It quickly became obvious that things were a little different at last week's Valero Texas Open. There was the absence of almost all the top players--24 of whom were up in Virginia playing in the Presidents Cup. There was the 100? Texas heat, uncharacteristic for late September. And there were the TVs in the locker room at LaCantera Golf Club in San Antonio: Most of them were tuned to the Weather Channel instead of the Golf Channel.
Long before the first shot was struck, the weather was the story, with memories of Hurricane Katrina fresh in everyone's mind and the equally mammoth Hurricane Rita expected to hit the Texas coast on Friday night. With San Antonio poised for a healthy dose of rain and strong winds, it looked as if a Saturday washout would be followed by 36 holes on Sunday.
Such a scenario meant that the players were focused on the weather. "We all know there's a storm coming, possibly on Saturday, and you never know what's going to happen with that," said eventual champion Robert Gamez after opening with a 62 on Thursday. "It's good to get a lead and hold it in case we have to wait around on the rain."
Preoccupied as Gamez and others might have been, it was nothing compared with what the players who live in Texas had to deal with, especially the six pros from the Houston area, which looked as if it would take a direct hit. Steve Elkington left town after the Wednesday pro-am to evacuate his family and board up his house. K.J. Choi had his wife and three kids drive to LaCantera on Thursday afternoon. Jeff Maggert got up on Thursday morning and plunked down $2,000 to charter a small plane to bring his wife and three children to San Antonio. He then went out and then shot a seven-under 63 to tie for second. "Getting my wife and kids here put my mind at ease," Maggert said. "Part of the problem I've had for the last two years is trying too hard, but today my mind wasn't holding me back because I was so happy my family was here. I'm counting my blessings."
In the end Rita veered east, missing San Antonio completely and inflicting minimal damage on Houston. By Sunday morning Elkington was reporting that the water and electricity were back on and his house had sustained no damage. Maggert went on to finish at 11 under and tie for eighth. He never found a way to catch Gamez, who held on for the wire-to-wire win with an 18-under 262, but that was fine. Maggert's house was high and dry too.
-- Art Stricklin