• Greg Wille

WORK LEFT TO DO: Belton's Hankamer begins title quest with 73; Temple's Moon cards 75 in state debut


GETTING IT UP AND DOWN: Belton senior Dallas Hankamer hits a pitch shot onto the green on the par-4 ninth hole, his final hole of the day, during Monday's first round of the UIL Class 6A boys golf state tournament at Legacy Hills in Georgetown. Hankamer, who placed third at state as a sophomore in 2019, then made his 8-foot, uphill par putt to complete a 1-over-par 73 that has him tied for 18th, five strokes behind the leaders. Hankamer, a Texas A&M signee, begins Tuesday's final round at 10:30 a.m. on hole No. 1 at Legacy Hills. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)




By GREG WILLE

TempleBeltonSports.com

gwille2@hot.rr.com


GEORGETOWN – Belton senior Dallas Hankamer and Temple junior Daniel Moon played a practice round together on Sunday afternoon at Legacy Hills Golf Club, preparing themselves for two rounds of competition in the University Interscholastic League Class 6A boys state tournament.

They entered Monday's first round with well-thought-out plans on how to play the course and hopes of shooting under-par scores and finding themselves near the top of the leaderboard at the midway point.

However, golf is a notoriously demanding and fickle game, and the state tournament's opening round tested the patience and resolve of Hankamer and Moon as much as it examined their skill.

The third-place finisher at state in 2019 as a sophomore, Hankamer didn't have his best ball-striking stuff for most of the day. But on his final three holes the Texas A&M signee made a birdie and two clutch 8-foot par putts – displaying what Belton coach Jim Hellums described as “intestinal fortitude” – to carve out a 1-over-par 73 and share 18th place in the individual standings.

In his state tournament debut, Moon generally was pleased with how he struck the ball and how he handled himself on Texas high school golf's biggest stage. But Moon, believed to be the first Temple boys golfer to compete in the UIL state tournament, never got hot with his putter and had to wait out an inclement-weather delay of almost 3 hours before he finished with a 3-over 75, tied for 32nd in the 72-player field.

After their respective rounds, the friendly rivals from District 12-6A – Hankamer was the champion and Moon the runner-up – offered different perspectives on the events of Day 1.

“I definitely feel a lot better about the round, just because I finished pretty good,” said Hankamer, who's five strokes behind the 4-under 68s of two juniors: Plano West's Matt Comegys and Sean-Karl Dobson of Austin Westlake's tournament-leading A team. “But I had two putts on that (second) nine that I really should have made – one from about 6 feet and one from about 3 feet.

“(But) I can't complain about that, because I bounced back. I'm just happy I bounced back and stayed in there. I could've easily shot 3 or 4 over. Coming down to my last three holes, my goal was to get two birdies and get back to even par. But even with being 1 over, I feel like I'm still right in the tournament, especially if I play like I know how to (in Tuesday's final round).”


SOLID STATE DEBUT: Temple junior Daniel Moon hits his drive on the par-4 ninth hole, his final hole of the day, during Monday's opening round of the UIL Class 6A boys golf state tournament at Legacy Hills Golf Club in Georgetown. Moon, the third-place medalist from the Region II tournament, shot a 3-over-par 75 in his state tournament debut and is tied for 32nd place in the 72-player field, seven shots off the lead. He birdied the third and seventh holes, both par-5s. He begins the final round at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday on the first hole. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)



Moon thought he should have squeezed more out of his first round from a scoring standpoint, yet the Wildcats' 16-year-old standout wasn't too displeased with his performance.

“I was hitting the ball way too good to shoot that score, but it happens. It's golf. You can play bad and have a really good score, or you can play good and have a really bad score,” said the 5-foot-7, 135-pound Moon, one of eight players to shoot 75. “It was a little tough. I was hitting it really good, but I obviously didn't put myself in position to score really well. But it was good (overall).

“To be honest, there wasn't really a strong point. Iron-wise I was hitting it good, but direction-wise it wasn't going where it needed to.”

Both Hankamer and Moon hit crisp third-shot wedges to close range to birdie the par-5 seventh hole, their 16th hole of the day after they started early in the morning in rainy conditions on the par-5 10th. Neither Hankamer nor Moon made worse than a bogey or had to count a penalty stroke, and they made two birdies apiece. The difference was that Hankamer made only three bogeys compared to Moon's five.

Hankamer had Monday's first tee time at 7:30 and finished his round at noon, whereas Moon teed off at 8:30 and played 15 holes before play was halted at 12:40 p.m. because lightning was detected in the area. After a delay of nearly three hours, Moon resumed his round at 3:30 and completed it at 4:15.

After tying for the third-best score among the tournament's 12 individual medalists, Hankamer will tee off in Tuesday's final round at 10:30 a.m. on the par-4 first hole along with San Antonio Clark junior Garrett Endicott (70) and Schertz Clemens senior Bret Gray (72), who played in Moon's first-round group along with Dallas Jesuit senior Gordon Schmerbeck (76).

Moon, tied for seventh among the medalists, will begin his final round at 8:30 a.m. on No. 1, joined by Schmerbeck and San Antonio Johnson freshman Jackson Hymer (75).

In the 6A state tournament two years ago at Legacy Hills, Hankamer shared the first-round lead with a 69, then shot a final-round 71 to finish one shot out of the playoff for first place.

"That definitely doesn't feel like it was two years ago. Maybe one year," said a laughing Hankamer, who didn't get an opportunity to return to state tournament as a junior because it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although there are 17 players ahead of him, Hankamer believes he has the potential to go low on Tuesday and challenge for the championship or at least another state medal.

“It kind of depends on the conditions,” he said, “but I'd say if I shoot 5 or 6 under, I feel like I have a good shot.”

Although Hankamer wasn't able to match the success of his first-round 69 two years ago, longtime Tigers coach Hellums gave kudos to his senior star for how he handled adversity – things such as playing through periodic strong rain and having his tee ball settle into an old divot – and posted a respectable score.

“In these conditions, to shoot what he wanted to or what we felt like he needed to today, we were thinking 69, 3 under,” said Hellums, who has a Belton medalist competing in the state tournament for the fifth time in nine years. “But honestly, there were several cases on the course where I think a normal player might hold up the white flag and say, 'This is not my day.' And Dallas didn't do that.”


SOMETHING TO BUILD ON: Temple junior Daniel Moon shot a 2-over-par 38 on his first nine holes on a soggy Monday morning in the UIL Class 6A boys golf state tournament, but after making the turn he birdied the par-5 third and seventh holes and finished the first round with a 3-over 75 in his state debut at Legacy Hills Golf Club in Georgetown. Moon, seven shots off the lead, starts his final round at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday on the first hole. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)



Moon will start his final round seven shots behind the leaders. It's unlikely that the Temple junior can make up enough ground to contend for a medal, but nonetheless he's hungry to respond with a stellar score and overtake as many players as possible before he aims to return to the state tournament as a senior.

“Anything under par would be nice. I don't really mind shooting even or under par in any round,” Moon said. “It could be a 65, 66 or 67, in that area.”

A 1987 Temple graduate who's wrapping up his third year as the Wildcats' golf coach, Allen Roark said Moon performed mostly well in the first round despite some execution errors and has the game and the competitiveness to come back with a sharper final round.

“Daniel only had like three bad shots today, and they weren't terrible. All in all, he struck the ball pretty well and didn't putt bad – no three-putts,” said Roark, who last month guided Temple's boys team to its first regional tournament appearance since 1999. “He had two or three makable birdie putts that he just barely missed. (The 75) was pretty representative of the way he was playing, but it could've been even par real easy. That's just the way this game is.”

With Dobson sharing the lead and junior Jacob Sosa (69) alone in third place, Westlake's No. 1 squad leads the team standings with a 5-under 283 total. That's seven strokes ahead of The Woodlands and eight in front of Westlake's No. 2 team, which actually produced the Chaparrals' third- and fourth-best individual scores Monday.

Hankamer's two older brothers, Dane and Dalton, helped lead Salado to a team state championship one year after Dane captured the individual state title. Dallas couldn't get anything special going on his opening nine holes as he played the course's back nine in 1-over 37. The 6-3, 170-pound Hankamer is a long hitter but didn't make birdie on either of the par-5s, and he bogeyed the par-3 16th.

“I feel like I hit it good off the tee, but my irons weren't dialed in at all,” said Hankamer, the second-place medalist from Region II. “I had a lot of 40-, 50-, 60-footers for birdie because I wasn't hitting my 8-iron and 9-iron in there close. I actually had probably one of the best range (warmup) sessions I've ever had, but I just wasn't getting it close enough (on approaches).”


CHASING THE CHAMPIONSHIP: After shooting a 1-over-par 73 in Monday's first round of the UIL Class 6A boys golf state tournament, Belton senior Dallas Hankamer said he likely will need to fire a 66 or a 67 in Tuesday's final round at Georgetown's Legacy Hills Golf Club to have a chance to catch the two leaders who carded 68s. The District 12-6A champion and Texas A&M signee begins Round 2 at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday on the first hole. Hankamer shared the first-round lead at state as a sophomore in 2019 and contended for the individual title, placing third after he fell one stroke short of getting into a first-place playoff. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)



Hankamer finally recorded his first birdie on the par-4 second to get to even par, but then he missed the aforementioned 6-foot and 3-foot par putts on Nos. 4 and 5, respectively, to move to 2 over. His drive on the par-5 seventh – where a final-round three-putt cost him greatly in 2019 after he had a 25-foot eagle opportunity – settled into a divot.

“I was in a really tough lie, an old divot, and kind of behind a tree,” Hankamer explained. “I was thinking about punching it out 30 yards to the right, but I just said, 'Screw it, I need a birdie right now.'”

Hankamer's second shot clipped some leaves on that tree but found the middle of the fairway. From 68 yards out, he struck a well-controlled wedge shot that landed 20 feet short of the hole and rolled to within 2½ feet, setting up the birdie that moved him to 1-over.

His second-shot chip on the par-3 eighth came up 8 feet short, but Hankamer sank the par putt with good pace. On the par-4 ninth, he sprayed his drive to the right side and found tree trouble. His iron approach glanced off an overhanging tree and came to rest 25 yards short of the front of the green, but then his well-judged pitch stopped 8 feet short of the cup.

Facing a putt that had to come up a ridge and then break at the end, Hankamer hit it perfectly and the ball disappeared for his second consecutive clutch par save, drawing loud applause from his various family members, teammates and Belton coaches in the gallery.

“The thing that summed his day up was the putt he made on No. 9. That was an example of the fact that Dallas was not going to give up or give in. That shows a great deal about the kid's character,” Hellums said. “Was that a good 73 on a scale of 1 to 10? That was a great freaking 73. With the (unfortunate) breaks, it could have been a 76 real easy. I'm impressed with the kid. He's one of the best players I've had.”

Roark would say the same thing about Moon, who in April made a 25-foot par putt on the second hole of a three-man, sudden-death playoff at Bear Ridge in Waco to earn Region II's final state medalist berth.

Dealing with drizzle and soggy conditions at Legacy Hills, Moon played mostly smart, solid golf on his first nine holes, the course's back nine. Each of his bogeys – on the par-4 13th and the par-3 16th – during his opening nine came after his approach shot missed a green whose pin was tucked on the right side.

“I was actually aiming at the middle of the green and I hit it really solid, but I just pushed it. It happens every once in a while,” Moon said. “All my shots that looked like mis-hits were solid. They were in the middle of the face, so that's one thing I was happy about. I didn't have any hooks with the irons.”

Moon pulled his drive on the par-4 17th, but he hit an impressive recovery shot from the trees and tall grass onto the green before narrowly missing a 16-foot birdie putt. He had another birdie opportunity on the par-5 18th, but his 10-foot putt from the back edge slid past the cup.


GOING FOR THE GREEN: With Bret Gray of Schertz Clemens looking on, Temple junior Daniel Moon hits his tee shot on the par-3 12th hole during the first round of the UIL Class 6A boys golf state tournament on Monday at Legacy Hills in Georgetown. Moon shot a 3-over-par 75 in his state debut, while the left-handed Gray, a Sam Houston State signee, fired a 72 that was the second-lowest score among the 12 medalists in the 72-player field. Gray will play Tuesday's final round with Belton senior Dallas Hankamer (73) starting at 10:30 a.m. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)



After shooting 2-over 38 on his first nine, Moon made back-to-back bogeys on par-4s to begin the course's front nine as he slipped to 4 over. He was particularly frustrated by the errant wedge he hit from 112 yards away on the short first hole.

Moon needed something to turn his day around, and it came on the par-5 third when he ripped a second-shot 3-iron to within 25 feet and almost made the chip for eagle.

“The second shot was really good. (The eagle chip) was probably like a centimeter from going in,” said Moon, who tapped in for his first birdie and then made three consecutive pars to stand at 3 over when lightning was detected in the area, stopping play at 12:40 p.m.

Moon, Roark and Moon's sophomore teammate John Roark, son of Temple's coach, retreated to their vehicle and had to wait 2½ hours as heavy rain pounded Legacy Hills and nearby lightning strikes persisted.

When play resumed at 3:30 under clearing skies and on a soaked course, Moon's third shot on the par-5 seventh was a well-struck gap wedge from 120 yards that carried to the flagstick and stopped 3 feet away, and he sank the birdie putt to move to 2 over.

However, Moon couldn't maintain that momentum. His tee shot on the par-3 eighth missed the green to the left, his chip barely trickled onto the green and he left the 9-foot par putt short to absorb a disappointing bogey and fall back to 3 over.

“I was aiming left and trying to hit a cut, the same little push-cut shot I was hitting all day, but it didn't happen on that hole,” Moon said. “It tells me what I need to do tomorrow, how to hit shots like that.”

Moon played the par-4 ninth well and had a 25-foot uphill putt for birdie, but it missed on the left and the Temple junior tapped in to complete the up-and-down 75 in his state debut.

“If you've seen his AJGA scores in those multi-round tournaments, Daniel's a final-round player,” Allen Roark said. “So he's used to playing from behind, and that doesn't bother him.”

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