Bill Holstead became at age 23 an instant golf legend when he defeated two of the world's top golfers Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw in 1970 to win the prestigious Texas Amateur's Golf Tournament. From there he's gone on to win more than sixty tournaments and continue his reign as the best golfer who resides in Wichita Falls, Texas.
Holstead discussed his career with Examiner today, Thursday, Aug. 28 in the Nineteenth Hole Restaurant of the Wichita Falls Country Club. In addition to excelling on golf courses across America since that historic victory in 1970, Holstead said he owns the Holstead Brick Company.
"People have said my office is here at the Wichita Falls Country Club since I tell them they can find me here anytime they're looking for me," the amiable Holstead said, smiling as he leaned back in his chair at the corner table of the room overlooking the spacious golf course at the club.
Still slender and looking fit 44 years after he rocked the golf world by beating Kite and Crenshaw who won a couple of national championships with the University of Texas, he said he was on the original golf team at Wichita Falls Rider High School when the school opened its doors. He was a member of the first graduating class of that school in 1965.
Lane: How did the team do?
Holstead: We got to regionals four years. I got to regionals four times.
With his trademark modesty, he said the team did pretty well. Considering the school was starting from scratch and didn't even exist prior to the years Holstead displayed his skills there, getting to regionals seems like a pretty remarkable feat.
Lane: What was the best round of golf you ever shot?
Holstead: "I shot a 61 on the Skyline course. I shot a 63 on one of the courses here at the Wichita Falls Country Club. But I guess my best round was a 62 at the Tour of Champions at the Orland Disney course.
He went on to explain the WFCC now has its third course which he said is "excellent. It's a huge improvement over the previous course."
It was only a few years ago the WFCC re-did its course making it both more challenging and exciting for the members who enjoy playing on it. It is now ranked among the top courses in Texas.
Holstead is still at the top his game as he won the recent Men's West Texas Super Senior Golf Tournament played over the WFCC course. In 2013 he also won the same tournament in San Angelo.
He said the famous Don Cherry called him and offered his congratulations after Holstead's memorable Texas Amateur win in 1970. Cherry, who was not only a great golfer, but also an acclaimed singer, is still close to Holstead.
"Our familes go back forty years together," Holstead said today. "He was a great golfer. He nearly won the 1960 U.S. Open, being tied for the lead nine times."
Cherry may be the only golfer who also had hit records. He recorded "Band of Gold" which climbed all the way to No. 1 on the charts in the 1950s. Holstead said Cherry was one of the first people to call and congratulate him after his great win in the Texas Amateur.
In the early days, when Bill was a boy, he recalled walking over to the Weeks Park Golf Course and practicing religiously.
"I grew up in a Southmoor duplex. And I'd walk over to Weeks Park every morning and practice," the golfing icon said today.
Lane: How much time would you put in on practicing?
Holstead: I enjoyed practice. Daylight to dark.
The golfing champion went on to say that a "golf pro by the name of Jack Johnson" taught him a lot in the early days. His dad, Bill Holstead, Sr., played a lot of golf and sometimes his son would hang around. His dad also started a brick company and Bill, Jr., has followed in his footsteps in the same business.
Lane: Were you ever a caddy?
Holstead: Yes, I was. I caddied here at the Club. There was a caddy pen. There were occasional fights everyday. Just kids."
Lane: What happened to caddies?
Holstead: Golf carts kind of did away with them. Of course you still see them in tournaments and some resorts require them still.
Lane: I've tried to play a few times, but I seem to hit the ground instead of the ball. What's the problem there?
Holstead: You have to keep your head still. People tend to move their head and that will cause that.
Holstead said he used to play 15-16 tourneys a year in earlier times. Some major tournaments he's played in includde the Western Amateur and the Trans-Mississippi. He's played in the National Amateur 10 times, 17 USGA events as well as five USGA amateurs.
Lane: Who is the best golfer in the world today?
Holstead: It's Tiger still.
Lane: I saw where he parted ways with his current swing coach. What was that all about?
Holstead: Hard to say. His original coach was Butch Hammon. He was asked if he'd ever coach Tiger again. He said no for two reasons. First, Tiger wouldn't ask him. And second Butch wouldn't take him back. Actually, Hammon says Tiger knows as much about golf as anyone."
Lane: What would you advise Tiger to do?
Holstead: I'd tell Tiger to go out and hit golf balls.
Lane: Do you think he'll ever return to his old form when they said he'd break Jack Nicklaus record for most majors wins?
Holstead: Hard to tell. He turns 39 this year. He's had surgeries and aback issues in addition to being older.
Lane: What percentage of golf is mental?
Holstead: I'd say 80%.
Holstead's next tournament will be Sept 26-28 at the Shady Oaks Golf Course in Fort Worth. He still averages four tournaments a year.
Lane: What are the four best golf courses you've played?
Holstead: Well, that's tough. There's Brookline which hosted the Open in 1913. Southern Hills at Tulsa is reallly good. Prairie Dunes in Hutchison, Kansas is topnoth. Of course Pebble Beach is great. And the Olympic Club in San Francisco is also great.
He also said the Junior Texas-Oklahoma Tournament in Wichita Falls has had a glorious history, saying, "We've had Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Ben Hogan here at the WFCC to give clinics following the tournament in past years."
Holstead said that Hogan was his idol growing up.
"I got to meet Ben Hogan at the Shady Oaks Club. My good friend John Grace and had played and come into the club. Hogan was sitting at a table. My friend John asked me if I'd like to meet him. We probably sat there and talked for three or four hours that day."
Holstead's most recent victory was a six-stroke win on July 20th at the West Texas Super Senior Tournament hosted by the Wichita Falls Country Club, according to an article in the Wichita Falls Times Record News newspaper.
Wichita Falls is truly fortunate to have a golfing legend and a good man like Bill Holsltead to represent it across the U.S. in the golfing world.
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