Schools must constantly find ways to replenish lost talent because of graduation, without the benefit of picking and choosing the best players to do so.
That’s part of what makes Vanguard’s eighth straight state championship in boys’ golf, this one a TAPPS Class 2A crown won Tuesday at Stonetree Golf Course, so special.
After all, the Vikings graduated all but one player from last year’s team and was able to rebuild a team that thoroughly dominated the field. Vanguard shot a two-day total of 652 (332-320) to romp past second-place Longview Christian Heritage by 62 shots.
“We’ve had a lot of great success, obviously, in golf,” Vanguard coach Jon Antunes said. “What’s cool is I’ve gotten to see two different groups, and this is the start of our third group of kids, take a run at state championships. My first year there it was four seniors and one freshman, and they all graduated. That group of freshmen, plus the one freshman that returned that year, won four championships in a row. Now we’re at a completely new group.”
On the girls’ side, Mills Chenot shot a final-round 87 to finish with a 177 in a three-way tie for fifth. Temple Holy Trinity’s Molly Daheim was the girls’ champion with a 151 (75-76).
The Vikings, composed of one senior, one junior and three freshmen, had a comfortable 26-stroke cushion starting the final round, so the team crown was a mere formality provided they avoid any major mistakes.
3-peat for Caldwell
The real drama came from Carter Caldwell — the only holdover from last year’s squad — going for his third straight individual title.
The senior started the day four strokes behind Bryan Brazos’ Chase Pearcy after an opening-round 78, and Pearcy added another shot to his advantage in the early stages of the final round.
But Caldwell found his footing, birdied three straight at Nos. 8-10, and stayed steady down the stretch to post a 72 for a 153 total that put him three shots ahead of Pearcy, who finished with a 79 and 156.
“I’m pretty excited, and this one means the most because I had to come from behind,” Caldwell said. “I was thinking just shoot as low as you can and don’t think about the other guy.”
Even after Caldwell’s birdie binge gave him a one-shot lead, nothing was decided with eight holes left to play. The two went back and forth down the stretch, until Caldwell finally put it away at 15 and 16.
He birdied 15, described by Antues as possibly the hardest hole on the course. It’s a par-4 that is characterized by a three-tiered green. The pin was a the front of the green, meaning anything coming down the hill was tough to stop.
Caldwell kept his second shot on the bottom tier and sank his birdie putt, while Pearcy was shot of the green on his second, and couldn’t get his pitch to stop quickly enough. He took a two-putt for a bogey, a two-shot swing that moved Caldwell in front by one.
Pearcy then “had a bit of a mishap,” Antues said, on 16 and made a double bogey, another two-shot swing in Caldwell’s favor that made it a three-shot cushion with only two holes to play.
Just swing the club
“Even when he was down by five shots, Carter never seemed worried,” Antunes said. “Whenever I got a chance to talk to him, it was never about swinging a club. It was just, ‘Hey, this is your golf tournament. Don’t let anybody else take it.’ ”
The win was old hat for Caldwell, who shaved six shots off his opening-round score primarily on the greens. They were playing lightning quick for both rounds, but he adjusted and finished with two three-putts Tuesday as opposed to the five he had Monday.
“My putting was a whole lot better today,” Caldwell said. “It shouldn’t have taken as long as it did (to adjust).”
Nearly everybody for Vanguard played better in the final round.
Freshman Lewis Aynesworth made a seven-stroke improvement from 85 to 78 for a 163 that put him in a tie for fourth place.
“It feels like a big accomplishment to win a state championship,” Aynesworth said. “That’s what we’ve been looking forward to and practicing for all year. I’ve practiced really hard and probably shaved off about 20 strokes since last fall.”
Brock Hyland, a junior who transferred to Vanguard this year from Crawford, tied for eighth with a 166 (84-82), while Cooper Anderton was 10th after a 173 (85-88). Jeffery Bolte rounded out the team with a 190 (99-91) to tie for 21st.
“It feels great, but I wish I could’ve played a little better individually,” Hyland said. “The greens were fast, and I didn’t get a lot of very good breaks. But it got the job done.”
References Players and/or Schools referenced in the article:
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