By KEITH SPARKS
Senior Panther Nico Edel was the lone Liberty Hill golfer to make it to the state tournament this year, which took place Monday and Tuesday at Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin.
Edel shot an 87 on Monday and an 82 on Tuesday for a total score of 169, which put him at 34th out of 72 total competitors in Conference 4A. Although he was able to play a “State Preview” earlier in the year and had a practice round before the tournament, the course was still a tough challenge.
“It’s a challenging golf course, demanding all the way through,” Edel said of Lions Municipal. “Off the tee, there’s a lot of danger with out of bounds, hazards, and bunkers. Your approach shots are also difficult because of smaller greens, bunkers, water, and the greens are firm, so they don’t hold shots very well. There’s a lot of slope on them, so it makes it more difficult to make putts.”
Jaryn Pruitt of Brownwood took first in 4A with a score of 141, Sam Bennett of Madisonville took second with a score of 146, and Will Traylor of Midlothian Heritage took third with a score of 151.
Although Edel said he struggled to hit the greens with his iron play, he was pleased with the mental aspect of his game throughout the tournament.
“I think I kept my emotions and my attitude in check really well,” he said. “I didn’t get disappointed or have any outbreaks or anything like that. I stayed pretty calm and collected. Just remained at the task at hand, played the next shot, and just kept moving forward.”
Edel competed in the 2016 State Tournament last year as a junior, along with the rest of the Liberty Hill team, but this year, he was forced to go solo. Although the experience competing at the individual level is a bit different, his experience at last year’s State Tournament gave him a preview of what it would take to compete at that level.
“It kind of showed me what kind of player it took to compete there,” he said. “It showed me that I was good enough to compete at that level and higher levels. It wasn’t anything that was too difficult or whatever, but I was able to get a picture of what I needed to do to get there the next year, because I knew it was going to be a stretch for the team to make it this year. It laid down a blueprint for what I needed to do this year.”
The only difference between last year’s tournament and this year’s, according to Edel, was the fact that his coach was able to stay with him for the full 18 holes. When the entire team is there, his time is split between each of the players.
“I wouldn’t say there’s much of a difference,” Edel said of his experience competing as an individual as opposed to with his team, “because you’re still out there by yourself on the golf course. At the end of the day, golf is an individual sport and we’re out there playing by ourselves trying to shoot our own score, and if it helps the team out then great.”
After graduating from Liberty Hill, Edel will play in a few tournaments over the summer before heading off to college to play golf at the University of Central Oklahoma.