The city of Houston is preparing to take another step toward bringing the PGA Tour’s Houston Open back inside the city limits. Tom Doak has been selected to renovate the city’s Memorial Park Golf Course, in part with the goal of hosting the Houston Open starting as soon as 2020.
The Fried Egg first reported the news, based on a conversation with Doak.
Memorial Park is one of the country’s busiest golf courses, logging approximately 60,000 rounds per year. The municipal course has deferred maintenance and improvement for years, but Houston mayor Sylvester Turner has been pushing to invest in a renovation as part of his plans for the city. He also wants to bring the Houston Open back to Houston proper from the Golf Club of Houston, which is in the nearby suburb of Humble.
The John Bredemus design hosted the Houston Open in 1947, its second year, and from 1951-1963. Houston legend and multiple major winner Jack Burke Jr., owner of Champions Golf Club, twice won the tournament at Memorial Park in the 1950s and was runner-up twice more.
The Houston Open hasn’t been played in Houston since 1972, when Westwood Country Club hosted for a single year after a six-year run at Burke’s (and partner Jimmy Demaret’s) Champions Golf Club. The tournament has been played at what’s now The Golf Club of Houston (erstwhile Redstone Golf Club) since 2003.
Shell dropped its title sponsorship of the tournament in 2017, and the Houston Golf Association, who has historically run the tournament, reached deep into its coffers to put on the event in 2018 without a title sponsor. Golf Club of Houston declined to continue hosting the HGA-run event after this year.
The PGA Tour then set a June deadline for the HGA to secure a title sponsor for 2019 and beyond, or they would pull the event from the schedule. The HGA was unable to produce a feasible plan. At the last minute, Houston businessman and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane swooped in and promised to underwrite the event. Crane asked to take over the event, running it to benefit his Astros Foundation while cobbling together sponsor dollars from a group of as many as 10 area companies and organizations. The tournament is not on the 2018-19 PGA Tour schedule but is now slated for an October date moving forward, beginning with the 2019-20 PGA Tour season. As part of Crane’s five-year deal to support the Houston Open, Golf Club of Houston will host in 2019.
The loose timeline for a Doak-led renovation would give approximately 18 months to have the work done and grown in for the October 2020 Houston Open. Memorial Park is already a 7,300-yard course, with plenty of room for Doak to craft his first PGA Tour-hosting course alongside PGA Tour player consultant Brooks Koepka.