Roy Kizer Golf Course in southeast Austin, Texas, is among six city-operated public golf courses. It features 35 acres of lakes and 22 acres of wetlands, furnishing habitat for area waterfowl. Photo courtesy of Golf Austin
In its long and glorious golf history, the state of Texas has produced hundreds of professional golfers, many of whom have ruled the golfing world. It has also turned out thousands of golf professionals overseeing hundreds of Lone Star links, and just as many top-flight turf managers. And this month, the state will welcome golf course superintendents, owners, architects and builders from all over the world for the 2018 Golf Industry Show, which will be making its second visit to the newly renovated Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio.
But Texas is also the home of a course — the only one of its kind in Texas and possibly the U.S. — named for a golf course superintendent. Roy Kizer Golf Course opened in 1994 and is owned and operated by the city of Austin. Few who play the links-style layout likely know, however, that the course is named for a man who touched so many other courses.
“It’s a big deal. A very big deal,” says Roy’s son Edwin Kizer. “When they (Austin) were getting ready to open the course, they did a lot of research, and we know it’s the only course in Texas named for a golf course superintendent, and we think it’s the only one in the country as well. It’s a great honor for our family.”
Like so many superintendents, Roy put in countless hours at his prized course, which for him was Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin, where he worked from 1937 until his retirement in 1973. He was not only a key part of the success at Lions, but was also an inspiration to dozens of other superintendents in central Texas, as well as to his family.
All four of Roy’s children have been involved in the golf business. Edwin followed his father into the superintendent profession, starting out working with his dad as a kid. He moved over to work with legendary Texas golf pro Harvey Penick before coming back to Lions for five years, and he later had long stints at Austin-area courses Lakeway Country Club and Berry Creek Country Club. Edwin’s son Jamie also continued the family superintendent tradition, spending 14 years as a superintendent at Austin’s Onion Creek Golf Course, home of the original Senior Tour event, and at nearby Meadowlakes in Marble Falls, Texas.
“The golf course was all that I knew growing up, and we had a love affair with the game. I think that Dad was proud we all got into the game. We were certainly proud of him,” says Edwin.
Roy Kizer passed away in 1974. Twenty years later, when the site of an abandoned wastewater plant was converted into Austin’s newest municipal course, Roy’s contributions to the city’s golf community hadn’t been forgotten. The 6,749-yard, par-71 course named in his honor embodies the design philosophy, “To give pleasure to the greatest number of players without respect to their capabilities,” according to architect Randy Russell.
Roy Kizer Golf Course is spread over almost 200 acres and is bordered by cedars, elms and oak trees. There are 35 acres of lakes and 22 acres of wetlands, which were created for resident and migratory waterfowl.
“When the Austin City Council was considering naming the course after Dad, they asked me why I thought it would be a good idea,” says Gib Kizer, who has been a golf pro and teacher for more than 40 years. “I just said because he loved golf, he loved the course and he loved kids getting involved. Every time there was a state junior tournament in San Antonio, he would get a car, fill it with kids, take them down there, put them up in a hotel, and pay for the whole thing. He wanted the course to be nice, and he wanted kids to have a chance to play it.”
Thanks to Roy Kizer and the state’s singular superintendent-named course, a bit of recognition for the game’s hardest-working and often-overlooked figures will reach generations of Texas golfers.
Art Stricklin is a freelance golf writer from Plano, Texas, and a frequent contributor to GCM.