FRUSTRATING STATE FINISH: Early momentum fades away as Belton's Hankamer, Temple's Moon tie for 38th
SHOOT FOR THE MOON: Temple junior Daniel Moon hits his drive on the par-5 third hole during the final round of the UIL Class 6A boys golf state tournament Tuesday at Legacy Hills Golf Club in Georgetown. After shooting a 3-over-par 75 on Monday, Moon was 1 under for his final round through seven holes and even par through 11 holes before he made four consecutive bogeys on holes 12-15. Moon, who's believed to be the first Temple boys golfer to compete in the state tournament, shot a final-round 76 for a 151 total, good for a share of 38th place with Belton senior Dallas Hankamer and two other players. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
GEORGETOWN – The golf bag of Belton senior Dallas Hankamer used to feature the Tigers' bright red, and the bag of Temple junior Daniel Moon used to show off the Wildcats' royal blue.
Both players have spent so much time playing and practicing in the sun, wind, cold, rain and other elements that their heavily used, well-traveled bags have faded noticeably. Hankamer's is closer to rose pink and Moon's is closer to baby blue.
Because of the energy both players have expended while honing their games, it was surprising to see them fade so much as Tuesday's final round progressed in the University Interscholastic League Class 6A boys state tournament at Legacy Hills Golf Club.
Both Hankamer – the third-place finisher at state as a sophomore in 2019 – and Moon were determined to respond and play much better after their up-and-down first-round performances Monday, when the Belton medalist shot a 1-over-par 73 and the Temple medalist posted a 75.
And each player was on his way to doing just that on an overcast, breezy Tuesday. Hankamer was 2 under for his round and 1 under for the tournament after making a birdie on the par-5 seventh hole, and Moon was 1 under in his round following his birdie on the same hole.
But to say that their final 11 holes were disappointing would be a huge understatement. Errant tee shots on the par-3 eighth hole led to bogeys and set into motion a frustrating series of events for both players.
Hankamer bogeyed the final two holes on the front nine and the first three holes of the second nine to stunningly tumble out of contention for another state medal, with a 6-over 42 back nine sending the Texas A&M signee to a 78 and a 7-over 151 total on the 6,989-yard course.
Moon, who teed off 2 hours before Hankamer, was at even par through 11 holes in the final round, but his solid play evaporated during a run of four consecutive bogeys on holes 12-15. Despite closing with three pars, Moon had to sign for a 76 and matched Hankamer's 151 total as the friendly District 12-6A rivals finished in a four-way tie for 38th place in the 72-player field.
Considering how much potential their respective final rounds seemed to have as Hankamer and Moon walked confidently from the seventh green to the eighth tee, their disappointment in how the rest of the day went was clearly evident.
“I kind of lost my swing in the last 11 holes, I'd say. And I couldn't really get any putts to fall, even when I hit good ones. And I hit some bad putts,” said Hankamer, who after the first round said he thought he'd need to shoot 66 or 67 in the final round to have a shot to come back and win the individual state championship. “I felt like I just had one bad shot on each hole that made me get bogey on five holes in a row.”
As it turned out, a 66 would have given him a 139 total and gotten him into a three-way tie for second place.
“It's just a really disappointing week,” said Hankamer, Belton's fifth boys medalist at state in the last nine years. “I had a lot better expectations going into it and thought I could give myself a chance going into the back nine.”
FEEL THE STING: Belton senior Dallas Hankamer hits a 2-iron "stinger" shot from 260 yards out on the par-5 seventh hole to set up a two-putt birdie on Tuesday during the final round of the UIL Class 6A boys golf state tournament at Legacy Hills Golf Club in Georgetown. Looking on is Schertz Clemens senior Bret Gray, who tied for fifth place. After moving to 2 under par for the day and 1 under for the tournament with his birdie on No. 7, Hankamer made five consecutive bogeys and shot a back-nine 42 to finish with a 78 and a 151 total. District 12-6A champion Hankamer, a Texas A&M signee, tied Temple junior medalist Daniel Moon for 38th place in the 72-player field. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
Said longtime Belton coach Jim Hellums: “I come away with the feeling that Dallas was not very lucky. He got very few good breaks. And sooner or later, I don't care how a player you are, that just wears on you when you see bad bounces and you see (unfortunate) things happen.
“A good example was the first four or five holes (Tuesday). He could've easily been 3 or 4 under after the first five holes because he was hitting the ball great and giving himself chances, but two putts lipped out of the hole.”
After his first-round 75, Moon said he was focused on shooting an under-par score in the final round and seeing how far he could climb up the leaderboard. A second-day 71 would have given him a 146 total and a share of 19th place, and the Wildcats standout was in position to do that after shooting even-par 36 on the front nine.
However, Moon's hopes of shooting that under-par final round evaporated when he made four consecutive bogeys on Nos. 12-15.
“I wasn't too sure about anything (on the second nine). Everything was in between yardages, and I didn't place myself in good places to score,” said the 5-foot-7, 135-pound Moon, who turns 17 in August. “I was hitting my driver left and hitting my irons right, so it was a weird combination. It worked out a little bit on the front nine, but on the back nine I couldn't really trust anything.
“Anything even or under par would have been nice, so it was a little frustrating. But it happens, I guess.”
Although Moon fell short of reaching his personal goals at Legacy Hills, Temple third-year coach Allen Roark discussed the bigger picture regarding Moon, who's believed to be the first Temple boys golfer to compete in the UIL state tournament.
“Daniel is a results-oriented player, for sure, so if he's not around even or under par (he's not happy). That's a testament to his determination and his work ethic. He expects a lot out of himself,” said Roark, the 1987 Temple graduate who coached this year's Wildcats to the Region II tournament after Temple hadn't advanced to regionals since 1999.
“We're coming back (to the state tournament next year), so I would imagine that next time we're going to do a little better. Daniel expects to win every time he plays. I wasn't really expecting him to win, but just getting to this tournament is a big deal. It's the best high school players in the state.”
Keller junior Kaelen Dulany fired a final-round 68 for a 6-under 138 total that won the individual state championship by one stroke over junior Jacob Sosa (69-70) of Austin Westlake's A team and Richardson Pearce sophomore Preston Stout (71-68). Playing in the same final-round group of medalists with Hankamer, San Antonio Clark junior Garrett Endicott shot his second consecutive 70 but his 4-under 140 total missed a medal by one stroke. Also in that group, Schertz Clemens senior Bret Gray (72-69) tied for fifth.
Westlake's No. 1 squad cruised to the team championship, shooting rounds of 283 and 285 for an 8-under 568 total that was 18 strokes better than runner-up Houston Memorial's 586 and 19 better than Leander Vandegrift's 587.
Moon began the final round in stellar fashion when he hit his 100-yard approach shot to within 3 feet on the par-4 first hole and made the putt for birdie, a positive turnaround after he bogeyed No. 1 on Monday. He couldn't convert birdie opportunities on the next three holes but posted solid pars.
He finally gave a shot back on the par-4 fifth, where his drive sailed far right into thick grass and he had to punch out back into the fairway. His third-shot approach didn't climb the steep ridge and he two-putted for bogey.
Moon was at even par for the day when he arrived at the par-5 seventh, which he and Hankamer birdied during the first round. Moon's second-shot fairway metal from 250 yards landed on the green but rolled off the back-left edge. His well-judged chip from 65 feet got to within 4 feet and he walked in the birdie putt to get to 1 under for the day and 2 over for the tournament.
“I had a little bit easier tempo today. I wasn't too excited,” Moon said about the key to his success on the first seven holes.
However, Moon's positive momentum got sidetracked on the par-3 eighth, which he bogeyed in the first round. His tee shot was not struck well and flared out to the right, coming to rest in a fluffy lie at the bottom of a hill, approximately 70 feet from the back-right hole location. Moon took a big swing with a high-lofted wedge, but the ball landed 8 feet past the pin and rolled out to 25 feet before he two-putted for bogey to return to even par for the day.
Moon made a textbook par on the par-4 ninth to finish his front nine at even-par 36, giving him at outside shot to get back to even for the tournament and perhaps record a top-15 finish. Moon still was in good shape after making pars on Nos. 10 and 11, but on the par-3 12th he made bogey after he couldn't get a greenside chip close out of what he called “a weird lie.”
“That was the start of what got me a little frustrated,” said Moon, who went on to bogey Nos. 13, 14 and 15 to fall back to 4 overall for his round and 7 over for the tournament.
Moon had an opportunity to finish in style with a birdie on the par-5 18th after his third-shot wedge from 80 feet stopped 8 feet away. However, his birdie putt lacked the required pace and peeled off, making Moon walk away with a final-round 76 and a two-day 151 total.
“There definitely could have been some improvement. But it was fun, though,” said Moon, who didn't accrue a penalty stroke or make worse than a bogey during the two-day tournament. “I enjoyed coming out here and playing. It felt like a bigger and more important tournament, obviously.”
Added Roark: “I'm not disappointed, because Daniel didn't play bad golf. He lipped out here and there, the ball skipped a little on a chip and got a little far away from the hole, just little things like that. That's the way the ball bounces sometimes. A few bounces go his way and he's five shots better.”
With a large group of family, friends, coaches and past teammates following him, Hankamer got off to a positive start in Round 2, even though Hellums said it could have been much better from a scoring standpoint. After an opening par, Hankamer stuck a short wedge to 9 feet on the par-4 second hole and made the birdie putt to get to even par for the week.
LAST SHOT AT STATE: Belton senior Dallas Hankamer hits his tee shot on the par-4 sixth hole Tuesday during the final round of the UIL Class 6A boys golf state tournament at Legacy Hills Golf Club in Georgetown. The third-place finisher at state in 2019, Hankamer shot rounds of 73 and 78 in his return. Looking on is San Antonio Clark junior Garrett Endicott, who fired back-to-back 2-under 70s and placed fourth in the 72-player field. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
Steady ball-striking and putting gave Hankamer a birdie and five pars on his first six holes, then he produced a big highlight on the par-5 seventh, the hole where a final-round three-putt from 25 feet damaged his chances of winning the individual state championship in 2019.
For the second straight day, Hankamer's drive on No. 7 settled into a bad lie, this one on the right side with a tree forcing the Belton standout to keep his 260-yard “stinger” shot low with a 2-iron.
“It sitting down in a pretty bad lie, so I knew it would come out pretty low,” said Hankamer, whose powerful, low-trajectory shot went directly toward the flagstick, scooted onto the green and rolled to within 15 feet. His eagle putt slid past, but the tap-in birdie moved him to 2 under for the day and 1 under overall, within a few shots of the lead.
“I was feeling like I had a chance to win,” Hankamer said, reflecting the mood of his gallery at that time.
But the good vibes were short-lived.
“It went straight downhill after that,” he said.
With the breeze picking up on the par-3 eighth hole, Hankamer tried to hit a low, left-to-right shot to get at the back-right hole location. But his tee shot veered too far right and came to rest on the side of a hill, 90 feet from the pin. His pitch shot left him with a 10-foot par putt that caught the edge of the cup but didn't fall, leading to his first bogey of the day.
Things went from bad to worse for Hankamer on the par-4 ninth, as he hooked his drive just to the left of a creek that runs along the left side. He punched the ball out to the fairway, but his 125-yard uphill third shot into the wind stopped 35 feet short of the pin and he two-putted for a second straight bogey and a front-nine 36, matching Moon's score.
Hankamer still had plenty of holes remaining to potentially make a run at a top-10 finish, if not a medal, but the par-5 10th hole extended his bogey streak to three.
“Where things really went downhill was hole 10,” Hankamer said. “I felt like I hit a really pure wedge, and the wind just didn't touch it and it flew straight over (the green). Ever since that hole, it was a struggle.”
Two more bogeys followed on Nos. 11 and 12. Hankamer snapped the drought with a par on No. 13 but then had to take a drop after pulling his drive left into the trees on No. 14, leading to his only double bogey in the tournament.
The body language of the 6-3, 170-pound Hankamer clearly indicated that things weren't going well, but he generally kept his cool and kept trying to shoot the best score possible.
“It was kind of tough to stay positive, but I thought I did a pretty good job of keeping it together,” he said. “With all those bogeys, I could have shown some emotion, but I kind of held it in.”
Entering the week, Hankamer probably expected that his second-day drive on the par-5 18th would pack some importance, whether he was protecting a slim lead or needing to make a birdie to force a playoff. However, the only thing at stake was that a birdie would move Hankamer one shot ahead of Temple's Moon.
As Hankamer reached the top of his backswing and began his downswing, a van driving past on the road behind the No. 18 tee box honked its horn, causing Hankamer's swing to break down and his tee shot to sail to the right and much shorter than his typical drive.
Hankamer glared toward the road and the spectators were angered by the unfortunate distraction, but Hankamer had to go play the ball. His 3-wood found a bunker on the right, 40 yards from the green, and his sand shot left him with a 16-foot birdie putt. When that one rolled past, Hankamer had to settle for a highly disappointing 78 and a 151 total, matching Moon.
Afterward, Hankamer was able to find some humor about the van-horn situation on the 18th tee.
“I probably would have made a 5 anyway with the way my day was going,” he said with a laugh.
Said Hellums: “I know how this game is. When something happens to you, like the damn horn on No. 18, it can't help but frustrate you, no matter how good a temperament you have. It finally did get to him.”
Before Hankamer moves to College Station to join former state qualifier and Belton teammate William Paysse on Texas A&M's golf team, he reflected on his Tigers career.
“It was fun, for sure. I feel like I had pretty good success in high school golf,” Hankamer said. “This was the only (tournament) that I would have really liked to win, but it didn't happen.”
“Dallas was coming here to win,” Hellums said. “Particularly with the fact that as a sophomore he came so close to winning, so that's why the frustration. But I have no complaints. He's another one that has done everything that anybody could ask for Tiger golf. I'm proud of all of his efforts.”