Runnels golfers Taylor Kennedy, Grant Welch have sights set high in postseason tournaments _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Taylor Kennedy reacts to her putt rolling into the cup for birdie on the 18th hole at Beaver Creek Golf Course during the BR Girls Metro Golf Tournament. Kennedy came in second by one stroke with a 71.

Runnels School golfers Taylor Kennedy and Grant Welch will each be chase postseason honors this week.

With district, regional and state championship tournaments coming up in successive weeks, both golfers have fared well in recent years and are among the individual favorites.

Kennedy, a senior, was named Metro Player of the Year as a ninth-grader in 2011 after winning the girls metro golf tournament. She finished a stroke behind Dunham’s Sydney Cavin last season and will have another chance to win at next week’s girls’ Metro Tournament at Beaver Creek GC.

Welch has maintained a 1-under par average in his high school tournaments this season. He missed a chance to win the Metro title when that tournament was rained out earlier this week. He now turns his focus to the district tournament Wednesday at Santa Maria.

Kennedy earned medalist honors at all nine tournaments Runnels competed in this season. She is looking forward to the chance to win the Metro tournament again.

At last year’s tournament, Kennedy trailed Cavin by a shot on the 18th hole but drained a 30-foot birdie putt. Cavin followed with a 15-foot birdie of her own to claim the title.

“I’m really excited because last year I broke par at Beaver Creek,” Kennedy said. “With the way I’m playing, I feel like I can shoot under par again. If I don’t play well, there are a couple of girls that could catch me. I don’t want that to happen, so I’m going to focus on one shot at a time.”

Kennedy has qualified for the Division II state tournament every year since she was an eighth-grader, when she finished ninth. Since then she’s placed fourth, third and fourth.

“I’ve come really close, but I’ve never won it,” Kennedy said of the state tournament. “As a senior, I feel like it would be the perfect time. I’ve done really well this season.”

Welch, who has already signed to continue his career at Louisiana-Lafayette, has also been a recent fixture at state tournament, where the Runnels boys compete in Division IV. The senior golfer finished fourth in 2012, 12th two years ago and fourth again last season.

Also a basketball player, Welch got a late start working on his golf game as the Raiders advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class 2A playoffs before losing to eventual champion Riverside Academy.

“I’ve played very well, especially since coming over right from basketball,” Welch said. “I started playing well right away. It really helped me get back into it and keep it going.”

Like Kennedy, Welch has won individual titles at all of Runnels tournaments this season. Advancing to the state tournament is the main goal now that the Metro tournament has been washed away.

Playing well all season only adds to the expectations for him in the playoffs but not to the pressure, Welch said.

“I feel like I should win, but I just have to play well and stay focused. If I practice and play my game, I should be able to do as well as I can.”

Winning a title would be an ideal way to close out a high school career before moving on to the next chapter.

“It would be pretty sweet,” he said. “I’ve been close multiple times, and I’ve never done it. Since the season started my goal was to win state.”