A golf-course architect and a Texas A&M alumnus, Miller was heavily involved in golf in the Houston area in the 1960s and 1970s, both as an architect and in a managerial capacity. He designed and built Quail Valley, Columbia Lakes and the third nine at Panorama, before he became one of the original owners and builder of Texas National.
The innovative Miller, who also planted the seed for the Texas Golf Hall of Fame, had been to the Masters Tournament and was smitten by the beauty of Augusta National Golf Course. When he first laid eyes on the Willis Property, he informed his partners, “This land is as close to Augusta National as we will find in Texas.”
Jack was excited by the piney woods, the rises and dips in the terrain, the magnificent dogwood and a natural stream (Indian Camp Creek) that traversed the land - all characteristics of Augusta National.
The name came easily: Texas National Golf Course, which would be something special in the world of golf. Jack built a sporty course, one that is fun to play, and the first nine and the clubhouse were opened simultaneously in November of 1977. However, three of the four owners (Miller, Buck Nichols and Ernest Coker Jr.) sold their interests to Russell Wiggins in the same year.
In 1981, Coker acquired the course and has been extremely successful in the development of the 488-acre property, completing a residential-recreational project with facilities and permanent homes.
Why shouldn’t Texas golfers be honored? Texas has produced the greatest golfers in the world and has joined California and Florida as the chief suppliers of professionals on the men’s and women’s tours.
From Ben Hogan, arguably the best golfer in the history of the game, to the modern era’s Lee Trevino, who is fourth on the all time money list with more than $3 million in earnings in 1986, Texas has a far-flung reputation as a breeding ground for fine players.
Four of the top 10 all-time winners on the PGA Tour are Texans. Hogan, of “Wee Ice Mon” fame, won 62 official tour events and is in third place on the list, while Lord Byron Nelson is 5th with 54 wins, including a record smashing 11 in a row in 1945.
In 8th place is Lloyd Mangrum (34), and Jimmy Demaret (31) is tied with Tom Watson for 9th place.
Lee Trevino is locked up with Walter Hagen and Henry Picard for 13th place, each with 27 victories, and Jack Burke has 16 tour wins and is all even with two others for 31st place.
You guessed right if you gave the top two places to Sam Snead (83) and Jack Nicklaus (70).
On the LPGA side, the Monahans-born Kathy Whitworth has won 88 official tournaments, which ranks her as the all-time U.S. champ in all professional categories.
The legendary Babe Didrikson Zaharias was born and raised in Port Arthur-Beaumont area and is reputed to be the finest female athlete the world has known. She was a charter member of the LPGA Tour in 1950 and her start status was the prime reason for the birth of the LPGA.
The University of Houston, winner of 16 national collegiate championships under native Texan Dave Williams, is probably the top feeder of players on the men’s circuit. The Cougars gave us such standouts as Johnny Mahaffey, Bill Rogers, Bruce Lietzke, Keith Ferus and Fred Couples.
Former TN owner Russell Wiggins and PGA Professional Bob Payne originated the Texas Golf Hall of Fame in 1978.
Special Thanks to PGA Professional Bob Payne for sharing his memorabilia with us.