POTTSBORO — It was a typical windy day at Tanglewood Resort, but Pottsboro’s boys golf team was locked-in on the driving range, pulling out their chipping wedges, irons and drivers.
The Cardinals have one thing in mind: Winning a state championship on the links.
“When we get out there, we’re just focused,” senior Hayden Maines said. “We get ready and we make sure that we play our best. We might not always play to the top, but if we’re not playing well we try to grind back.”
The Cardinals will head to Austin bright and early this morning for the University Interscholastic League Class 3A state boys tournament at Grey Rock Golf Course. After a practice round today, the tournament begins on Monday and concludes on Tuesday.
“It’s a dream for a high school athlete to go to,” sophomore Austyn Reily said. “It’s not going to be easy; it’s not going to be given to us. We’re going to have to play really well. But other than that, our main goal is just to have fun.”
Van Alstyne’s Nathan Cuthbertson and Callisburg’s Justin Crisp will also be heading down Interstate 35 as individual medalists. Cuthbertson and Crisp tied for eighth at 160, but while the former qualified automatically, Crisp was forced into a playoff for the second individual spot, which he won.
Pottsboro has been to state once before, two years ago with Hayden Foster, who finished eighth overall and now plays for Southeastern Oklahoma State. But the current players feel this is the best Cardinals golf team yet.
“We’ve been very good, but with this team right here I’d say we’ve shot the best we ever have,” Maines said. “And we’ve played the best we ever have and broke school records. My sophomore year when we went to state it was history, but nothing like this.”
Reily, who regularly finishes rounds in the low- to mid-70s, is Pottsboro’s top golfer and a legit contender for the individual gold medal this week. But Reily said any of the five team members is capable of shooting in the low 80s.
“I just want them to have fun,” Reily said. “I don’t want them to get upset about one thing and just blow up. I want them to have fun and be glad they’re down there.”
Greg Nix, who is finishing up his first school year at Pottsboro, coaches the Cardinal golf team, taking over for longtime coach Gary Utsler, who retired last year.
“All I do is drive the bus,” Nix said. “Those guys are pretty good.”
Reily won the 3A Region II individual title after beating Troup’s Jake Smelser when the two tied atop the leaderboard with a two-day total of 149.
The Cardinals finished second to Troup by 44 strokes in the team standings. Following Reily, Hayden Kent was 16th with a 166, Garrett Townsend shot 169 and tied for 18th, Maines was at 177 and tied for 29th and Cade Andrews had a 216 for a tie at 74th.
After round one, Pottsboro sat in second place with a combined score of 324. Reily led the Cardinals with a 73 that had him just one shot behind Smeiser. Kent shot an 81 and was tied for 12th, Townsend was a stroke back in a tie for 15th, Maines finished with an 88 for a tie at 35th and Andrews carded a 109 for 76th.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that while golf is very individualized, it can be a team sport, too.
Pottsboro’s team is putting on a unified front and hopes that will be good enough to send the Cardinals on to a state championship.
“All of us motivate each other and make sure we keep each other up and don’t stay down,” Maines said. “When you start feeling down about your game, it just gets worse and worse. You have to make sure you stay up.”