TYLER — This year’s edition of the Texas State Open includes a mix of golfers — from high school amateurs to longtime players.
The morning wave of tee times Wednesday at The Cascades Golf & Country Club featured some of that mix.
A day after Class of 2021 Austin Westlake High School student J. Holland Humphries opened eyes with a 4-under 66, Class of 2020 Dallas Trinity Christian Academy graduate Michael Heidelbaugh helped start off the day with a 7:30 a.m. tee time. Heidelbaugh improved on his 74 from Tuesday with a 71 on Wednesday.
Veterans Robert Shields and Rick Maxey, 70, teed off about an hour later and finished their tournament around 1 p.m.
In the middle was Lufkin High School graduate Sam Fidone, who is in his late 20s and currently plays on the PGA Canadian Tour and the PGA Tour Latinoamérica.
Fidone’s round started just after 8 a.m., and the East Texan quickly shot up the leaderboard.
After a 2-under 68 on Tuesday, Fidone carded a 5-under 65 on Wednesday to move into the top 10 as of late Wednesday afternoon.
“I plotted honestly, and I just played really well,” Fidone said. “I didn’t make a bogey today. I started off yesterday pretty poorly, and I was 3-over through my first six holes.
“Today was a good grind. I made a couple of good putts for par early. And then I made a 50-foot eagle putt to kind of start the day and get under par.”
After Fidone’s eagle on No. 14, he had birdies on No. 15 and No. 18 to be at 4-under through the first nine holes.
Fidone had just one birdie on the front nine — his final nine holes — but with no bogeys, he put himself in position to compete for the top spot for the final two rounds.
“We’ve got a few days left, so I’m hoping to do it again,” Fidone said. “There’s still plenty of time left.”
Fidone said he played at The Cascades as a kid, but came and played the course with a friend last week to prepare for the tournament.
“It’s absolutely amazing,,” Fidone said. “The greens are perfect. Luckily the rough is not crazy long, so you can miss a couple of greens and get a lot of good up-and-down chances, which I have done. It’s just avoiding mistakes and making good numbers on Par 3s since there are five of them and then taking advantage of the Par 5s when I get the chance.”
Maxey, who said this will likely be his final year competing, shot a 71 on Tuesday and an 80 on Wednesday.
“I’m turning 71 on Oct. 14, and if I would’ve gotten a few breaks today I could have made the cut,” Maxey said. “It was fun.”
Maxey was the Class 3A state champion in 1968 at Pine Tree High School and was an All-American at Stephen F. Austin.
Maxey also had glowing remarks of the golf course and alluded to 2018 Texas State Open champion Ben Kern using his experience at The Cascades to follow up with a strong performance at the PGA Championship the following week.
Maxey played with Shields, another Tyler resident, in his two rounds. Shields carded scores of 75 and 76.
“It’s an honor to come out here and play with these younger guys,” Shields said. “It’s a long golf course for us older guys, at least for me. It was fun. I didn’t play very well, but it was a joy to be a part of. And it’s a great event for Tyler.”
Peyton Wilholt, of North Little Rock, Arkansas, who shot a 3-under 67 in both of his first two rounds, had never played at The Cascades before this week. He said he wouldn’t mind playing it more permanently.
“This place is awesome,” Wilholt said. “I was talking to my wife last night and asked her if she wanted to move to Tyler. I would like to play this place more. It’s fun. I like that it’s not a bunch of wedges. A lot of our mini tour events are a lot of wedges, but here, you have to strike it a little better, which I feel like is an advantage for me. This place is fun, and I like the challenge of it.”