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By Dan Perrine
For The Record 

Xander Parks wins state in golf

 

Last updated 5/29/2023 at 12:51pm

Xander Parks of Orangefield flashes a rare smile while wearing his gold medal after winning the state golf championship May 23 in Austin

A year that started with great expectations, was plagued by an injury along the way, and ended with exaltation for Xander Parks the last week and a half of May. The Orangefield senior won the Class 3A individual state championship for golf during the two-day tournament held May 22-23 in Austin.

The winning of the gold medal by Parks a senior at Orangefield helped his five-member team also do quite well. The Bobcats captured fourth place among the twelve teams competing in Class 3A at Austin.

Xander and his younger brother Lincoln joined with three other senior Bobcats Ethan Gunter, Reese Johnson, and Alex Montz to give Orangefield one of the top high school golf teams in southeast Texas. Coming into this year the Parks brothers were expected to help lead the Bobcats to a district championship.

Finally getting healthy propelled Xander to fulfill his potential and become the top golfer in his classification this year. A back injury hampered Parks through the first five or six tournaments of the year.

Visits to a chiropractor during that time helped Parks work out the discomfort in his back. "Now I'm finally healthy back to a hundred percent. Ever since that I started swinging the driver like what I used to and got everything clicking," Parks remembered.

In late April during the regional tournament Xander was tied for third one stroke behind his brother Lincoln and another golfer after the first day. Xander shot a 74 over the final eighteen holes on the second day for the best round by anybody during the two days and leaped to a three-stroke victory qualifying him and his Orangefield teammates for a trip to the state finals in Austin.

The finals for Class 3A were played on May 22-23 at Austin's Jimmy Clay Golf Course. The par for the eighteen holes is 72 on the public course.

Day one the weather was great with no wind and the scoring was good except Xander said honestly he played terrible. Xander elaborated, "I drove the ball good, my wedges were horrible. I had greens within easy reach no problem, but then my wedges just failed me."

Parks played consistent for the day. He had no three putts for the round, made several chips followed by one putts after missing a few greens, and finished with four birdies against two bogeys.

The obvious highlight during the round was scoring three straight birdies late on his second nine holes. Parks drove over trees which no one else had done that day to setup a great approach to the green for the last birdie at his seventeenth hole played. A bogey at the final hole did cost him a stroke though.

As unhappy as Parks was with his wedge play the first day he still shot a two-under par 70 to be in contention just one stroke out of first place. "The first day I kept myself in it just to have a chance the second day to go out and win," Parks recalled.

The top three players on the leaderboard composed the final group on the second day. This set up what amounted to a match play situation for Xander. Parks thought, "Just best them. I am going to be playing with them so just beat them."

Winds picked up on the second day in Austin. This made the scoring more difficult for the golfers.

It may not be fair to compare Parks to another great golfer like Arnold Palmer yet, but Xander copied a feat done by Palmer who drove the first hole in the final round to make a birdie during his come from behind victory at the 1960 U.S. Open. Parks started his second round by driving the green at the first hole he played, missing his eagle putt, and then dropping a short putt for a birdie to move into a tie for the lead.

Orangefield golf coach Todd Trawhon described Xander driving the green at the first hole as a special moment. Trawhon retold the conversation he had with Parks after the opening birdie. "It wasn't like it was straight down the middle. It was a dogleg left over water. I asked him were you planning on doing that or did you lose it a little bit left. He said no I aimed right at the green, I had the wind at my back I knew I could get it over, and it landed on the green."

Maybe feeling the emotion of his great shot at the first hole Parks almost shanked a shot at the second hole. He made a great up and down to save par.

At the third hole probably the hardest hole on the course Xander's tee shot caught the top of a tree which knocked his ball back into the fairway about 220 yards from the green. Parks hit a 4-Iron way to the right of the green with his second shot.

A pitch got Xander on the green but twelve feet from the hole with about a three-foot left to right break for his putt to save par. "I make it! I'm like that's momentum right there," Parks exclaimed.

Xander's closest competitor had not made any mistakes to that point and the two golfers both birdied the par five fourth to remain tied. That changed at the par three fifth.

Off the tee Parks was in the middle of the green some thirty feet from the cup for his putt while the player he was tied with had about a dozen feet for his birdie. Xander said, "Right when I hit it I knew I was going to make it, it was dead center. That kid missed his. We walked off the green, and he said oh no to me. I'm going to get beat today because you can play."

Taking advantage of mistakes by the other players is so important in golf. Parks made two bogeys in a row on the second nine holes during his round but neither of the players matched with him took advantage of those miscues to pickup any strokes on him because they both came away with bogeys on the same pair of holes.

A four stroke lead with three holes to go means play it safe, and that is what Parks did. At the last hole which featured big pecan trees and a water hazard to avoid off the tee he hit his driver for a beautiful shot leaving him only 120 yards from the green. Xander told Coach Trawhon after his tee shot he was glad that shot was over with because it's a scary one.

A gap wedge for his third shot put Parks on the green in regulation. Two putts gave Xander his par to complete his round for the day.

Parks played his first nine holes on day two at two under par and closed with the two bogeys on the second nine to finish at even par 72 for the day and 142 for the tournament. Xander finished the tournament at least three strokes better than either of the two golfers he played with that day but would not know if the victory was his until all the scores could be checked in the clubhouse.

Trawhon indicated he and Parks were a little nervous down to the final hole. "Xander handled it well, took one hole at a time, and just played solid golf all the way through," Trawhon evaluated.

Obviously, when Parks discovered he was the winner the emotions hit him. Xander admitted, "It was almost like crying, it would have been a happy cry but I didn't cry tough."

The Orangefield golf team with Xander Parks, Reese Johnson, Lincoln Parks, Coach Todd Trawhon, Alex Montz, and Ethan Gunter at the state tournament in Austin

The smile on Xander's face wearing his gold medal reflected his excitement with winning it. "It was mostly just relief after winning. This whole entire year had been terrible. I went into the tournament thinking I have to win it like I should be the one to win, but after executing it, it does feel good," Parks concluded.

Coach Trawhon was excited for Xander and his teammates for their play during the year and in the state tournament. Trawhon replied, "The end of the first day we were in the third spot with a 316 our second best score of the year. We were hoping to hold on and we finished fourth out of the twelve teams by five strokes. I am super proud of the guys how they played well."

Later this year Xander Parks will be attending Jacksonville College which has upgraded their golf program in the last year, but he may transfer in two years to wherever his brother Lincoln decides to attend college. Xander who is an Academic All-American will study engineering in college but added he might consider becoming a professional golf instructor or swing coach.

 

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