Maurice Eades and James Handy may not be household names around Brownwood, but the two Fort Worth golfers were the first medalists in what has become a Labor Day tradition here.
The first Central Texas Partnership golf tournament, played over Labor Day weekend in 1963, was contested between 49 teams of golfers, broken into three flights. That tournament has become the Citizens National Bank Labor Day Two-Man Low-Ball Match Play Golf Tournament, and has seen many changes over its 43-year history.
According to John Arthur Thomason, who headed up the invitation committee for the inaugural tournament, it was designed to supplement the area’s social and recreation calendar.
“The golf tournament was created to fill a gap in Brownwood’s recreation program,” Thomason said. “I worked with my friend in Brady, who was also starting a tournament there, to schedule it so they wouldn’t conflict.”
According to a 1963 Brownwood Bulletin article, the tournament “featured social activities for the wives and children of the players. A barbecue on Friday and a dance on Saturday added spice to the activities.”
Thomason said between 300 and 400 men and women would attend the tournament and its related events.
“We made it a family affair — with a barbecue, bridge tournament, dance and children’s games and activities,” Thomason said. “We also arranged a Calcutta. It was a four-day affair and highly successful. The program that included family participation was one of the best ideas we had.”
“I remember particularly the awards banquet on Monday night was a really nice affair,” said Harold Lockwood, who played with Clint (Chip) Lowe in many of the tournaments, including 1963. “Whether you won anything or just participated, it was a really lovely affair.”
Lockwood and Lowe teamed up to win their flight in 1968.
The first tournament ran over four days, beginning on a Friday with play running through Monday. The first-year entry fee was $20 for both golfing and social activities, $10 for just the social activities.
According to an Aug. 30, 1963 edition of the Bulletin, the top local golfers entered in the tournament were Joel Ferguson, Jack Carlson, Thomason, Brayton Smith, E.H. Utzman, Houston Wedeman, Carl Boies, Bill White and George White. Teams from Brownwood, San Antonio, Rankin, Lampasas, Dallas, Hico, Eastland, Amarillo, Austin, Goldthwaite, San Angelo, Abilene, Brady and Gustine were registered to play.
While recent tournaments have featured a shootout on Fridays, the inaugural Central Texas Partnership tournament held qualifying rounds on Friday. Teams were able to qualify on their own courses prior to that, and if their club professionals approved their scorecards, that would suffice for qualification purposes. Regular match play began on Saturday with single rounds the first two days, and then semifinal and final rounds on Monday.
Kenneth Wise and Neal Stewart of Brownwood had the lowest local qualifying score with a 67. A late entry in the tournament was Charles Bridwell of Coleman, a former University of Texas golfer whose playing partner came from Midland.
Match play tournaments pair teams against each other for the best score on a hole. The lowest score “wins” the hole and the team with the most holes won at the end of the round is declared the winner. In each of the 1963 matches, the winning team defeated their opponents by one hole, or 1-up.
Eades and Handy defeated Bill Wilson of Hamilton and Jim Bullard of Hico in the final round of the championship flight. A.J. Bittick of Brownwood and Charlie Root of Austin took first flight honors by defeating Bill White and Hilton Gilham of Brownwood. Jake Roach and J.R. McMahan of Stephenville took the second flight honors, defeating Marvin Huey of Gustine and Eddie Pate of Brownwood.
Brownwood Country Club professional Jess Dewees told the Bulletin at the time that “the 6,295-yard layout is in its best condition in years. Roughs and fairways are fast after being cleaned and greens are said to be in good condition.”
The tournament was so popular in its first year, that Brownwood Country Club officials quickly decided to make it an annual affair.
“A lot of the players had out-of-town guests as partners because the tournament had so many teams,” Lockwood said.
“The third year, we had to limit entries because it was one of the leading amateur golfing events in Texas,” Thomason said. Although the tournament continues to fill its field every year, it has grown to include 86 teams.
“I think that teams continue to play in the tournament for several reasons including the tradition, the format and because it’s the last tournament before school starts,” said Bob Boatright, senior vice president at Citizens National Bank and the tournament’s current director.