The Shell Houston Open
Redstone Golf Club
5860 Wilson Road
Humble, Texas 77396
Date: March 26 – April 1, 2012
Time: Click here for schedule of events
Price: All events before Wednesday are open to the public and free, Click here for tickets
Parking: Click here for parking and shuttle details
A field of 144 PGA professionals will gather to compete for a slice of the $6 million prize-money pie and the opportunity to complete for The Masters by golfing in the Shell Houston Open.The best part is Houston-area golf fanatics get the opportunity to see some of the best golfers in the world. You won’t want to miss out.
Since moving the annual tournament to the week before The Masters, the tournament has benefited by gaining a better field as the pros use this week to tune-up for one of the majors. Phil Mickelson rose to No. 3 in the world rankings following his tournament win in 2011. Mickelson shot 20-under-par to earn a three-stroke victory over Scott Verplank. Officials expect Mickelson to return in full force to defend his title in 2012.
The golfers aren’t the only ones who get to experience these quality greens. Area golf fans will be just as spoiled. The Redstone Golf Club’s tournament course has been dubbed by some to be “as close as you may ever come” to playing Augusta National, the home of The Masters. The course offers the tour pros a great tune-up for the following week, but it’s equally rewarding for the fans because of the beauty of the layout and the usual temperate climate of late March.
Related: Best Golf Courses Around Houston
Saturday: First Tee Fourth-Grade SNAG Competition
The first ‘event’ of tournament week takes place on March 24, 2012 , as approximately 300 fourth-grade students who are taught the First Tee curriculum in local elementary schools will gather at the Dick Harmon Learning Center. The center is adjacent to the Redstone course at 5809 Wilson Road, and hosts a skills competition that begins at 10:30 a.m.These students, largely from inner-city schools, have an opportunity to show off skills they’ve learned through the First Tee’s Starting New at Golf (SNAG) program.
Tournament-week festivities begin at noon on Monday with the Pro-Am tournament. The best-ball round features a shotgun start by teams of amateurs who are paired with PGA Tour pros on the Redstone Golf Club Tournament Course.
The pairings are determined just before the round and will feature players who will be competing later in the week. This is a great opportunity for fans who want to get a feel for the course and how it may play later in the week. The crowds are smaller and the atmosphere is relaxed. cameras are allowed on the course and admission is free.
Tuesday: Practice Day and Junior Skills Competition
The tournament competitors will hit the course on Tuesday to get in a practice round. The tour pros, some of whom will be trying to secure a Masters berth or prepare for that tournament, use these rounds as an opportunity to hone their games for the weekend. Cameras are allowed and photo opportunities will be plentiful, as many of the players are more likely to interact with the fans during their practice round.
Late in the afternoon, the HGA sponsors a junior golf skills competition on the club’s par-three course. The competition features youth who participate in the HGA’s Junior Golf program or the First Tee program. They compete for medals and trophies in events such as driving, closest-to-the-pin, bunker shots and many others.
Following the skills competition, nine junior players will then have the opportunity to play a nine-hole round on the tournament course with PGA tour players.
According to Darden, the juniors earn their opportunity by participating in HGA events, tournaments and service projects.
As with Monday’s pro-am, admission is free and cameras are allowed.
Wednesday: Grand Pro-Am Day
Wednesday is the final day to see the PGA players rubbing shoulders with amateurs during the Grand Pro-Am. This full 18-hole round has the feel of tournament play, as teams have assigned tee times in morning and afternoon groups.
However, the atmosphere remains a little more relaxed and the tour pros take the opportunity to ham it up a little with their teams and spectators alike.
Tickets are required and the majority of available parking moves off-site, but shuttle bus service begins, offering a round trip between the free ecopark lot at Bush Airport and the course for only $5.
Thursday-Sunday: Competition Rounds
During the first two days of competition, morning tee times will take place from approximately 7 a.m. to 8:50 a.m., and afternoon tee times run from 11:30 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. After Friday’s round, the tournament field will be cut to the low 70 scores (and ties), and those players will move on to the final two rounds.
On Saturday, tee times begin around 8:30 a.m., with the tournament leaders (the last set to begin around 12:45 p.m.). By the third round, story lines and subplots will begin to develop as players complete for the tournament trophy and try to position themselves for the major tournament the following week.
Some spectators like to pick their favorite golfer and follow him around the course during these rounds, but many pick a favorite spot—especially along the back nine—to watch as all the pairings come through.
The champion is crowned late Sunday afternoon on the 18th green.
Lonnie King is a freelance writer living in Houston. His work can be found at Examiner.com.