The Gonzales Apaches have two young golfers with state qualifications this season.
After their successful runs at the Region IV-4A golf tournament, Mason Richter and Kiley Allen will be representing the orange and white, with Richter returning to the state meet for the second year in a row and Allen making her state-tournament debut.
Don’t let their ages fool you. Just because both golfers are sophomores, doesn’t mean they don’t have experience.
“They have a lot of experience,” Head Coach J Lynn Barnick explained, “they’ve played a lot of junior golf.”
Richter has played competitively since he was 13. Allen played even longer, testifying that she’s played since nine.
“They are very talented and on top of that they work really hard at that,” Barnick continued. “I’m not surprised at all. I expected Mason to make it back [to state].”
Richter competed at the state golf tournament last season, though as a member of a team, versus going as a solo medalist this season. He admits there will be some difficulty not having a teammate to experience the tournament with.
“[It’s] easier because I have four other guys to have fun with and talk to and joke around with,” Richter claimed. “As an individual, I think it’s harder because I’m not with anybody that’s around my age that I can talk to, have fun, let the nerves sink back and just thinking about the time I’m playing.”
Since this is his second go at the meet, Richter does have the advantage of playing the course, something he could not say last year.
“By the rules of UIL, we’re given one practice round,” Barnick disclosed, “so we went and took our practice round [last season] and it just so happened we got rained on, so we didn’t see the last four or five holes of the course. In golf, having played the course before is a huge advantage.”
Now, Richter and Barnick have mapped out the course and formulated a strategy, instead of having to figure things out on the go.
“Mason has got that advantage this year to say, ‘I’ve been at that course three times,’” Barnick said.
Allen will be attacking her course for the first time, with this being her first state qualification season. She did travel with the boys team last year, so she knows the atmosphere of being around state qualifiers. The sophomore hopes that experience will also help calm the nerves this tournament.
Both golfers have different expectations and goals for this upcoming state tournament. Richter wants to win. Allen wants to stay consistent with the scores she’s had all season.
“If I shoot in my range of scores that I’ve been shooting at, I’ll be happy,” Allen shared.
The logic being that she’s yet to see the course, so playing a bit blind will be a disadvantage for the sophomore golfer.
As for Richter, he’s seen the course, played it, and now is in the advanced stages of mapping out what he’ll do for every hole, making sure he is ready for any and every scenario that faces him.
“I draw visuals of the course and basically what type of shot shape or what type of club I’m going to use and try to set myself up better -- better angles around the course -- because last year, I didn’t do too good in that,” Richter admitted.
One aspect of both Allen’s and Richter’s game that needs a bit of work is their putting.
“Every green is different, every course is different,” Allen stressed. “I don’t know what the greens are like, so it’s going to take my practice and the first few rounds to adjust.”
What the two may lack in putting -- for now -- they make up for in driving the ball. For the untrained eye, this may come as a surprise, since Allen and Richter don’t necessarily have the physique of someone like Tiger Woods, for instance. But that doesn’t stop them from getting some distance off the tee.
“They are not the biggest kids on the golf course,” Barnick explained, “but they both drive the ball really well. Length off the tee is never an issue. That’s important in golf. They’re both really well rounded.”
Success will come to both athletes if they can remain level-headed and mature their game to the point where they answer the nagging “should I be aggressive or reserved?” question for every shot they take.
“Being a little bit nervou is OK,” Barnick said, “but playing with some ability to relax and enjoy the Allen and get out there and have fun. You need to have fun to relax.”
Allen and Richter may have different goals in mind, as does their coach for that matter, but at the end of both tournaments, all three have a feeling this won’t be their last time at the big stage.
“Being able to experience state at such an early year, it’s kind of cool,” Allen said. “It’s just going to be better for us for our junior and senior year and have that experience and it be eye-opening now, instead of whenever we can actually compete to our full potential.”
“Y’all have nothing to lose because you’re just sophomores and you’ll probably going to have two more shots” Barnick told both golfers. “You can go up there a little bit and say, ‘hey, I don’t need to be nervous, I’m just a sophomore, I’m going to be here again and again.’ That’s kind of an advantage, that’s kind of cool.”
The boys state tournament takes place May 14-15 at Apple Rock Golf Course in Horseshoe Bay, Marble Falls while the girls state tournament takes place May 21-22 at Slick Rock Golf Course at Horseshoe Bay, Marble Falls.