AUSTIN – With 265 yards between himself and the green, Austin Kinsey made a gutsy decision.
He pulled out a driver, hit a near-perfect shot, and found himself on the fringe of the green. He pitched and one-putted for a birdie four on the par-five hole.
His play on that hole epitomized the Granbury Pirates’ second round of the 4A State Golf Tournament Tuesday on the Onion Creek Golf Course.
Pulling out all the stops, the Pirates played their best round of the season, firing a 290. Only Highland Park, which shot 6-under-par 274, came in with a better score that day.
“Today was a test of character, and they showed a lot of character,” said Granbury coach Steve Ward.
The Pirates improved by 18 strokes over their opening-round 308. As Ward noted, it’s not that they played a bad first round, they just hadn’t played to their full potential.
“They challenged themselves, and I challenged them, to come out and play better than they had ever played today, and that’s exactly what they did,” said Ward.
Kinsey’s shot on the fifth hole launched him to the round of his life, a 2-under-par 68 on the biggest stage in front of his largest audience.
There was no state championship to celebrate. Highland Park locked that up for the 10th time since 2000 (finishing second the other four years). But there were certainly plenty of reasons for the Pirates to exchange high-fives amongst themselves and their faithful.
The Pirates, much like Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy, had become something of a tournament darling. Like him, they were nowhere close to winning, but their second-day surge to seventh place grabbed attention, most notably because of the play of two seniors who were wrapping up four years on the varsity.
Somehow it seemed fitting that Kinsey and his great friend Travis Benson would come in with identical 68s on the final day they picked up a club for the Pirates.
“I was just thinking that this is the last time I’m ever going to be playing for Granbury High, so I’d better make it good,” said Kinsey.
“I especially wanted to do well on 18, those being my last couple of shots.”
And that is exactly what he did, finishing with a birdie.
Kinsey had the best overall score among the Pirates, 4-over-par 144 for two days. He tied for 14th individually among the entire field. Benson was next for the Pirates with a 149 (81-68).
The third senior in the group, Justin Largent, wrapped up his first and only season with the Pirates shooting 154 (77-77). He joined the team after 11 years living in Rusk when his father became GISD superintendent. Justin almost instantly bonded with Kinsey and Benson.
“Travis made the transition easy, but it did take a little while to get used to so many more people watching us play,” said Largent, looking around at the massive amount of spectators.
“Golf is a much bigger thing here. I’m glad to have been a part of this.”
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