The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Step two on the road to the boys 4A state golf championships begin today in Huntsville for Port Neches-Groves, and coach Ricky Keyes believes his No. 4 ranked Indians are well prepared to defend the Region III title they won last year.
“We’ve played a demanding schedule this year with the goal of winning the state championship,” said Keyes. “For the most part, the kids have played well. I do think we may have gotten a little burned out from all the traveling. But we’re tournament toughened and we’re ready.”
PN-G took the first step to get back to Austin by winning its fourth consecutive District 20-4A championship by 46 strokes last week at Wildwood Golf Club. Sophomore Braden Bailey led the way by claiming medalist honors for the second consecutive year. Bailey signed off on a 36-hole score of 147.
To return to the 4A state tourney, the Indians must finish in the top three among 16 teams competing over 36 holes Wednesday and Thursday at Raven’s Nest Golf Club. Their biggest challengers are expected to be No. 7 ranked Huntsville, who has a home course advantage, and Montgomery.
To win last year’s Region III title, PN-G came from four shots behind Montgomery on the final day, finishing with a 606 (301-305) total that bested the first-day leaders by four strokes. Huntsville placed third at 612.
Four of the five players whose scores counted toward the 2012 Region III victory — Bailey, Lonnie LaBove, Jarrod Brown and Tyler Rawson — will be teeing it up today. The fifth team member is Brandon Soileau, who played at regional last year as a member of the Indians’ “B” team. Soileau, after shooting 157 for the “B” team in district last week, was promoted to the No. 5 spot for regionals.
To get to this point, PN-G has played in nine tournaments during the 2012-13 school year. It won four of those, including district, and finished second in three. Bailey, who has been the medalist in three tournaments, leads the Indians with a 74.4 stroke average. LaBove is next at 76.7, followed by Brown (77.7), Rawson (79.4) and Soileau 82.6.
Brown set the pace for the Indians here last year, opening with a one-under par 71, then adding a 77 to finish second in medal play with a 148. LaBove shot 152 (74-78), Bailey rebounded from a first-day 79 with a 74 for 153 and Brandon Provost carded a 154.
While the Indians are no less than co-favorites with Huntsville and Montgomery, the player to beat for the medalist trophy is Huntsville’s Chandler Phillips. Phillips, the state’s No. 5 ranked 4A player, won the medalist trophy by 12 strokes last year on the strength of a final-round 66.
Nederland, the runner-up to PN-G in last week’s District 20-4A tourney, is also in the field. Heading up the Bulldogs’ lineup is Michael Glover, who finished second to Bailey last week at Wildwood back-to-back rounds of 75 and a 150 total.
Joining Glover will be Thaine Tillie, Cole Trevino, Hunter Huff and Avery LeBlanc.