How the Perfect Amateur Golf Event Was Built

TRINITY, Texas – Corby Robertson knew a thing or two about golf course routing. Yes, the sport Robertson was most closely associated with was soccer – he was recruited heavily by University of Texas coaching legend Darrell Royal and then twice named All-American while captain of the Longhorns at the 1969 Cotton Bowl – but golf had always been in the Houston native. some blood.

When Robertson and his sister, Beth, conducted a land swap that effectively moved the Austin Country Club to its current location, he worked with famed architect Pete Dye on the development of the course which now hosts the WGC-Dell Match. Play, even making a trip to see the Oklahoma Oak Tree masterpiece to better understand Dye’s genius.

“Pete once made a statement to me and told me there was nothing in the rules of golf that said it had to be fair,” Robertson Austin statesman Kirk Bohls said in 2016.

But how Robertson turned a gorgeous East Texas property into one of the best (and most secluded) golf courses in the country has more to do with camaraderie than course design.

Robertson – who didn’t declare himself for the NFL Draft after an impressive college career because “these guys all made around $ 25,000 and I thought I could do a lot better” – had built Camp Olympia with her UT roommate Chris Gilbert on a beautiful site less than an hour from Huntsville. The idea behind the camp was to get the teens bonded and develop three essentials that are dear to Robertson – body, mind and spirit.

And originally, the course hosted what Robertson called “olf, which is golf without greens”. As part of the weekly camp routine, enthusiastic campers were teeing off a wide open green that was just a lump of raised grass with a tub in the middle. The kids loved it. Robertson jokes that the game could have been revolutionary.

“It would have been a more popular game,” he said. Golf week in September. “You do more holes in one and you never miss three-foot putts. “

But over time Robertson and others realized this would be a prime property for a golf course. He had then become an energy mogul, first oil, then coal, and had the financial means to create the course. In the 1990s, when beetles started gnawing at some of the trees in the camp, he decided to make use of it, starting with a series of legitimate three holes, then adding irrigation systems and creating the course. which is now one of Golfweek’s best private courses in Texas. list: Whispering Pines.

” We liked. But if we really had to do that, we’d say, “What’s missing in golf? At the time, golf was lacking in the Olympics, ”said Robertson.

So he decided to mix two of his passions: Camp Olympia and a new golf course. Soon after, in 2001, the Spirit International Amateur Golf Tournament was born, a biennial event with teams made up of two men and two women from each of 20 countries spanning six continents.

After building it – the Robertson team worked with Jack Nicklaus’ design team on the course – the best ams in the world began to appear in droves. When this year’s teams arrive for the 10th game of the event (the 2017 event was canceled due to Hurricane Harvey), they will be adding to an impressive roster of amateur golfers who have made the trip to ‘at Whispering Pines. Among those who won a title at the event were Lorena Ochoa, Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth, Lexi Thompson, Scottie Scheffler, Austin Ernst and Will Zalatoris.

This year, a powerful team that includes # 1 and # 2 female amateurs around the world will pave the way for Team USA. Stanford teammates Rose Zhang and Rachel Heck will lead the US contingent while Texas A&M’s Sam Bennett and Michigan State’s James Piot round out the squad. Piot won the US Amateur in August.

The tournament is known to have five categories of concurrent competitions: international team, men’s team and women’s team, and individual male and female stroke play competitions. It will be played from November 4 to 6 and also broadcast on Golf Channel like the Spirit website.

A series of flags line a lake at Whispering Pines, rated the best private golf course by Golfweek in the state of Texas. (Photo provided)

Players stay at Camp Olympia and participate in a number of club traditions, such as line dancing and karaoke. As golf returned to the Olympics with professionals, Robertson believes his event has somehow maintained the amateur flavor that the Olympics were originally intended to foster.

“I feel like maybe we inspired the Olympics to have golf. Hope we were part of the inspiration. There are 200 other sports, why not golf? he said. “But it wasn’t designed for the pros. For stadium golf, we should have cleared all the trees on this property. There is room for that, but the beauty and the ambience of this place, that would be a shame.

“Look, good fans go to a big tournament every week. None of them have an attached camp. They live together in camp huts and we turn these players into friends. The camp makes lifelong friends and builds character. The mission of Camp Olympia is to have fun together but to make people grow in body, mind and spirit. Do that with a bunch of very accomplished golfers? Well, that’s just a plus.

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