By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
AUSTIN - No torrential downpour or six-hour delay was going to stop this machine.
In fact, it actually helped grease her gears.
With an almost automatic approach on the course, Salado senior medalist Taylor O'Rear weathered the early-morning storms to shoot an even-par 71 to lead the field after the first day of the 3A state golf tournament Thursday at the Roy Kizer Golf Course.
"I just got out there, hit the ball, went up to the next shot, hit that ball and putted it," O'Rear said. "I tried to play it real easy, I didn't over think anything, (and) I didn't under think anything. I just went out there and played."
Also coming through with a near-even first round was Lampasas senior boys No. 1 Stayton Lindeman, who hit an even-handed 36-36 split for a 1-over 72 to finish tied for second individually with Jeff Joyce of Andrews. Salado freshman Dane Hankamer shot a 76 (38-38) as a medalist. As a team, the Badgers scored a 319 for fifth place, with head coach Kyle Black claiming the long delay was a detriment.
"This morning we were already warmed up, they were hitting the ball well and mentally they were all focused and into it," Black said. "And then, as we walked to the tee box, they called play. So it hurt us mentally just because we never got back in the mind-set to play."
On the girls side, Lady Badgers junior Carmen Gonzales shot a 76 (39-37) to lead Lampasas to a third-place score of 329, one stroke behind second-place Burkburnett after the first day.
"We just have to play our game," said Gonzales, who made state as a medalist last year. "Today, three of our players didn't play as good as they could, but we'll do better tomorrow. ... We can do it. I think we can win."
Making their first state appearance since 1993, the Gatesville girls posted a score of 358, with Kristen Smithhart shooting an 88 (44-44) to lead the way.
In the team standings, Prosper led the 3A boys with a 299 while Andrews led the girls with a 312.
Despite heavy rain blitzing the Central Texas region in the morning, a balanced O'Rear took advantage of the change to an early afternoon shotgun-start and proceeded to par her first 10 holes.
Not even a pair of wide tee shots could affect her steady mood too much.
On the dogleg No. 5, O'Rear's tee shot hooked left and landed on the fringe of a large lake. But instead of taking a drop and losing a stroke, she went in after it, going calf-deep into the murky water and wedging the shot back onto the fairway with little damage done.
"It was sitting up good, it was a shallow bank and I like hitting balls out of the water," O'Rear said. "That's the first time I've ever had to take my shoes off, but why not? It was playable, it was legal, it was an easy shot."
The real mistake would come later on the green when she three-putted the par-4 hole for a double-bogey after missing a 15-foot par putt.
O'Rear was no worse for wear, though, after birdies on a pair of par-4s at No. 18 and No. 3.
But birdie putts did prove to be a sore spot for O'Rear, who generally reached the green on her third shot.
And while she was disappointed in those missed opportunities, leading by two strokes after the first day is certainly something O'Rear can live with.
"I had to keep telling myself throughout the round that par was a great score, just because I hit so many greens and left so many puts a ball short," she said. "It got a little frustrating but par is great. I'm happy with it."
Behind Gonzales, the Lady Badgers' next four golfers posted scores in the 80s as Lauren Davis shot a 81, followed by Brittany Graham (84), Morgan Rogers (88) and Juls Crook (89).
After Smithhart for Gatesville were Amber Coulson and Brandi Cowart (89), Heather Raico (92) and Katy Coulson (96).
Also for the Lampasas boys, Sterling Wright shot a 78, followed by senior Colton Perkins (81), Byler Lindeman (88) and Logan Irvin (90).