Liberty Christian golf coach Larry Frank has had more than his fair share of standout golfers in his time since beginning the Warriors’ golf program.
He’s coached seven boys state championship teams, nine boys individual state champions and one girls state champ.
If all goes well today and Tuesday, Frank will have another player to add to his list as sophomore Javier Manrique will compete for the TAPPS 5A boys state championship at Wildflower Country Club in Temple.
The Warriors have staked claim to three of the past four individual boys state champions, and Manrique hopes to be the next in line. The streak started four years ago when Greg Polledri won as a sophomore, followed the next year by Austin Weaver. Current Texas A&M golfer Ty Dunlap won last year after setting the TAPPS state record with a 6-under score.
“I played with Ty last year and we played a lot of golf together,” said Manrique, who moved to Lantana as an eighth-grader from his native Colombia. “He watched me play a lot last summer, and I had a great summer. The last four years, we’ve had three individual state champs, and I know this year, if I just focus shot after shot, I know I will be able to win at state. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.”
Manrique was not at his best at the regional tournament earlier this month, when he finished third with a 4-over 148 at the two-day tournament.
He scored two birdies and an eagle, but a faulty putter held him from possibly turning in a much lower score as he missed several other birdie putts.
“I hit the ball really well [at regionals],” Manrique said. “I hit my driver and irons really well. But my putter wasn’t really good at all. I was was missing 4-footers. I was missing short, long putts. I was missing them all.”
Frank said if Manrique can play up to his potential this week, he could be well on his way to moving up the ladder into the conversation of the best golfers he’s ever coached.
“The past guys have all been great golfers,” Frank said. “Ty Dunlap proved himself to be the greatest thus far. I’d rank Javier right in there behind him. He has a way to go, he’s just a sophomore, but I think if he hits his full potential, he’ll be right up there at the very top.”
Despite being a sophomore, Manrique said he has never been too intimidated by older competition, as he was the No. 2 golfer for the Warriors as a freshman last year behind Dunlap.
“The older guys really aren’t at my level,” he said. “There’s about three or four guys who can really put pressure [on me], but I think if I just focus on playing the course, I’ll be good.
“I’m not going to worry about what the other people’s scores will be. I’m going to worry about mine.”
It’s that type of focus and determination Frank said is the reason why Manrique has set himself up to go into Liberty Christian lore.
“He just works extremely hard,” Frank said. “He’s very focused. He loves to have a good time, but he’s all about business when he gets to the tee. He’s very friendly with the guys he plays with, he converses and stuff, but you won’t see him joking around on the golf course. He’s very focused. There’s only one player I’ve had that focuses more than he does, and that’s Ty Dunlap.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .