Preston Defriend was in familiar territory playing against some familiar faces.
Playing catch-up against DeFriend, who will be a junior at Lubbock Coronado, was to no avail.
Defriend shot 2-under-par 70 on Tuesday to win the Texas Junior Golf Tour’s West Texas Preview for boys ages 15-18 by two shots at the Abilene Country Club’s South Course.
“It means a lot,” Defriend said about the victory. “I’ve been having some rough spells. I kept working hard. It feels like I earned it. I’m pleased.”
Defriend, who shot 5-under-par 65 at the Abilene Country Club’s North Course on Monday, led the tournament from start to finish. He wrapped up the tournament with a two-day total of 135.
Hunter Welch, who will be a sophomore at Wolfforth Frenship, was second (68-69—137), while Lubbock-Cooper grad Alexander Bateman (71-68—139) and Cason Johnson (67-72—139), who will be a senior at Seminole, tied for third.
There were 11 players in the age group from Lubbock or nearby Wolfforth. Many play in the same District 4-5A with Lubbock Coronado, Abilene Cooper and Wylie.
“There are a lot of good players coming out of Lubbock, but I’ve just been working on getting my scoring average down,” Defriend said. “The first day, I just tried to play every shot for what it was. At the end, I had a pretty good round going. I did the same thing today.”
It helped that Defriend is familiar with the Abilene courses.
“This is confident environment for me,” he said. “It wasn’t like I was far from home or out in Phoenix or somewhere. I’ve played this course a couple of times. My grandad is a member here. My confidence had never been higher going into a tournament.”
Despite being surrounded by familiar faces — some district and region rivals, Defriend said his focus wasn’t on winning, but getting better.
“If I just focus on beating the golf course and trying to get my scoring average as low as possible, every now and then I’ll come out on top,” he said.
And considering he had been struggling lately, he was happy to finally put two strong rounds together.
“All the tournaments I’ve played in this year, it hasn’t been great,” he said. “This one finally came around, and it’s really good and rewarding.”
That’s not to say he didn’t enjoy getting the best of his friends and rivals.
“There is some rivalry, but it’s good,” Defriend said. “It’s good to have competition. Right now, I’m on top.”
Abernathy leads Big Country golfers
Abilene’s Jake Abernathy, who started playing golf three years ago, had the best finish among Big Country golfers in any age group.
He shot 74 on Tuesday to finish with a 145 – good for a tie with two others for 11th.
“I think I played pretty well,” said Abernathy, 17, who will be a senior at Abilene Cooper. “I kept my head together. I didn’t get too frustrated, stayed calm throughout the week and ended up playing some pretty good golf.”
The Cougars play in the same district as Defriend, Bateman and several other Lubbock-area players. So, it was something of a district preview for Abernathy.
“This is a good gauge,” he said. “There’s some guys that we compete against in district. So, I can see what they’re shooting, and it’ll help me determine where I need to be at next year.”
Many of the youngsters playing in the tournament have been playing golf since they were strong enough to swing a golf club. Abernathy, though, didn’t start playing until his freshman year.
“I came to the range with my dad one day and just started hitting some balls,” Abernathy said. “I really enjoyed it.”
He even made the Cooper varsity his freshman year, though it was a struggle. He said he averaged about 99 per round that first year.
“It was pretty rough,” Abernathy said. “I wasn’t very good at golf. I was new to all the rules. I was definitely a bit of an underdog.”
Despite his early struggles learning the game, he never thought about giving up.
“No, I just loved it so much,” Abernathy said. “I loved the idea of always having room to improve. I always loved that.”
He managed to lower his average about 10 strokes per year, and now he’s shooting in the 74-75 range.
“It’s definitely much more enjoyable,” Abernathy said about playing better. “It gives you more opportunity when you’re a better golfer playing these bigger tournaments and competing and having fun.”
Joey D. Richards covers Abilene high schools and colleges, Big Country schools and other local sports. Follow him at Twitter at ARN_Joey. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
West Texas Preview
At Abilene Country Club (North Course Monday), (South Course Tuesday)
Ages 15-18 – 1. Preston Defriend, Lubbock, 65-70—135; 2. Hunter Welch, Wolfforth, 68-69—137; 3. (tie) Alexander Bateman, Lubbock, 71-68—139; Cason Johnson, Seminole, 67-72—139; 5. Jack Estes, Pottsboro, 70-70—140; 6. (tie) Colin Leonard, San Angelo, 73-68—141; Rex Newsom, Lubbock, 70-71—141; Davis Seybert, Midland, 71-70—141; 9. (tie) Niklas Blalock, McGregor, 70-73—143; Hayden Bowman, Lubbock, 72-71-143. Others – 11. (tie) Jake Abernathy, Abilene, 71-74—145; 14. (tie) Hunter Rudloff, Stephenville, 73-73-146; 17. (tie) Ryder Dotson, Merkel, 74-74-148; 35. John Monson, Brownwood, 79-79—158; 38. (tie) Aiden Waggoner, Abilene, 78-83—161; 40. (tie) William Maddox, Colorado City, 76-86—162; 44. Tyler Cook, Dyess AFB, 79-88—167.
Ages 11-14 – 1. Dylan Ford, Sonora, 68-73—141; 2. Palmer Stephens, Lubbock, 81-86—167; 3. Boston Roberts, Lubbock, 75-94—169; 4. Ratan Matharasi, Frisco, 89-81—170; 5. Garrett Kitten, Lubbock, 83-89—172; 6. Benjamin Bowser, Lubbock, 82-94—176.
Ages 15-18 – 1. (tie) Avree Fields, Fort Worth, 75-72—147; Sarah Reed, Midland, 74-73—147; 3. Ayers Finley, Lubbock, 78-80—158; 4. (tie) Tori Gardner, Decatur, 80-79—159; Shay West, San Angelo, 77-82—159; 6. Logan Culpepper, Amarillo, 79-81—160; 7. Sofia Rick, Arlington, 76-89—165; 8. Chandler Browning, Prosper, 82-85—167.
Ages 11-14 – 1. Stalee Fields, Fort Worth, 69-71—140; 2. Eden Taylor, Flower Mound, 82-90—172.