Teammates answer for star player


AUSTIN – The Granbury Pirates golf team is back among the state’s best.

They’d like to have had a better opening day at the 4A State Golf Tournament, but after more than a decade of having not been there at all, it’s a sweet ending to a great season.

For the first time since 2002, Granbury competed in the 4A Boys State Golf Tournament.

At press time yesterday, the Pirates were finishing the second day of the two-day event at Onion Creek Golf Course.

Highland Park Blue had the overall lead after the opening day, shooting a 286, four strokes ahead of San Antonio Alamo Heights. The Scots are perennial powerhouses at state, having won nine titles and finishing second four times since 2000.

Two-time defending state champion Lake Travis moved up to 5A this season and advanced to state again.

The Pirates came in with an opening-day score of 308. They were led by Austin Kinsey and Zac Wall, each with a 76, while Justin Largent shot 77 and Briggs Berry posted a 79.

Surprisingly, Travis Benson – perhaps the top golfer in GHS history – shot 81. In the most extreme of rarities, his score was the one that didn’t count in the team total Monday.

“We shot about what we’ve been shooting all season,” said coach Steve Ward. “The guys played hard, and they played good. Sure, Travis struggled, but that’s going to happen, even with a player of his caliber.”

After the Pirates placed second in 2000 and fourth in 2002, some might have thought trips to Austin would be a regular occurrence.

And they came close a few times. The past couple of seasons they seriously knocked on the door at regionals, with Benson advancing and finishing third at state individually last season.

Ward remembers a conversation with Benson at the end of last season.

Benson had just posted the best finish ever for a Granbury golfer individually at the state’s most prestigious high school tournament.

Benson, ever the humble one, told his coach the honor was indeed great, but one thing was missing.

His teammates.

“He said he wanted to get back and to bring his teammates along, and that’s what has happened,” said Ward.

“This is a fantastic way for Travis and our other seniors Austin (Kinsey) and Justin (Largent) to wrap up their high school careers, on the biggest stage.”

Largent, in fact, was a major cog in the Pirates’ getting to state, and capped his opening day by sinking a 20-foot putt on the final hole. Ward lost one senior out of the program last season, but then Largent, a regional qualifier at 3A Rusk, moved in when his father, James Largent, became GISD superintendent.

Largent was a terrific complement to Benson, who was virtually unstoppable last season. He set a school-record 8-under-par 64 for one round and 11-under-par 133 for two rounds at Squaw Valley last season to win district, and followed that with the first of two straight regional championships.

Benson was unseeded as district champion this season by Aledo’s Logan Lambert by a single stroke a few weeks ago. The Bearcats also won the district championship, edging the Pirates by two strokes.

That, Ward said, was all his team needed to inspire them to raise their already strong game to another level at regionals.

Granbury blew Aledo out of the water at regionals by more than 40 strokes. In fact, the Pirates were in contention to win the regional tournament.