La Feria golfer Andy Cortez was empowered by the belief of his coaches and those around him that the senior could make his final trip to the University Interscholastic League Class 4A state championship a memorable one.
“Since the beginning of the year, my coaches always said I could finish in the top 10 or top 5,” Cortez said. “I started to think, ‘Why couldn’t I get in the top 5 or win this thing?’”
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley commit carried that confidence with him to earn an eighth-place finish, shooting a 73 for a two-day total of 148 on Tuesday at Plum Creek Golf Course in Kyle. Cortez’s score helped him finish ahead of playing partner and 2016-17 state champion Jaryn Pruitt of Brownwood, who faced Cortez during his first state bid.
“I started off a lot stronger than I did (Monday),” Cortez said. “I started making birdies on the front nine.”
Despite a rain delay of nearly two hours, La Feria golf coach David Briones said Cortez managed his game well despite the less-than-ideal conditions, as he did at the rain-soaked District 32-4A meet on April 1 in Harlingen.
Though he didn’t have a signature highlight Tuesday like Monday’s 30-foot birdie from the base of a tree, Cortez was consistent through his final round.
“He was out there attacking every hole,” Briones said. “He played really well.”
Jack Burke of Orange Little Cypress-Mauriceville was the individual state champion, posting a 70 on Tuesday and a 141 two-day total.
The past 48 hours have been a whirlwind for Cortez. A rendezvous with childhood friend Braxton Floyd of Pampa, who shot a 70 on Tuesday to finish fourth at 145, and the culmination of his high school career provided a brief glimpse into his collegiate future.
“You just kind of don’t let (emotions or outside pressure) get to you,” Cortez said. “I get to stay in my own element. At the end of the day, we’re all here to try to do the same thing.”
Cortez said he thought it was symbolic of his golf journey that the end of one chapter foreshadowed the start of another, standing on Texas State University’s home course, where he will have the opportunity to represent UTRGV in the Texas State Invitational next season.
“It’s a good way for him to finish his career,” La Feria coach David Briones said. “And it’s a good thing for our younger athletes to look up to.”