For the first time since the school opened in 2007, Legacy is sending its boys golf team to the state tournament, and this experienced group doesn’t just want to be remembered as the first team to qualify for state – they want to be the first to win it.
It’s been a steady climb for the Broncos golfers, starting with a district runner-up finish in 2010 and followed by a pair of district titles, but Legacy could never fight its way out of the regional tournament.
“Just gaining that experience at regionals” was key, coach Christopher Word said. “When these kids were young they were already used to going out and playing in that regional golf tournament. So, it’s been a steady progression.”
Given their growth, Word isn’t at all surprised that his players are packing their bags for Austin this season.
“This year was the first we were really loaded heavy with juniors and seniors,” he said. “Experience-wise, we didn’t have any underclassmen playing and this group was focused for four years now. So, there was no question in my mind that we had a good chance at [qualifying for the state tournament].”
The Broncos earned their trip with a regional team score of 616, good enough for a second-place finish that was nine shots behind defending state champion Highland Park. Having a team like Highland Park in your region can actually pay dividends in a sport like team golf.
“We were only nine shots away from Highland Park, who was last year’s state champion, and we even had to call a penalty on ourselves on day one. So, we know we’re right on their heels,” Word said.
Team captain Daniel Kay pointed out that minimal improvement could mean the difference between gold medals and thinking about what might have been.
“That’s one stroke per person per day; I think that’s an easy goal to beat,” he said.
Kay is the leader of a group that lacks any one standout performer. In a game usually thought of as an individual sport, high school golf can often benefit from five solid players as opposed to a great one and additional sub-par performers.
“We don’t have a lead horse, really. We have a lot of guys who play roles, so we have to be pretty steady across the board,” Word said. “This group doesn’t have a true No. 1 that goes out and shoots even or better. Everybody has to figure out how to go out and get it done.”
And that’s exactly what Kay, Austin Rhodes, Kevin Childs, Russell Schuljak and Nick Jusko have done.
“Just working together as a team has really helped us kind of form a group and support each other through the hard times or tough conditions,” Kay said. “We’ve been friends for so long. We’ve really know each other for about our whole lives.”
Jusko is an interesting story of his own. He’s a relative newcomer to the varsity group – and in reality a relative newcomer to golf itself.
The senior didn’t even pick up a golf club until sometime near the end of his freshman year.
“One day my dad took me to the range and I had a blast. So I just made up my mind that I wanted to be really good at golf,” Jusko said.
He asked to join the Legacy team for his sophomore season, and Word obliged.
“I took him because he was athletic,” Word recalled. “He has quietly worked and become a fixture in our top five just this spring. His play has been so good through district and regionals that we’re going to lean as heavy on him at state as we do anyone else we have.”
Jusko shot 78 in both rounds in the regional tournament at Water Chase Golf Club in Arlington, for a total score of 156. It was second-best on the squad behind first-team all-regional performer Rhodes’ 151.
The Broncos will tee off at University of Texas Golf Club on April 28 with eyes on the state’s biggest 4A golf prize, and admit that just getting there isn’t where they want this story to end.
“They have a ‘We have work left to do’ attitude,” Word said. “Obviously, we were happy to get out [of regionals], but nobody is just happy that we made it to state. We want to go there and perform our best. If we do, we feel like we’re going to be right there in it.”
“It was really exciting, but we all know we have another goal to achieve and we can’t let our guard down,” Kay added. “There’s still more work to do. We’re not done yet.”