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Try taking a swing at amateur competitions

As a player or spectator, check out the tourney scene

Kevin Robbins
Houston McClenny tees off at Lions Municipal Golf Cource in September. Even if you don't compete in Lions' Firecracker Open, you can play there for about $20.

Professional golf is as much a part of the landscape of Central Texas as firm Bermuda fairways and south winds on a hot summer day.

The marquee of pros who call Austin home: World Golf Hall of Fame members and former Texas Longhorns Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw; Champions and PGA tour winners Tom Jenkins, Rich Beem, Joe Ogilvie, Bob Estes, Tim Petrovic and Wes Short Jr.; and LPGA winner Cindy Figg-Currier.

Elite golf doesn't go away when those names depart for Augusta National or Pebble Beach.

A vibrant amateur competitive community thrives in Austin, where dozens of tournaments can keep avid players on leader boards from March to October. Most of the tournaments are staged at the city's four municipal courses, and others are played at daily-fee courses such as Grey Rock, Forest Creek, Bluebonnet and Shadow-

Glen.

The 2010 tournament schedule, for example, includes 13 events that award points toward the naming of an Austin amateur player of the year.

The season includes a Ryder Cup-style match-play competition called the Rudy's I-35 Cup , which pits an Austin team against a team from San Antonio.

It concludes with an annual Austin amateur golf championship, planned for November at Lakecliff Country Club in Spicewood.

Sound familiar? The Austin amateur golf season looks and feels like a professional tour writ small.

There are many ways to enjoy golf in Central Texas. From the $20-a-round walk in the park at Lions Municipal to the fully loaded experience of Wolfdancer at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa, a day on the fairways can be fancy or unadorned. And from the least expensive green fees to the greatest, tee times are generally easy to find.

Some players want more from golf. They crave real stakes, competitive tension and the fluttering stomach on the first tee.

That's where the rich and lively tournament scene enters the picture.

The year begins with the Chester Cup, an invitational at the private Great Hills Country Club. Next is the Morris Williams Mid-Amateur Spring Championship, played on Morris Williams, a municipal course with exceptional Bermuda greens and a handful of new back tees.

The Austin Open gives amateurs and professionals alike a two-round look at Grey Rock, a daily-fee course in southwest Austin. The Amateur at ShadowGlen moves the schedule to Manor. The Spring Partnership brings the circuit to Lions, where the beloved Firecracker Open returns in July.

By the time the season ends, players who start every tournament will have potentially played all four city courses, five daily-fee courses, three private clubs and two resort courses at Horseshoe Bay. They will have played open and windswept courses such as Roy Kizer, parkland settings such as Grey Rock and Forest Creek, and Hill Country stalwarts in Ram Rock and Slick Rock at Horseshoe Bay.

It's a great way to see terrific golf on exceptional golfing ground.

To paraphrase Bobby Jones, there's Austin golf. And then there's competitive Austin golf.

krobbins@statesman.com; 445-3602