Notes: Academy at Redstone pays tribute to 'a special man'

The Dave Williams Golf Academy houses both Charlie Epps, the director of golf at TPC Redstone, and the University of Houston golf team.

The Dave Williams Golf Academy houses both Charlie Epps, the director of golf at TPC Redstone, and the University of Houston golf team.

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— It is many things to many people – a shrine, a museum, a place to learn, a place to hit balls – but mostly the Dave Williams Golf Academy is exclusive to Redstone Golf Club.

Now it might have sat there as an afterthought by some of the best golfers in the world, but don’t let that fool you. They’re terribly self-centered and rarely worry about or pay heed to anything other than their own selfish concerns. Besides, they aren’t an indicator of how special the DWGA building really is. Instead, the people who strolled in and out, who stood fixated at the photos and the tributes, who shared with Charlie Epps a personal memory of Williams . . . well, they offered the true measure of how special the building is.

“We call this place ‘The Gateway to Success,’ " Epps said, and it didn’t take long to see why.

Situated at the left-hand corner of the practice range at Redstone Golf Club, the Dave Williams Golf Academy houses Epps, the director of golf at Redstone, and the University of Houston golf team. Inside are state-of-the-art bays where you can pull open a garage-like door and hit out onto the range while connected to the newest technology. There are also reminders everywhere of a dynasty like no other – the University of Houston golf program – which circles back to the appropriate name on the building.

“Dave Williams,” said Epps, “was a special man. He was one of a kind.”

College golf is an industry these days, but it owes much of its success to Williams, whose accomplishments surpass even the iconic John Wooden. While the Wizard of Westwood won 10 NCAA basketball titles, Williams’ Cougars were NCAA golf champions a staggering 16 times.

But it went beyond the team stuff. He coached 41 All-Americans, seven NCAA individual champions, and five who went on to win major championships as PGA Tour members (Bill Rogers, John Mahaffey, Fuzzy Zoeller, Steve Elkington and Fred Couples). He surely knew talent and how to nurture it.

The first wall you see when you walk in pays tribute to the 16 national titles, 14 conference championships and 340 tournament wins, but perhaps the most impressive display is the full-wall mural of an Elkington swing in sequential form. Say what you want about the Aussie, but his is a swing to admire.

The building opened last September, and it was a no-brainer to make it a memorial to Williams, who died at age 80 in 1998.

Under Jonathan Dismuke, who played at Auburn right after Jason Dufner's time there, Houston returned to the NCAA Tournament last year. The Cougars are ranked 26th in the Golfweek/Sagarin team poll. If you wanted to suggest that the Dave Williams Golf Academy has helped revive the program, you wouldn’t get many arguments. It’s that impressive.

But at the same time, the DWGA serves as a sort of museum of cool golf memorabilia, courtesy of Epps. He is known in PGA Tour circles as the swing coach for Angel Cabrera, but Epps has been involved in Houston golf for decades. His friendships with icons such as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player were cemented during practice rounds at PGA Senior Championships in which Epps participated, but perhaps his fondest prize is a photograph of him and the great Ben Hogan.

The story goes that Epps, as head pro at Houston Country Club, only sold Hogan equipment – that pleased the man himself. So one day the phone rang and Epps was told that a “Mr. Hogan” was on the phone. Sure he is, Epps said to himself, but then he heard the distinctive voice and what followed was an invitation to travel up to Shady Oaks in Fort Worth, a day Epps will never forget.

The photo is kept close by, just to assure that he doesn’t.

• • •

HE MAKES THEM COUNT: On the one hand, we submit D.A. Points. On the other, Brendon de Jonge. A taste test, if you will.

Actually, it’s not a taste test, but they offer a decent comparison as to how making the cut is one thing, but getting well up on the leaderboard is quite another.

De Jonge has been the study of consistency since the start of 2011, making the cut in 80.5 percent of his starts (58 of 72). The money earned isn’t too shabby, either; he has piled up $3,875,348 in that time, with nine top-10s.

Nice, productive work. The thing is, de Jonge has worked more often to make less money than Points, who has been the model of inconsistency. (He has missed the cut in about 45 percent of his starts since 2011, or 29 of 65.)

Ah, but it’s all about picking your spots, and Points has done that beautifully. He has only had seven top-10s since 2011, but two of them have been victories (2011 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am; last week’s Shell Houston Open) and another was a 2012 playoff loss at the Wells Fargo Championship. Three quality events, three paychecks totaling $2,822,000 – that's 60 percent of what he’s made in the last three years, because Points has piled up just $1,885,565 in his other 62 starts in that time.

For his 36 cuts made in three years, Points has earned $4,707,565 – or $832,217 more than de Jonge has in his 58 cuts.

• • •

TAKING FLORIDA KID OUT OF FLORIDA: If there was a sense of satisfaction last week, it was the way in which he finished – 67-66 on the weekend to improve his PGA Tour-best consecutive cut streak to 20 tournaments. Take a bow, Billy Horschel.

Wait a minute, Billy Horschel?

That’s right, the unheralded 26-year-old has perfect four-day attendance for each of his nine starts this season and you have to go back to May’s HP Byron Nelson Championship for the last time he left after 36.

Still, for all those positive vibes, Horschel rode a roller-coaster of emotions while playing three of four weeks in his native Florida. There was a third-round 81 at the Honda, four days without breaking 70 at the Tampa Bay Championship, then a real sour ending at Bay Hill, an 85.

So when Horschel got a whiff of the leaderboard at the Shell Houston Open and threw down a stellar closing round, he felt great. “It was good. Very solid day,” Horschel said after recording his best PGA Tour finish, a share of second, one behind Points. “I knew I needed to come out and play the best round I possibly could today.”

Curiously, Horschel is a Florida kid, a former University of Florida standout, and is very comfortable at home. Yet in his 12 PGA Tour rounds this year in Florida, he is 21 over; he is 65 under in 24 rounds in Hawaii, California, Arizona and Texas.

• • •

TAVISTOCK TESTED: Forget Houston being a tuneup for the Masters. The Tavistock is a tuneup to Houston.

Not only did the Shell Houston Open winner, D.A. Points, play in the Tavistock, so did Henrik Stenson (T-2), Brian Davis (T-6), Bill Haas (T-10) and Charles Howell III (T-10). They were the best finishes of the season for Points, Stenson and Davis.

Two others, Ross Fisher and Scott Verplank, made the cut. Of the eight who made the quick trip from Orlando to Houston early Tuesday evening, only Bo Van Pelt didn't make the weekend.

• • •

SHORT SHOTS: Jim Furyk is playing the Valero Texas Open for the first time since 1994, his rookie season. . . . Speaking of Furyk, he got assistance from Steve Stricker, Justin Leonard and David Toms to help spearhead a charity effort that raised about $300,000. The third annual Furyk & Friends Celebrity Golf Classic was held at Jacksonville Golf and Country Club. . . . Since shooting 65 to open the Honda Classic, Branden Grace has played 11 rounds in parts of four tournaments. He is 25 over, with nothing lower than 70. . . . If you see Tommy Gainey, give him a pat on the back and some encouragement. He needs it, having missed the cut in eight of his 11 starts. He earned $238,876 in the first two weeks in Hawaii, but has made just $13,702 in his last nine tournaments. Gainey has not broken 70 since Jan. 12 and is 51 over for his past 23 rounds. And the worst part? They’ve filled the cast for “Big Break Mexico,” so he doesn’t have that option.

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