As a golfer, one knows the feeling when their swing is on. When the drives go straight, the middle game is steady and the putter is working, it makes for an enjoyable time on the links.
Belton High School junior golfer Andrew Paysse has experienced this. For the last three weeks, Paysse has played some of the best golf of his young life and that Belton High School has seen in some time.
There is a new title that will forever be linked with Paysse wherever he may go: Texas Class 5A State Boys Golf Champion.
Paysse shot an opening round 67 to grab a share of the lead with Cole Barnett of Mansfield. He shot a second day 71 and totaled a 138 at the Class 5A State Finals at Morris Williams Golf Course in Austin Monday and Tuesday. The score of six-under par was one shot better than the 139 shot by The Woodlands’ Brad Able, McKinney Boyd’s Vincent Whaley and Lake Travis’ Klein Klotz.
For the third time in the history of Belton High School golf, a boys golfer achieved such a feat. Only Donnie Kelly shooting a 148 in 1979 and Neil Hickerson scored a 149 and won a playoff in 1983 have reached such heights, with Kelly winning the crown while Belton was Class 3A and Hickerson winning the title while the school was Class 4A on the same Morris Williams Golf Course. Not many schools can claim state champion golfers in three classifications.
Paysse’s championship is Belton’s first golf title since coach Ken Taylor’s girls’ teams won two in three years in 1985 and 1988. And it’s Belton’s first championship since the 1994 State Championship Baseball Team hoisted the title at Disch-Falk Field in Austin 19 years ago.
The rounds were interrupted on both days due to weather conditions. It wasn’t the same blustery conditions that prevailed at Lubbock in regionals. But thunderstorms rolled through on Monday, twice delaying the opening round. The final round on Tuesday was delayed because of dense fog.
Paysse started his quest for the title with a 1:10 p.m. tee time Monday on the Morris Williams’ back nine. He bogeyed his first hole, the 10th hole that is a par-4 that was 395 yards. Paysse parred the next three holes and birdied the 14th hole, a par-3 that was 201 yards.
The birdie brought Paysse back to even par after five holes. Parring the next two holes, Paysse picked a birdie on the par-5 17th hole, a long driving 551 yards to go one under par on the day. He gave the stroke back on the 18th hole, bogeying the par 4, 431 yard hole. His first nine holes, he carded a 36. He was even for the round after nine holes.
Then Paysse made the turn onto the front nine. These nine holes separated the contenders and the pretenders.
Paysse picked up five of a possible nine birdies. He birdied the 360-yard, par-4 first hole and 573-yard, par-5 second hole. He then shot even par on holes three and four, with the holes playing at 218 and 391 yards respectively.
Two more birdies came at on holes five and six, with the holes playing at 531 and 427. His final three holes went even-birdie-even with the holes distancing 422, 190 and 413 respectively. His back nine score of 31 was only matched by Jake Ezell of Lake Travis for being the lowest nine-hole stretch in the tournament.
His score of 67 was good for 5-under par, taking more than seven hours to complete because of the delays.
“I definitely got in a rhythm,” said Paysse. “It was pretty nerve-racking, with a lot of start-and stop.”
“Andrew played extremely well Monday,” said Belton coach Jim Hellums. “He got up-and-down just about every time he missed a green. He did have two bogeys, but had seven birdies to offset them to shoot that 67. That put him is really good shape. He knew going in that if he could get somewhere around one or two under par, he knew that’s all he’d have to do to win state. That’s basically what he did.”
After a good night of rest, Paysse returned to Morris Williams’ back nine for his final round of play to start at 9:00 a.m. It started off in similar fashion, with Paysse shooting par on 10 and 11 and birdied 12 to go six under par for the tournament. He would struggle during the next three holes, giving two strokes back with two bogeys and a par to drop back to four under par.
With the tournament field breathing down his neck, he shot two under par in the next three holes, birding 16 and 17 and shooting par on 18. Paysse carded a 35 on his first nine holes of the final round. Standing at seven-under-par, most of the field was left in his rear view mirror, with still a few competitors left to shake.
After making the turn to the course’s front nine, Paysse birdied the first hole, just as he did on Monday. He commenced to shoot six consecutive pars and if not for a spike mark on the eighth hole which forced a roll out, the streak would have been eight as he shot par on the final hole.
“On the last five holes, he was in a position to where the kids that were the closest to him were three shots down,” said Hellums. “He basically had the opportunity on the last five holes to convert birdie putts. These putts were rolling to the edge of the hole and not going in. If any one of those five putts falls, the deal is over with. It was going to make it impossible for the field to catch him. A lot of credit to the kid from McKinney Boyd (Whaley), on that back nine he made everything he looked at. He put some pressure on Andrew. On the eighth hole, Andrew rolled a 20-foot putt within 18 inches of the hole. When he went to tap in the put, he hit what looked like a spike mark and it bounced out of the hole. It did a 360 at him. It made the difference in one shot going into the last hole.”
Despite the tension at the end, Paysse brought home the title. To break down Paysse’s performance: in 36 holes, Paysse had 11 birdies, 20 pars and five bogeys. He was two-under-par on the par-3 holes, even par on the par-4 holes and four-under-par on the par-5 holes. His nine-hole clips were 36-31 and 36-37.
“He played well and it went down to the wire and he survived,” said Hellums. “Let’s face it: when you shoot a 138 at a good tract like Morris Williams, you’ve played some really great golf.”
Hellums stated he had been getting calls of congratulations for he and Andrew from Belton staffers and friends and family from around the state. He was the golf coach at Round Rock for 19 years and was known for his great Dragon golfers and golf teams. He is thrilled to have his first state champion golfer at Belton.
“Everybody has been so complimentary,” said Hellums. “They have been amazing. It has been a good two days for me. It has been a great two days for Andrew. And it has been a great two days for Belton High School.”
Every great performance starts with a question. Hellums asked Paysse at what point did he think that he had the shot at the state title.
“After I birdied number one, the 10th hole of day,” said Paysse. “I felt like it was mine and do what I want with it.”
With the championship soon to be included in the trophy case at Belton High School and the Paysse family mantle, what could be next on the horizon for the Belton High School Golf Program?
“This can only be a banner thing for him,” said Hellums. “Not only were there some college coaches that were impressed, this kid is coming back next year to lead a pretty good Belton Tiger team to try and win a state championship.”