Tascosa boys golf team feel they belong at Class 5A state tourney

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From left, Tascosa coach Trey Scales, Slayde Stevens, Karsten Scales (the coach’s son) and Brady Holmes stand on the putting green at Tascosa Golf Club prior to practicing for this week’s Class 5A state tournament in Georgetown. [Lee Passmore/Press Pass Sports]
It’s not considered a pleasant surprise that the Tascosa boys golf team is headed to the Class 5A state tournament starting Monday morning.

When Tascosa tees off at Georgetown’s Legacy Hills Golf Club, in fact, coach Trey Scales thinks that’s exactly where his team belongs for two days and 36 holes.

“I’ve said from the very beginning that it would have been a serious disappointment if we hadn’t been here,” said Scales, whose team finished third at the Region I-5A tournament in Lubbock to make state. “I didn’t know how it was going to happen, first, second or third in region, but I knew we had the caliber of players to win the region. I think we proved that being in the mix, being two strokes in the lead standing on hole 14.”

The region championship didn’t happen, but the two-day score of 305-314-619, nine shots behind region champion Burleson Centennial, was good enough for third place to get Tascosa into the state tournament. It marks the first time since 1965 that a Tascosa boys team has reached state.

Losing only one key player from last year was the biggest cause for optimism for Tascosa. A solid lineup consisting of a senior Brady Holmes, juniors Joseph Bybee, Derek Darnell and Grant Young and freshman Slayde Stevens has put Tascosa in position for a long and successful season.

Holmes has been Tascosa’s steadiest player all season, and he led the way with a fifth place individual finish at regional. Bybee and Stevens both finished in the top 20.

“They always are pushing themselves, which is what a champion does,” said Scales of his team. “They never think they’re doing enough. I’ve got a lot of guys who do that. When you do your part for your team, the other awards and accolades take care of themselves.

“I look at team scores and say look at what we were able to accomplish. I try to focus on the fact that you’re helping the team.”

The team is still fairly young, with Holmes the lone senior. He’s done what’s expected of an upperclassman as the No. 1 player all season, a position he held most of his junior season as well.

Holmes feels he and his teammates have been ready for this moment all year.

“It definitely was a big goal,” Holmes said of making state. “It really stung last year, coming so close. We felt like last year we had a good enough team to make it. I feel like the four guys that were on the team last year have all grown a lot and really developed and I feel like we were more ready this year.”

As such, Holmes has set the tone for the rest of the team, a role he’s embraced from the start.

“I’m comfortable with that role for sure,” Holmes said. “What I’ve been trying to do all year is set an example the other guys can follow and be somebody that people who are younger would want to be like.”

One of those people who are younger is Stevens, the newest kid on the block. With the other four spots in Tascosa’s lineup mostly settled, Stevens had to fit in if Tascosa was to go as far as predicted.

Stevens was placed at No. 3 in the lineup behind Holmes and Bybee and had to show he deserved it.

“Our first tournament I was nervous all 36 holes,” Stevens said. “It did feel like there was a lot of pressure, but I know how good we all are and that helped relieve a lot of pressure. I felt pretty good from the start. We played a tournament in Squaw Valley (in Glen Rose) and I shot a 71 in the first round to tie with Brady and that made me feel pretty good.”

Bybee finished 17th at the regional tournament with a 156, and Stevens was a stroke behind at 157 in 19th place. Last year Bybee didn’t even get a chance to got that far.

He missed out on the regional after breaking his knee, adding injury to insult. That drove  Bybee not to repeat that this year.

“We came this year kind of looking for revenge after the end to last season and we were coming in hot this year,” Bybee said. “It was a little bit of a rough end. I’m always trying to get better, and I don’t think I’m at my full potential right now.”

Bybee and the rest of the team will have to be close to full potential to make any kind of an impact at the state tournament. The good news is that they got to experience Legacy Golf Club a little over a month ago and won’t go in cold.

“When we played our state preview down there at the first of March, the par 4s were pretty tough, around 460 yards,” Scales said. “If you’re out of position, don’t try to press. Don’t think it’s a birdie opportunity if you don’t have a wedge in your hand.”

The consensus is that the course rewards accuracy more than distance. It’s over 6,700 yards, but the real key will be staying out of hazards.

Avoiding mistakes might be more important than driving the ball 300 yards.

“You’ve got to hit the fairway like every other course,” Holmes said. “Just leaving yourself in good positions to attack the hole a lot is going to be crucial. It’s not super long so as long as you hit it straight it’s not going to be too much of a challenge to stay out of trouble.”

Nerves could be a factor considering none of Tascosa’s lineup has been to a state tournament prior to this week. Stevens said he doesn’t want to overthink the situation.

“We’ll stick to our game plan and try not to think too much about it when we’re playing,” Stevens said. “It’s just sticking to what we know we can do and playing to our confidence and our abilities. You need to keep in play as much as you can because it’s a tight golf course.”

Scales half-jokes that what his players might not be so used to seeing outside of the Panhandle is so much green on the course in the form of trees. That’s where accuracy will be at a premium.

In a tournament as big as this one, there’s no general consensus about who’s a favorite to win. Scales won’t make predictions and isn’t discounting what Tascosa could do.

“Having never been as a team to a state competition, to throw out a number I’d probably be wrong,” Scales said. “From years of experience coaching what I saw at the regional tournament, there was nobody who shot something like a 285. If we do what we’ve done the last three tournaments around 300, we’ll be right there.”

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