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La Cantera Assumes New Identity with PGA Tours Shift to TPC San Antonio

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SAN ANTONIO – This week, The PGA Tour Valero Texas Open returns for the second year to the new TPC San Antonio AT&T Oaks Course.

For the Westin La Cantera Resort nearby, seeing it staged up the road is bittersweet.

'We miss it,' said Greg Haugland, director of sales & marketing at Westin La Cantera. 'The first year without it stung a little bit. But we're proud of what we did with it for 15 years.'

The PGA Tour can move events as they please, but history will prove kind to La Cantera. The Texas Open wouldn't be thriving like it is today without it. In fact, it might not have a pulse. The Open, which began in 1922 at Brackenridge Park Golf Course, amassed an impressive list of champions, including Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Ben Crenshaw.

But it ran into a speed bump in 1993 when H.E.B. dropped its title sponsorship. Following a sponsor-less 1994 staging at Oak Hills Country Club, the new La Cantera Resort picked it up and sponsored the event until Valero assumed the title role in 2002. Between then and the course's final staging in 2009, it went from a spot buried on the Tour's Fall Series to kicking off the coveted 'Texas Swing.'

Finding a new niche in San Antonio

Westin La Cantera now co-exists with the TPC San Antonio and on-site 1,001-room JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort.

Westin hasn't cowered in the shadow of the sparkling new, mega-sized JW Marriott. In 2008-2009, the property underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation, with upgrades to guest rooms and public areas. With just half the rooms of the JW Marriott, it's smaller size has turned out to be a selling point to group functions.

'A lot of groups we speak to like the idea they can come in and take over the whole place while they're here,' Haugland said.

For golfers, both the Palmer Course and Resort Course are competitively priced (often as low as $79-89 for morning times on GolfNow.com). It means they can attract a fair share of local play as well as guests from the resort or other area hotels.

In contrast to the demanding AT&T Oaks Course and AT&T Canyons Course at TPC San Antonio, La Cantera's Resort Course is kind to amateurs. As the name implies, this Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish collaboration can be as tough as you want with five sets of tees. It's only brutal if you're playing the wrong box.

'You don't have to put the ball in the air,' said Steve Shields, director of golf. 'You can bump-and-run it all the way around.'

The Troon Golf-managed club has also seized the opportunity in its new role as a 'former' tour stop. Through the month of April, golfers in town have the chance to play the Resort Course in the same setup it was for the Texas Open. Greens are fast, the rough is penal, and some pin positions are unmerciful.

The experience is completed with a fully detailed, pro-style caddie book, to offer a glimpse of just how precise tour players are.

And on the Monday when the PGA Tour ships out, La Cantera's Resort and Palmer courses remain a key host in the Benefit for Children's Golf Classic, a fundraiser staged on 11 area courses that has generated $35 million since 2002.

Celebrating Texas history and Hill Country flavor

Stop and look around a little at La Cantera, and its setting on the former 'King Ranch' atop a limestone bluff, which looks out 20 miles from its perch in every direction, comes alive with history. This piece of quarry has been a coveted spot in central Texas for centuries. Nearly every room of the resort, like Emily Rose's Court, Tio's Lobby Bar or Esperanza Library, pay homage to legends.

The Hill Country spirit is omnipresent when the resort's golf is combined with its culinary offerings. Executive Chef John Armstrong oversees a handful of restaurants that highlight the tastes of the area. At Francesca's at Sunset, the resort's signature restaurant, they've created a colorful, farm-to-table menu full with standouts like a chili-rubbed filet of beef. Or, try a double rack of wild boar from Broken Arrow Ranch just west of San Antonio. Most of the produce you eat on this ever-evolving menu comes from 'Farmer Bob' Mishler at his 17-acre Uncertain Farms just 11 miles away.

To go with the meal you can choose from a selection of Texas' emerging wine selection. Not sure where to start? Sommelier Paul Krueger offers daily tastings in Steinheimers Pub.

La Cantera is committed to sustainable, Hill Country fare to go with a property that oozes Texas history on its walls and the stone beneath your feet.

As Texas celebrates its Open this week, we can all toast that.

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