PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

April 27, 2013

PN-G golfers take aim on 4A state championship

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

PORT NECHES —     Seeking to do what no Port Neches-Groves golf team has ever done, the Indians are back in Austin with the 4A state championship a goal that appears to be within reach for a veteran team.

    “If we play our best, we can hang with anybody,” says Indians coach Ricky Keyes. “We’ve proven that over the course of the year. The second round at regional last week sort of refocused everybody. We just need to get off to a good start.”

    PN-G, after placing fifth in an eight-team field at Jimmy Clay Municipal in last year’s state tournament, will be taking on a new course — Onion Creek — and a field that’s been expanded to 12 teams. Though it’s the first time for Onion Creek to host the state tourney, the Indians have some familiarity with the 6,530 yard, par 70 layout.

    With freshman Braden Bailey (71-73) and senior Jarrod Brown (73-71) both shooting 36-hole scores of 144, the Indians tied for second place at Onion Creek last October in the 2012 Fall Preview Tournament. Eight of the 12 teams which will be battling for the state title Monday and Tuesday were in the field.

    Dallas Highland Park won with a 585. PN-G and Cedar Park were next at 594. The Indians shot 297 each day. Tyler Rawson 153 (76-77) and Lonnie Labove (77-76) provided strong support for Bailey and Brown.

    All four of those players were on the 2012 team that placed fifth in state. The only newcomer is Brandon Soileau, and Soileau played in the Fall Preview, shooting 165 (80-85).

    PN-G failed to defend its Region 3 championship last week, primarily because of a bad first day and a very good Huntsville team lead by Chandler Phillips. A poor first round also hurt the Indians on day one at state last year. They opened with a 318, then came roaring back with a 299 on day two. At regional last week, they opened with 327, then came back with a 313.

    “We are going to need to play well both days,” said Keyes. “The competition here is very good. We can’t afford to dig ourselves into a big hole like we did last year and at regional.”

    Highland Park, based on its victory in the Fall Preview, it’s No. 1 state ranking and three of the top 9 ranked 4A players in the state — No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, No. 3 Jake Potter and No. 9 Levie Petitt —  would seem to be the team to beat. Potter was medalist in the Fall Preview, shooting a blistering 64 on the final day for a 141.

    Also above No. 4 ranked PN-G in the 4A ratings are Cedar Park and Northwest Nelson. Granbury and Huntsville also have strong teams.

    Seven of the state’s top 9-ranked 4A players are in the field. In addition to the Highland Park trio, Huntsville’s Chandler Phillips is No. 2, Granbury’s Travis Benson is No. 4, Prosper’s Grant Bennett is No. 6, Cedar Park’s Charles Kim is No. 7 and Northwest Nelson’s Johnny Jones is No. 8.

    While PN-G’s goal is to win the state championship, the very least the Indians want to accomplish is to post the highest finish of any team in school history. The previous best for a PN-G team was fourth in 1993. Individually, the high finish for a PN-G player is Rusty Shannon — second in 1994. Michael Dulin (1986) and Andrew Landry (2005) placed fourth.

    PN-G left for Austin on Saturday and played 18 holes at Roy Kaiser Municipal. The Indians are set for their official Sunday afternoon at Onion Creek.