KYLE — It was not easy, but it was not a surprise either.
Making his first appearance at the UIL Class 4A boys state golf tournament, Salado junior James Perry excelled, posting a 72 to emerge from Plum Creek Golf Course situated second on the leaderboard.
Getting to this point, however, was a challenge.
“It was a grind,” Perry said. “I got around the course pretty well, made my putts when I needed to and got a couple lucky breaks.
“Luckily, I was able to turn in a number that I was pretty happy with at the end of the day.”
Securing a medal will be even harder as the top seven golfers sit within three strokes of each other, including Little Cypress-Mauriceville’s Jack Burke, who resides atop the leaderboard with a 71.
Additionally, 22 golfers posted scores below an 80, and although the competition is fierce on the grand stage, Salado head coach Scott Ringo is not shocked to see Perry at the front of the tight pack.
“James plays a lot of summer golf,” Ringo said, “and he’s already played in a two or three tournaments in a junior tour he is in. He is very well versed in what it takes to excel at this game.
“This is not at all a huge surprise to see him play this well.”
As a team, the Eagles enter today’s final round tied for ninth after shooting a 334, but much like the individual standings, little separates the squads.
Outside of first-place Monahans (307), the remainder of the leaderboard is positioned within 23 strokes of one another with Gatesville’s 323 placing second overall thanks in part to sub-80 rounds from sophomores Evan Washburn (tied 11th, 76) and Cameron Hudson (tied 19th, 79).
While it is a favorable position, Hornets head coach Guy Dean admits it is not comfortable.
“It’s going to be a dogfight all the way to the end,” he said, “but you don’t play defense in this game. We just have to go out and try to play the best we can.
“We can’t focus on competing with teams, especially when we’re not even paired with most of them.”
Braden Luensmann, a senior, complemented the Hornets’ top outings by tallying an 82, while sophomore teammate Cooper Smith shot an 86 to complete Gatesville’s score. Caleb Washburn, a sophomore, posted a 93, but it did not count toward the team total.
For the Eagles, junior Cayden Meyer (85) and sophomores Caleb Altum (87) and Derek Mullinix (90) rounded out the team’s score, while sophomore Logan Rickey shot a 91.
“Overall,” Ringo said, “I thought we played about as well as we could as a team.
“When you look at the scores that were shot, we’re in the mix, and that’s about all you can ask for.”
Along with the strong competition, both teams will be dealing with Mother Nature as the tournament concludes.
With thunderstorms expected in the area overnight and into the morning hours, there is a possibility tee times are delayed. Salado is scheduled to begin play at 8 a.m. with Gatesville starting at 9 a.m.
Regardless of when the final round begins, though, Dean knows the weather will be a factor.
“The course is going to play totally different,” he said. “The wind was blowing hard from the south, so depending on how much rain we get, it’s could be very wet, and the wind may shift to coming from the north.
“So, holes that were downwind will be going into the wind and vice versa.”
CLASS 4A BOYS STATE TOURNAMENT
First round, at Plum Creek GC, Kyle
- 1. Jack Burke, LC-Mauriceville 71
- 2. James Perry, Salado 72
- T3. Bond Hefling, Monahans 73
- T3. Miller Harris, Carthage 73
- 1. Monahans 307
- 2. Gatesville 323
- 3. Andrews 326
- T4. Melissa 329
- T4. Argyle 329
- T9. Salado 334