SATISFYING FINISH: Sharp wedges help Temple senior Moon fire 70, share eighth in 6A state tournament
SOMETHING TO SMILE ABOUT: Temple senior Daniel Moon and Richardson Pearce junior Preston Stout (left) react with grins after Moon made a 50-foot chip shot to save par on the par-3 16th hole during the final round of the UIL Class 6A state golf tournament Tuesday at Legacy Hills Golf Club in Georgetown. Moon's tee shot went into a water hazard for his only penalty stroke in 36 holes. Making his second straight state appearance, the Sam Houston State-committed Moon shot a 2-under-par 70 to finish with a 3-under 141 total, good for a share of eighth place in the 72-player field. Stout shot 67 and finished second with a 137 total, one stroke behind champion Matt Comegys of Plano West. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
GEORGETOWN – Aside from saying his big-picture goal was to win, Temple senior Daniel Moon didn’t go into his second and final appearance in the University Interscholastic League Class 6A state golf tournament overly concerned about the scores he would shoot or the place in which he would finish.
Instead, Moon’s mission was simply to play his best golf, have as much fun as possible and savor the experience in his last act as a Wildcat. Perhaps it was that maturity and perspective that allowed Moon to achieve success as he battled head-to-head with some of the state’s premier high school players at Legacy Hills Golf Club.
After Moon’s up-and-down play in Monday’s first round resulted in a respectable 71, four birdies and two chip-ins for par highlighted his final-round scorecard on a hot, muggy Tuesday as the Temple medalist fired a 2-under-par 70 – repeatedly saving strokes with stellar wedge shots – to finish with a 3-under 141 total and in a three-way tie for eighth place.
“I definitely started getting physically tired a lot. My back was killing me throughout the back nine. I didn’t take (my backswing) back as far on some shots," said Moon, the first Temple boys golfer to compete in the state tournament. "But I had a lot of fun, and coming in I just wanted to find some satisfaction in the rounds. That’s exactly what happened.”
The Sam Houston State signee would have needed to shoot 65 to get into a playoff for the individual championship, while a 67 would have given him a share of the bronze medal for third place.
Certainly there were opportunities that Moon didn’t take advantage of, such as a long-range eagle putt from off the front of the green at the par-5 18th hole that came up well short, leading to a closing par. But on a day when his ball striking wasn’t up to his normal standards, the 5-foot-8, 130-pound Moon walked away with much more satisfaction than regrets.
One year after he shot rounds of 75 and 76 in his state debut to share 38th with Belton then-senior Dallas Hankamer, Moon was quite pleased to produce two under-par rounds – his total was 10 strokes better than last year – and acquit himself well in the elite field.
“I didn’t have any expectations coming into this tournament. I was really satisfied with how it went today, especially not hitting the ball as well today,” said Moon, who dramatically made a 50-foot pitch shot for par on No. 16 after his tee shot rolled into the water hazard.
“It was a mental grind out there for sure, trying to push through even though I wasn’t hitting it well. But I managed to get the wedge going and save me a few shots. I’m glad I can finish my last round in the state tournament under par. It means a lot.”
Said Temple fourth-year coach Allen Roark: “The score was good. I mean, today was a gutsy round in my opinion, because Daniel wasn’t hitting the ball as well as he did yesterday but he ended up scoring one shot better. It was impressive to see him patch that round together. That’s the best showing a Temple male has ever had, so it’s hard to complain. I’m really proud of him.”
Moon’s final-round playing partners were the talented tandem of Keller senior Kaelen Dulany and Richardson Pearce junior Preston Stout. Arkansas signee Dulany was the defending 6A individual state champion, while Oklahoma State commitment Stout was in position to win the 2021 state title as a sophomore before a triple bogey on the par-4 ninth, his final hole, dropped him one shot behind Dulany.
Moon has played with Dulany and Stout in various high-level junior tournaments, so he fully knew what he was up against entering his 8 a.m. tee time Tuesday.
Both Dulany and Stout carved out final-round 67s. Stout torched the front nine for a 6-under 30, knocking in a 160-yard shot for eagle on the first hole. The slow-starting Dulany – he double bogeyed the opening hole – caught fire and played his final 12 holes in 7 under par, punctuated by an eagle on No. 18.
“It was fun. Those guys played extremely well. They’re very well-mannered and just fun guys to play with all around,” Moon said. “We had a blast out there and thankfully we all played well and all had a good time. It was a good way for me and Kaelen to end our senior year.
“I’ve played with Kaelen a bunch of times and I’ve played with Preston a few times. We know how we all play and we’ve played in high-level tournaments together. It’s fun playing with those guys, especially guys who play extremely well like them.”
However, neither Dulany nor Stout was able to capture the individual championship. That’s because Plano West senior Matt Comegys birdied the par-3 16th hole and then eagled the par-5 18th to complete a 66 for an 8-under 136 total that edged Stout by one stroke and was two shots better than Dulany and San Antonio Clark senior Garrett Endicott, who shot a 70.
Sharing fifth place with 139 totals were seniors Zach Kingsland (69) and Jacob Sosa (66) of team champion Austin Westlake and sophomore Bowen Ballis (68) of The Woodlands College Park. Tying Moon for eighth place at 141 were two other seniors: Keller’s Daniel Choi (72) – son of longtime PGA Tour player K.J. Choi – and Leander Vandegrift senior Andrew Tan (70).
Westlake’s team cruised to its fifth consecutive 6A state championship, firing a 10-under 278 total in the final round for an 11-under 565 total and a 23-stroke victory over The Woodlands (588). Plano West (591) claimed third place.
MOON SHOT: With Temple coach Allen Roark looking on, Wildcats senior Daniel Moon hits his tee shot on the par-3 12th hole Tuesday during the final round of the UIL Class 6A state tournament at Legacy Hills Golf Club in Georgetown. After shooting rounds of 75 and 76 in his state debut last year to tie for 38th place, Moon recorded consecutive under-par rounds of 71 and 70 in his return and shared eighth place in the 72-player field. The Sam Houston State signee made an eagle and eight birdies in the 36-hole tournament. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
Moon’s opening round Monday was a roller-coaster affair during which he followed a double bogey at the par-4 sixth hole – his only double in four state tournament rounds – by sinking a 25-foot eagle putt at his next hole, the par-5 seventh. He made only nine pars and closed his round with a disappointing three-putt bogey at the par-4 ninth.
Moon’s play was steadier during the final round, especially as he started off by recording six consecutive 4s. His handiwork with the various wedges helped him early and often.
His approach shot at the par-4 first rolled off the back edge of the green, but from 30 feet away his well-judged chip led to an easy par putt. On the par-4 second, Moon’s iron approach bounced through the green and settled 75 feet from the pin.
His ensuing flop shot didn’t quite reach the putting surface, but from 20 feet away his chip down a slope came out perfectly and rolled into the cup for a clutch par save. Moon celebrated with a big fist pump after his ball disappeared.
“Those were big momentum boosters,” Moon said. “I definitely didn’t hit it as good as yesterday. I definitely leaned on the wedge more than the putter.”
After making a sloppy bogey at the par-5 third hole Monday, Moon exacted his revenge in the final round. His approach shot left him with an uphill, 22-foot birdie putt. The ball almost didn’t reach the cup, but as Moon leaned toward the hole it dropped in, moving him to 2 under for the tournament.
“That first birdie on hole 3 was definitely good to have momentum-wise,” said Moon, the District 12-6A champion. “I told myself not to leave that putt short, because I knew it was going to be slow, and I didn’t. It fell in at the last moment. Those things feel good in the beginning of the round.”
A bogey at the par-3 fourth knocked Moon back to even for the day and 1 under overall. He pulled his tee shot on the par-4 fifth into the left weeds for the second straight day. He didn’t make a birdie like he did Monday, but Moon expertly two-putted from 45 feet for par.
After making a double bogey at the par-4 sixth hole Monday but following it with an eagle at the par-5 seventh, Moon gave himself birdie putts on each of those holes in the final round but settled for back-to-back pars. Moon pulled off another well-executed chip after missing the green left on the par-3 eighth. He almost holed it from 20 feet, setting up a tap-in par.
One day after he bogeyed the par-4 ninth with a three-putt after a perfect drive, Moon handled that hole much more effectively Tuesday. His uphill approach shot from 120 yards danced around the flagstick and Moon converted that short birdie putt to cap a 1-under 35 on the front nine and get back to 2 under in total.
A trend for Moon was coming back strong on the holes that stymied him Monday.
“Yes, for sure. I was noticing that throughout the day. That is golf,” he said.
With Stout having surged into the lead with the hole-out eagle and four birdies for a stellar front-nine 30, Moon certainly could have used a birdie at the par-5 10th, where he began the tournament with a birdie early Monday morning. However, he couldn’t get up and down from the greenside bunker and settled for a par. Moon didn’t birdie any of his final three par-5s Tuesday.
Moon made par at the par-4 11th but ran into trouble at the par-3 12th. He missed the green to the left and, after a nicely controlled long pitch across the green, narrowly missed the 5-foot par putt, falling back to even for the day and 1 under overall. Moon then missed the green at the par-4 13th but saved par thanks to a 25-foot chip to within inches.
Moon produced another highlight at the par-4 14th, hitting an accurate iron approach and then walking in a 15-foot birdie putt to get back to 2 under for the tournament.
“I wasn’t feeling comfortable all day with the putter,” Moon said. “I was a little shaky throughout the round, but toward the end I found a rhythm and started putting a little better and rolling it a lot smoother. I think it started on hole 14.”
Moon calmly made a 6-foot par putt on the par-4 15th, then came his adventurous experience on No. 16, a 198-yard par-3 with water to the right. In swirling winds, his tee shot began on a good line but veered to the right and landed on a grassy bank before rolling down into the hazard.
“That was one of the good shots I hit. It started just right of the flag, just where I wanted it to, and I thought it was going to draw over,” Moon said. “I knew where I was standing going into the last four holes. I was a few shots back and I just thought that if I can make a few birdies and maybe an eagle on the last hole, it would maybe get me a chance.”
When Moon took a drop near where the ball entered the water, it was the first penalty stroke he incurred in four rounds at the state tournament. Roark told an observer near the green that Moon needed to find a way to get his ball up and down for a bogey, but his star player had an unexpected bonus for the coach.
Using a wedge 50 feet from the hole, Moon lofted his third shot onto the green and the ball tracked toward the cup before disappearing for an unlikely par. Moon punched the air with his right fist as the gallery applauded, then smiled as he grabbed his ball out of the hole.
“I definitely leaned on the wedge more than the putter,” Moon said, “and especially that chip-in on 16 was huge for me.”
Added Roark: “It’s golf, man. From the hazard on 16, that could have been a double bogey easy. That was clutch.”
Moon summoned more shotmaking magic on the par-4 17th. His long drive came to rest in some yellowish sod just outside the left edge of a large bunker. With an uneven stance from 103 yards, Moon’s 58-degree wedge shot was all over the flagstick, spinning to within 3½ feet of the hole.
“The ball was below my feet about 6 inches or so, but the lie was really good and the wind was coming from right to left, kind of the same situation as yesterday when I made double (bogey on No. 6),” Moon said. “But I did learn from my mistake and I just went for it on that one.”
Moon converted the short birdie putt to get to 2 under on the round and 3 under for the tournament for the first time. At the time it seemed reasonable that a finishing eagle at the par-5 No. 18 hole might be enough to put Moon into position to earn a medal for a top-three finish. Dulany led Moon by only one stroke as they stood on the tee box, and Stout didn’t make a birdie after the eighth hole.
Moon blasted an ideal drive and his well-struck 7-iron approach shot from 220 yards finished on the fringe just in front of the green. Thirty feet from the hole and needing an eagle to make a big move at the last, Moon chose to putt through the fringe instead of trying to add one more great wedge shot to his collection.
His putt lost speed quickly and came up 10 feet short, then his birdie putt also lost pace near the end and peeled away before he tapped in for a 70 – his low round at state – and shook hands with Dulany, who sank a key 25-foot eagle putt, and Stout.
“That ball just didn’t come out (of the fringe) how I thought it would. Into the grain on the fringe, you’ve got to hit it a lot harder than you think,” Moon said. “I don’t know why I didn’t think of chipping it, to be honest. I was just so in the moment that putter was the only option I was thinking. I definitely didn’t hit it hard enough, but it did grab a lot into that grain and that really slowed it down. If I had to go back, I definitely would have chipped it.”
However, Moon isn’t big on regrets, and he quickly returned to glass-half-full mode.
“I’m happy with the way I finished, especially with how poorly I was striking the golf ball today,” he said.
TEMPLE TANDEM: Temple senior medalist Daniel Moon poses with Wildcats head coach Allen Roark after the final round of the UIL Class 6A state golf tournament Tuesday at Legacy Hills Golf Club in Georgetown. Moon last year became Temple's first male golfer to compete in the state tournament, and in his return trip to state this week he tied for eighth place with rounds of 71 and 70 for a 3-under-par 141 total. "I'm really proud of him," said Roark, a 1987 Temple graduate who's completing his fourth season as the Wildcats' coach. (Photo courtesy of Allen Roark, Temple ISD)
Moon expressed appreciation for the people who traveled to Legacy Hills to watch him play, including coaches, instructors, friends, supporters from Sammons Golf Links, his older brother, David Moon, and Dr. Jason Mayo, the Temple High School principal whose seventh-grade son, Jase, is an up-and-coming golfer who plans to play in high school for the Wildcats.
Roark, a 1987 Temple graduate, hopes that all the other golfers in Temple’s system have paid close attention to the example set by the accomplished and hard-working Moon.
“Yes, especially Daniel’s work ethic. They get to see what that kind of work ethic will do for you. Seeing it in person has to have a huge impact, more than just hearing about good players from other schools or districts or whatever. They got to watch it in action,” Roark said. “The coach-on-the-field mentality that he’s had, hopefully that does rub off. The other guys are talking about, ‘We’ve got to pick up the slack. Daniel’s not going to be here next year.’ We definitely need to have that kind of mentality going into next year.”
Moon’s second trip to the state tournament didn’t end with a championship or a medal, but he was proud of how he played and competed for two days and soon will leave Temple for Huntsville with positive memories of his career for the Wildcats.
“It’s been a blast playing all four years here. I don’t think it could have been any better, especially all the people who helped me get here like Coach Roark and Coach (Michael) Jones and all the people from Sammons who came out to support,” Moon said. “It’s been a dream four years of golf here. I don’t think I could have ended it better.
"I mean, it could have, but it was a satisfying four years of golf.”