Despite no local 18, Dripping Springs golf pushes for state title


Highlights

The Tigers qualified for the state tournament for the first time in 30 years

The team has to make a 35-mile round trip to practice at Grey Rock Golf Club in Southwest Austin.

The boys team has won 11 district titles since 1966 but only two since 1988

Dripping Springs’ road to the state boys golf tournament isn’t lined with groomed fairways or manicured greens.

In fact, Dripping Springs itself doesn’t have much more for the casual golfer than Home on the Range just west of town on U.S. 290, where golfers can unlimber at a driving range while targeting an iron longhorn or a decommissioned school bus.

But that hasn’t stopped the Tigers’ golf team from qualifying for the state tournament for the first time in 30 years. They’ll be part of a heavy Austin-area contingent at the Class 5A boys tournament that also includes Cedar Park, Austin High and Georgetown.

“There’s not a lot of country-club kids out here,” Dripping Springs golf coach Jason Wahlers. “We just have some kids that love golf. They’ll play in a tournament all day and go play another 18 holes on their own.”

RELATED: PHOTOS: Dripping Springs High School boys golf team practice round

Any extra holes mean extra time on the road for a squad that has to make a 35-mile round trip from Dripping Springs High School to practice at what passes for a home course at Grey Rock Golf Club in Southwest Austin. According to Wahlers, Dripping Springs is the largest school district in the state without a municipal golf course within its boundaries.

“A lot of the schools we play, they have kids that have grown up on golf courses,” said Rob Thomas, a multitalented senior and the 2018 class president who will study chemical engineering at Texas A&M in the fall. “Growing up here, there’s not a lot of opportunities to play without getting in the car and driving 30 minutes. But I’ve seen a culture change in the last few years; we’re having kids that want to do more than just play recreationally. They want to get better and better.”

Wahlers has taught in the district for 14 years and has been the head coach of both the boys and girls golf teams for the past nine years. He says, traditionally, participation in the boys golf program reflects the Dripping Springs’ identity as “the Gateway to the Hill Country,” as proclaimed on a water tower on the east side of town. Leisure activity outdoors often means more hunting and fishing than spending the afternoon on the links.

“There just weren’t a ton of kids that would come out for golf,” said Wahlers. “We’ve had good players in the past, just not that many. But we’ve opened up the program to more and more kids at the middle-school level, and we’re really starting to see more participation.”

Senior Chris Cameron, whose family moved to Dripping Springs almost six years ago, has been a member of the Tigers’ varsity squad since his freshman season. As the Tigers have racked up more wins with each season, he’s noticed renewed interest among his classmates.

“A lot of my friends have started to try golf, and they have been asking me more and more about state,” he said. “I think that golf is getting more popular; there’s more kids on the team now than when I was a freshman.”

The boys team has won 11 district titles since 1966 but only two of those titles have come since star player Clint Baty – now the head basketball coach at Lake Travis – led the Tigers to the second state appearance in three years in 1988.

But Cameron, Thomas and a core of six other current seniors has keyed the Tigers’ golfing renaissance. Two of the best three rounds in school history have come from that group, including Sam Nolley’s 67 at Burnet’s Delaware Springs Golf Course earlier this spring and Cameron’s 70 at Smithson Valley’s River Crossing in 2017. In addition, Cameron, Nolley and junior Case Reeves have accounted for the school’s three best 36-hole scores, and all those totals have come within the past two seasons.

As a team, Dripping Springs finished second at regionals behind Boerne Champion with a score of 631, which was 20 strokes better than the third-place team of Austin High. Thomas believes that the Tigers left a few strokes on the course, too, saying “if we play up to our ability, we can beat anyone at state.”

But Thomas understands that even without a spot on the state podium, this has been a successful season for the Dripping Springs boys program. He lauds the quantity and quality of the town’s younger golf players, and he believes that the Tigers could soon approach the level of some of their more touted neighbors.

“I can see us being like a Lake Travis or a Westlake,” he said, referring to the perennial Class 6A golf powerhouses. “I think if some groups can get the funding and develop a municipal course here (in Dripping Springs), that would help,” he said. “But with or without a course, we need to keep the attitude that we can be as good as anyone.

BOYS STATE GOLF TOURNAMENTS

Monday and Tuesday, approximately 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Class 6A: Legacy Hills Golf Club, Georgetown

Class 5A: White Wing Golf Club, Georgetown

Class 4A: Apple Rock Golf Course at Horseshoe Bay, Marble Falls

Class 3A: Grey Rock Golf Course, Austin

Class 2A: Roy Kizer Golf Course, Austin

Class 1A: Lions Municipal Golf Course, Austin

Area teams competing:

CLASS 6A

Teams: Westlake, Vandegrift

Individuals: Trey Bosco, Lake Travis

CLASS 5A

Teams: Cedar Park, Georgetown, Dripping Springs, Austin High

CLASS 4A

Teams: La Grange

Individuals: Parker McCurdy, Liberty Hill

CLASS 3A

Individuals: Ethan Miller, Georgetown Gateway



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