Pirate golfers bound for Austin

Last year when Travis Benson finished third at the Class 4A State Golf Tournament in Austin, he said he wished he could have brought his entire team.

That’s happening this year.

Not only did Benson successfully defend his Region I individual championship, the Pirates finished second in the team standings and earned their first state tournament berth since 2002.

The Pirates shot 611 over two days at Abilene’s Diamondback Golf Club. They opened with a 306 and followed with a 305.

Trophy Club Nelson won the tournament, shooting 600 (303-297) and leading wire-to-wire. Denton Guyer was a distant third at 623 (304-319), but under the new format, also qualified for a trip to Austin April 29-30.

Benson put together rounds of 72 and 70 for an even-par 142. Still, he needed a playoff to edge first-day leader Justin Jennings of Canyon Randall (69-73).

Benson wasted little time in playing extra, however. He birdied the first playoff hole to take the regional title for a second straight year.

“That’s a big thing,” said Granbury coach Steve Ward, of Benson, who is bound for New Mexico State University in the fall.

“Winning this region is tough.”

After the opening day the Pirates were in position to also capture the team title, trailing by only three shots. While they improved on the second day, Nelson did also.

“After Day One we weren’t just wanting to get to state, we wanted to win the whole thing,” said Ward.

“And we had a chance, but you’ve got to credit Nelson for playing a fantastic tournament.”

Justin Largent of Granbury tied for 11th individually, shooting 153 (74-79), and Austin Kinsey’s 154 (77-77) tied him for 14th.

Zac Wall had rounds of 83-79 for a 162 total, while Briggs Berry shot 173 (88-85).

The top four scores each day comprised the team total.

The Pirates finished second in the District 7-4A Tournament to Aledo, but the Bearcats were a distant eighth at regionals, shooting 652 (326-326).

“I think getting beat by Aledo in district helped us,” said Ward. “It woke us up.”

Ward said the notorious wind that usually accompanies play at Diamondback was not a factor in the tournament.

“Oh, it did change direction halfway through the round (Tuesday), but the guys were focused and it wasn’t a problem at all,” he said.

“I’m telling you, they wanted this. They wanted this bad.”

Ward said playing on the Onion Creek Course in Austin is also a comfortable setting for his team.

“We went down there in the fall and played it. They like it,” he said. “They are very comfortable playing there.”

It’s his first time to take a team to state since he led the Bullard girls there in 1998.

“It’s been a while since I took a bunch there, but we’re there now and anything can happen,” he said .

“The state tournament is gravy.”

The Pirates finished fourth in 2002 and were the state runners-up in 2000.

Granbury had come close to returning to state each of the past two seasons. They were third in 2011 and fifth last season.

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Class 4A Region I Boys Golf Tournament

State qualifying teams

Trophy Club Nelson 303-297 = 600

Granbury 306-305 = 611

Denton Guyer 304-319 = 623

Top individuals

x-Travis Benson, Granbury 72-70 = 142

Justin Jennings, Canyon Randall 69-73 = 142

Johnny Jones, Nelson 70-73 = 143

Other Granbury scores

Justin Largent 74-79 = 153

Austin Kinsey 77-77 = 154

Zach Wall 83-79 = 162

Briggs Berry 88-85 = 173