The Port Arthur News
AUSTIN — There were no first-round jitters in the 4A state golf tournament this time around for Port Neches-Groves, no digging an opening-day hole that would be too deep to escape.
With senior Lonnie Labove’s two-over par 72 leading the way, and four scores at 76 or better, the Indians shot a solid 294 that coach Ricky Keyes would gladly have accepted before the first shot was struck Monday morning. Unfortunately for Keyes and the Indians, they couldn’t play defense.
No. 1 state ranked Highland Park set a sizzling pace with a six-over par 286, and the Indians found themselves in fourth place. San Antonio Alamo Heights was second at 290, followed by Cedar Park at 293.
“I’m happy with the way our kids played,” said Keyes. “This was so much better than last year. I would have thought 294 would have been closer to the lead. But we’re still very much within reach. With four scores in play, you can make up eight shots in a hurry.”
In addition to Labove’s 72, senior Jarrod Brown and sophomore Braden Bailey carded 73s and Tyler Rawson posted a 76. All three placed in the top 15 individually, and arguably are in the race for medalist honors. Sutherland Stith of Alamo Heights shot the low round of 69. Four others, including Region III medalist Chandler Phillips of Huntsville, were at 70.
Labove was in position to challenge for the day’s low round, but struggled down the stretch with three bogeys on the final four holes. He’d shot 33 on the outgoing nine, with consecutive birdies at 3, 4 and 5 and a fourth at 9. A double bogey at the par 4, 6th kept him from going really low.
“Lonnie played very well,” said Keyes. “He had a couple of three putts late and the double bogey hurt him. But overall it was a strong effort. He was smiling and having a good time.”
Brown, meanwhile, finished strong after a stumbling start for his 73. He took bogeys at three of the first four holes and was four over through seven. Unfazed, he rolled in four birdies over the next 11 holes, including a birdie-birdie finish that offset a double bogey at the brutal, par 4, 15th.
While Brown was up-and-down, Bailey was a par machine. After opening with back-to-back bogeys, he made pars on 15 of the next 16 holes. But there were no birdies, a fact Keyes attributed to poor putting luck.
“Braden had his chances. He rolled the ball all over the hole, but just couldn’t get anything to fall.”
Rawson’s 76 was a bit of a rollercoaster ride, given that he had back-to-back double bogeys at 3 and 4 and five bogeys. But he was able to make three birdies and bounced back from an outgoing 39 with a 37.
Given Highland Park Blue’s eight-stroke lead, and two other teams ahead of them, Keyes figures the Indians will have to shoot in the 280s to have a chance to win the school’s first state championship. A key to that will be the par 4, 15th
The 414-yard dogleg right, with a hazard near the green, played to a stroke average of 4.681 Monday. It yield only only two birdies to go with 31 pars, 28 bogeys, 10 doubles and 1 other. PN-G players were five over on the 15th, with three bogeys and a double.
Highland Park Blue played the 15th in one over, which means half of its eight-shot lead over PN-G was built on that hole. Alamo Heights and Cedar Park both played it in three over.
“That hole cost Austin Travis the 5A championship last year,” said Keyes. “We spent extra time on it in the practice round, and none of our kids made a par. It’s just really, really difficult.”
The best news for PN-G about passing Northwest Nelson (296) late in the day to finish fourth is that it will be paired for the final round with players from Highland Park Blue, Alamo Heights and Cedar Park.
To grab the first day lead, Highland Park Blue got a 70 from Levi Pettit, a 71 from Scottie Scheffler, a 72 from Drake Turnbull and a 73 from Charlie Click. Its non-counting score was a 75 from Jake Potter. — Bob West
Listed below are the team leaders after Monday’s first round of the Texas 4A state high school golf championship at Onion Creek Country Club
1. Dallas Highland Park Blue 286
2. San Antonio Alamo Heights 290
3. Cedar Park 291
4. Port Neches-Groves 294
5. Northwest Nelson 296
6. Austin Vandergrift 298
7. Denton Guyer 305
8. Dallas Highland Park Gold 307
T9. Prosper 308
T9. Granbury 308
11. Huntsville 312
12. Montgomery 316