so far, even from the up tees.”
Branch, who also has five career holes-in-one, said he never knows when he might shoot his age during a round because he never knows when he might play.
“We still do a bunch of travel to Austin and San Antonio to see kids and grandkids and great grandkids, but I still like to play.
“I started playing golf seriously when I was in my 20 and 30s and have always liked it. Any time I get a chance to play, I’m enjoying it no matter where it is.”
Words to live by for Waco’s age shooting champion.
Cottonwood staying busy with tournaments
For a great majority of the year, Waco’s city-owned public golf layout Cottonwood Creek is a favored destination for thousands of Central Texas golfers and a popular public charity tournament destination.
But for eight days in April, Cottonwood was the center of the state high school golf scene, hosting both the Texas private school state tournament and a public high school regional in Class 6A. It’s all part of a well-ordered plan to expose the course and the city to thousands who may have never seen it before.
“It’s a very busy eight days for our staff with a lot of work behind the scenes, but we feel it’s our best form of advertising,” Cottonwood Creek head professional Kenny Duron said. “I think it showcases the course to others, showcases our city and helps grow the game for juniors who may play in the future. We want to do all three.”
This was the sixth year Cottonwood Creek hosted the TAPPS (Texas Association Private and Parochial Schools) state tournament from both boys and girls in classes 2A and 4A, an event which drew players from all over the state.
More importantly it beckoned their parents and support teams to stay in Waco hotels, eat plenty of Waco food and visit Waco’s finest public course.
“We have 500 people here each day, for two to three days, and while they may not pay the same rate as people playing here and taking a cart, their parents take up all the carts so it’s a good deal for everybody,” Duron said.
A case in point was recently retired Houston golfer Tom Freet, who drove over to see his son Tommy, who was playing in the TAPPS tourney representing his private Christian school from The Woodlands.
“It was a great time and that’s a really great course. I didn’t know Waco had something that nice,” Freet said, while clutching his Cottonwood yardage book, on sale at the courses’ front counter.
Following the TAPPS tournament, Cottonwood hosted the Region II-6A tournament, determining which players would advance on to state.
For some players it was just another step in the process which will ultimately lead to the PGA Tour in a long line of great Texas golfers. For others it might be their only chance for statewide golfing glory. But Duron said he and his staff were determined to treat them as a golfing star, if only for a few days.
“I think it puts Waco and Cottonwood in the golfing spotlight and we want to make the players see a showcase,” Duron said. “For some they have seen this type of tournament for a long time, for others it is the first time in competition like this. We just try to make it as special as possible so they can take it with them forever.”