By JUSTIN RAINS
It’s the course on which legendary PGA player Ben Crenshaw — winner of two Master’s Green Jackets — learned the game as a young man.
It’s where legendary Austin-based golf coach Harvey Penick molded players like Crenshaw and Tom Kite into stalwarts on the professional tours.
A year ago, Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin was the place where, despite improving by 20 strokes as a team on Day 2, the Grapeland girls’ golf team fell short of state title, instead finishing second — for the second-straight season.
Beginning Thursday, that same Grapeland team — Amy Brown, Justine Dancer, Shelby Frauenberger, Kalee Walker and Jayde Westbrook — hope to cap off a spectacular season with a state title.
“When I look at it, I see that when we’ve lost the last two years we weren’t really as close as we though we were to winning it,” Westbrook said. “This year, with our scores being as close as they are, we have a legitimate chance. That’s what makes us the most excited. We have a chance to go up there and be leading the first day.”
The five Sandiettes and their coach, Jerry Richards, all think that, as a team, they’re playing better golf this year than they were a year ago. Not bad considering Westbrook finished eighth individually last year, with Brown finishing 13th and Frauenberger 14th.
They’ve also stepped up their game when the competition was at its stiffest.
Brown, Dancer and Walker all shot their best rounds of the year on Day 2 of the regional tournament at Brenham Country Club, helping secure the regional title and the return trip to state.
Having played so well in the final day of the state tournament last year should help them, from a confidence standpoint.
“I think it gives us a lot of confidence,” Frauenberger said. “Since we improved so much from our first round (last year), our first round (this year) should be just another improvement.
“Our second is always our best day,” she added, saying that the team is playing better this year than last year at this same time.
Added Walker, “I think we have a lot of confidence going in from how much we improved from district to regionals,” she said. “Then, if we go in knowing we have a big competitor coming from another region, then we should play a lot better.”
That “competitor” is Memphis, the team that bested the Sandiettes last year to claim the state title.
Memphis returns four of their five players from last year’s squad, and Richards said he again expects them to be a force at this year’s tournament.
But, again, the Sandiettes are in prime position to make this their year, with Richards thinking the team is peaking at just the right time.
“We played real good on the second day of regionals this year, and for the last several tournaments, we’ve played extremely well,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re playing our best golf at just the right time.”
There’s also a sentimental factor to take into account.
Four of the team’s five players — Brown, Dancer, Walker and Westbrook —are seniors and this weekend will be their final round of high school golf, no matter the outcome.
Also, Richards is leaving Grapeland for retirement in June, meaning that this is likely his last high school golf tournament as a coach, at least for a little while.
Those thoughts weigh on the players’ minds as they envision hoisting a trophy come Friday.
“We’ve worked so much harder this year because we know we have a lot on the line,” Dancer said.
Added Brown, “Getting second (place) the past two years has put a lot of pressure on us to win it all this year. We have four seniors on the team, so it just puts pressure on us because this is our last year to do it.
“Also, our coach is retiring and he’s been here a long time and he’s done a lot to get us to where we’ve been the last four years,” Brown continued. “We just want to get a ring for him.”