Grapevine’s boys and girls golf teams went back to the state tournament this week and are led by seniors who have helped take the programs to new heights.
Will Hocker and Elly Baze, both seniors who made the trip last year, too, are hoping the added experience and familiarity with the big stage will bring even higher finishes for the Grapevine programs.
Hocker, who was the runner-up at the regional meet this year, improved on his third-place finish in his junior year. He shot a 70-72 to take second place.
“I’m looking forward to the same course,” Hocker said of again playing at Wolfdancer Golf Club at Lost Pines Resort in Bastrop for the state meet.
Last year, the boys teed-off first on the first day of the tournament but then the girls took the honor on Day Two. One of the key lessons learned from last year is knowing how long the day can stretch.
“The second day ended up being three hours longer and now we know how long the second day can be,” Hocker said. “You just have to stay positive going in.”
Looking back over his four years at Grapevine, Hocker said his improvements have been mostly on the mental aspect of the game.
“The biggest improvement compared to last year is allowing myself to play and not thinking about what the other kids are doing or what I’m doing wrong,” he said. “I’m getting wiser on the golf course and making corrective decisions and know it’s going to pay off 100 percent.”
He also admits his maturity on the course has been “extraordinary” and a better help than anything else in his game.
Hocker realized this would be his last high school tournament and was looking to relish the opportunity.
“I’m not going to worry where I finish on the leaderboard and just enjoy it,” he said. “I want to have the best week on and off the course. If I shoot 110 it will be sad, but I want to enjoy everything throughout each day, each shot.”
During the summer, Hocker said he’ll look to qualify for the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open but will play golf to have fun and decompress.
Hocker will said he will not initially be playing golf competitively when he heads to Oklahoma next fall. He had initially given consideration to play at Wichita State but rescinded the offer, saying that OU was where he wanted to focus on his academics.
The fact his father was a Kentucky alum and his mother attended Texas in Austin made the decision to go to Norman a bit of a surprise around the house.
“At the end of four years, I want to do another three years of law, but I’m not set on what kind of law,” he said.
Baze, who finished as the regional champion on the first-ever regionals first-place Lady Mustangs this year is proud of the progress the program has made in her time.
“We got second last year and third the year before that,” she noted.
The Grapevine girls finished seventh as a team last year at the state meet.
Baze’s best golf is being played at the right time, too. Her best round was the regional meet’s 71-75.
For the state meet, Baze’s goal was simple.
“I just want to play my best,” she said. “If I’m giving 100 percent, then I’ve reached my goal.”
Grapevine has mostly new members surrounding Baze this year.
“As a team, we have great team chemistry. We’re best friends and celebrate with each other and go through the hard times together,” she said. “We know what it takes to get to that point and it’s helped us a lot.”
Baze said she worked on her short game over the summer. With the additional year of experience, the mental game was also a big area of improvement, she said.
“I’ve improved my game so much more mentally. I’ve worked with my coach and know what to do when I hit a good or a bad shot. I’ve worked on the positive instead of the negative and it’s helped me tremendously,” Baze said.
Returning to the state meet was what Baze said the girls have been working toward since the day of tryouts.
“It’s what we’ve been working toward all year,” she said. “We don’t give up and we’ll give it our all. If we get in trouble, we’ll find a way out.”
Baze will continue her golf career at Oklahoma Baptist University next season.
And, while she is glad to have that decision for her future settled, she is able to look back, as well.
“I’ve had a great four years and great teams and three times we’ve gone to state,” she said. “We broke the record the first year and have gotten better. I’m thankful for our coaches to push me and make me the person I am,” Baze said, “both as a golfer and a person. They’ve been a part of it.
“Golf parallels life with plenty of life lessons.”