Memorial Park Remade

Houston PGA Tour stop gets new look, new home

Courtesy photo

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New look. New logo. New date. New vibe.

And lots of dirt being moved at Memorial Park Golf Course.

Yes, we're talking the Houston Open, which launched its 2019 reboot Wednesday afternoon by announcing the new 2019 fall date – October 7-13 – and a new logo. Think lots of Astros orange and blue plus a flagstick. And of course, a star.

With Houston City Council signing off on the project last week, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane, who jumped in to save the event last year, was ready to roll out plans for his vision for the Houston Open.

The tournament, whose history dates back to 1946, will return to its most recent home – the Golf Club of Houston – for the 2019 event before moving to a renovated Memorial Park in 2020. Architect Tom Doak was there to talk about the project, which Crane said Doak promises will be completed by the fall to ensure that it has the PGA TOUR's required one-year's growth before hosting the event. Crane plans to move the event to Memorial in 2020 and to eventually settle back into a spring date.

Before losing longtime title sponsor Shell Oil and being unable to secure another one, the Houston event had the coveted lead-in spot to the Masters, which gave it a strong field and an international flair.

Crane got involved because he didn't want to see the city lose the PGA TOUR and he said that profits will go back to the Houston community. "We're making no money off of this,'' he said. "I got involved because I didn't want to see our city lose the PGA Tour."

Memorial Park is the busiest and most popular public course in the city and will remain that way. In addition, it will have a signature First Tee program there for juniors.

"Any time you do something this big, people are concerned with change," said Crane, who has a five-year commitment with the TOUR. "At first, nobody likes change. But I know they're going to like this golf course when we're done with it."

The Astros Golf Foundation will run the event and course renovation, which will cost approximately $13.5 million, will come from private funds.

"It's a plus-plus," Crane said. "There's no cost to the taxpayers, and the Foundation has the resources to kick it off and get it running. It's a big commitment on our part, but at the end of the day the tournament will generate a lot of funds for the community. I know people don't like change sometimes, but I think they're going to be very happy with where we end up."

Houston Open tournament director Colby Callaway said the Houston Open will have a $7.5 million purse, a new feel and a new look.

"In addition to featuring an attractive field of golfers, we will also be adding some new elements for our spectators, including musical entertainment and a tailgate zone,'' he said. And the purse, he said, "will make it the premier fall event on the PGA TOUR in the U.S.A."

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka, who is a member at Crane's Floridian and teams in with Astros Golf Foundation president Giles Kibbe in the club's annual pro-am, has signed on to consult with Doak on the course and could be key to helping boost the field. In addition to Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson as also Floridian members.

Although the event will be in the early portion of the TOUR's wrap-around schedule in 2019, it could still draw a strong field. The FedEx Cup point system encourages players to earn points throughout the season so they can make the playoffs at the end of the year.

"Our goal is to work hard and establish a first-class tournament that one day will be considered one of the best on Tour," Crane said. "This tournament will benefit the City of Houston in many ways, creating revenue for the business community as well as generating significant dollars each year for the Houston Parks and Recreation Department and for the First Tee of Greater Houston.''

Crane's vision will make Houston one of a handful of cities hosting TOUR events on public courses. Next week's Farmers Insurance Open is at Torrey Pines, a public course which also hosted a U.S. Open, while Bethpage Black on Long Island has hosted two U.S. Opens, two FedEx Cup playoff events and will host this year's PGA and the 2024 Ryder Cup. Harding Park in San Francisco has hosted a number of events, including a Presidents Cup and a World Golf Championships event and will host the 2020 PGA.

The course will have to be brought up to TOUR standards with improved drainage and irrigation and rework some holes.

"Our commitment is to improve the course, provide the city with storm water retention, and also ensure the course is maintained for all Houstonians to enjoy affordable golf at a PGA-caliber facility," Kibbe said. "It will be a great addition to the city's iconic park."

PGA Tour executive vice president Andy Pazder talked about the growth of the TOUR's public course partnerships and said, "I anticipate that we'll very quickly add Memorial Park to that list of our great public venues.''

Callway and Kibbe both emphasized the added energy the event as a whole will bring to the city.

"Our new brand reflects our desire to get a new generation excited about golf in Houston," Kibbe said. "We want the tournament to bring together all walks of life for a great social experience, while watching the best athletes compete at an elite level. It is bright, bold and it reflects the values of the tournament – integrity, collaboration, passion, authenticity and fun."

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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