With one state championship in his only trip to the UIL Class 4A Boys Golf State Tournament, Brownwood Lion junior Jaryn Pruitt will look to add to his medal count as he returns to the Apple Rock Golf Course at Horseshoe Bay Monday and Tuesday.
But Pruitt knows bringing home a second consecutive state championship will be an even greater challenge since he's become the man to beat.
“I really didn't have a mindset going into it last year because I didn't have that much pressure,” Pruitt said. “This year, after winning, I know people are coming after me and I have a big ol' target on my back. I just have to put that all aside and play my game.”
Pruitt won the state championship by five strokes last year, posting rounds of 72 and 69 for a 141 composite score. The Brownwood junior has gone on to capture four more tournament titles this year, including a third straight District 5-4A crown.
Pruitt advanced to his second consecutive state tournament by placing second at the Region I-4A tournament at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Lubbock, where he won the regional preview tournament earlier this season.
“My driving's consistent and that's what keeps me in good shape and keeps me in position to attack the golf course,” Pruitt said when asked what part of his game he's most pleased with heading into state. “But I would like to improve on my putting.”
Returning to Apple Rock is welcomed by Pruitt, who feels the course suits his style of play.
“I'm not used to that kind of layout,” Pruitt said. “The greens are really small and the fairways are meant for the ball to be positioned correctly. But I know the course pretty well and the course really fits me, and I like it.”
Among the biggest threats to Pruitt's title defense are 2016 state champion and 2017 state runner-up Sam Bennett from Madisonville, along with Monahans' Joey Kirk, who bested Pruitt by two strokes at regionals.
“There's a couple of guys from Monahans that are really good and the one kid from Madisonville was runner-up last year and won it the previous year before that,” Pruitt said. “I'll be looking out for them.”
Pruitt fired a 140 at regionals — one shot better than his state title a year ago — with rounds of 71 and 69, but he expects a lower score will be required at state to bring home another gold medal.
“I'd like to shoot even par, but my goal has to be way better than that,” Pruitt said. ”If I can do 68ish both days I'd be more than satisfied.”
The biggest key, according to Pruitt, to posting sub 70 rounds will be the mental aspect of the game.
“One thing I have to avoid is a negative mentality, not getting upset after a shot because that can lead to disaster,” Pruitt said. “I can rely on my faith and my consistency on the golf course.”
While Pruitt's state goal is obviously another gold medal, earning one has already exceeded his high school aspirations.
“I never dreamed of having one so to have two would be even better,” Pruitt said. “But if I don't win another time I'd be more than satisfied, one's better than none. I'm just going to go out there and have fun and play my game.”