BLANKET — Patience.
Time may be all that stands between the Blanket Lady Tigers and a second consecutive Class A girls golf state championship, and the countdown can't end quickly enough.
The Lady Tigers return to Lions Municipal Golf Course in Austin Monday and Tuesday, site of last year's 29-stroke victory en route to the state title.
“Our biggest issue is ourselves,” Blanket head coach Monty Jones said. “We have one downfall and that's we have no patience. We get agitated with slow play and it's going to be slow because the scores of some of those teams are going to be pretty high. We have to attack it our way — don't be the first one to the ball, don't get distracted, do what we do, focus on our game and slow down.”
“We definitely need to be patient,” echoed Lady Tiger Kenzie Tidwell.
The Lady Tigers have finished first in every tournament this season but one — the Bluebonnet Invitational at the Brownwood Country Club, where Blanket was the runner-up to 4A state qualifier Abilene Wylie. At their most recent event — the Region III-A tournament at Squaw Valley in Glen Rose — the Lady Tigers captured the championship by 86 strokes over runner-up Tioga.
“That's definitely boosted our confidence a lot,” said Marki Kinkade, who will be seeking her second straight individual state championship. “We feel pretty confident going in.”
Blanket's success over the past two years has also made the Lady Tigers the team everyone at state wants to beat.
“We definitely have a target on our back,” said Shelby Smith, the lone newcomer to this year's state squad.
“The pressure is on the other folks to catch us,” Jones said. “They read the scores just like anybody else. But I keep bringing up that it didn't take long for 18 strokes to disappear last week. We have to play to win, not play to not get beat.”
Jones was referencing last week's runner-up state effort by the Tigers, who led after the first round before Garden City stormed back to win the championship by 16 strokes.
With all four members of last year's championship team back — Kinkade, Tidwell, Emily Furry and Cassie Furry — along with the addition of Smith, expectations for a state repeat began almost as soon as the 2017 season concluded.
“We know how to play the course, we know how to play smart and we're relaxed,” Emily Furry said. “But we know we have to go down there and take care of business.”
“We have to use our knowledge,” Jones said. “We've been playing together for three years and it's Marki's fourth time at state. I don't think any other team can say they have that much experience.”
For three Lady Tigers — Kinkade, Tidwell and Emily Furry — next week will be their final high school golf tournament, as well as the last event together for the nucleus of the squad.
“This tournament is very important,” Cassie Furry said. “It'd be awesome to win another state championship.”
“It's upsetting it's our last year, so we need to go out with a bang,” Emily Furry said. “We just need to go in there with our heads down and play our game.”