GOLF: Kirk using weekend at West Texas Amateur as valuable learning tool - Odessa American: Sports

GOLF: Kirk using weekend at West Texas Amateur as valuable learning tool

By Tony Venegas, 432-333-7649 | Posted: Saturday, July 20, 2019 4:56 pm

The past 14 months have been full of learning experiences for Joey Kirk.

After shooting a 1-under-par 71 in the first round of the West Texas Amateur, Kirk was looking to improve on that during Saturday’s second round at Midland Country Club.

Things didn’t go as planned, however, as Kirk finished with a 5-over-par 77 for a two-day total of four-over-par 148.

It was a different challenge for the former state champion at Monahans, but one that he wasn’t used to.

“I just didn’t quite execute the way that I wanted to today,” Kirk said. “On a course like this, you can’t force things especially with the wind blowing the way it is.”

Staying focused in the moment was one of the main areas of improvement that Kirk focused on during the collegiate season.

After helping the Loboes capture a state title during his senior year in 2018, Kirk moved on to Midland College and earned WJCAC all-conference honors as a freshman.

Getting to that level took time, and practice, and Kirk noted that he had to make adjustments on how he handled the higher level of competition.

“This past year was about proving to myself that I could play with just about anyone.” Kirk said. “I really focused on building my confidence and I felt I was able to do that this year at Midland College.”

That improvement in his confidence and his game is something that his fellow competitors have noticed.

“Joey’s a great player and he’ll definitely continue to trend upwards as he continues to work on his game,” said UTPB rising senior Austin Anderson.

Anderson was grouped Saturday with Kirk and Drew Jones of Decatur.

“He and I share a lot of similar strengths and weaknesses and I see a lot of potential in him.”

Kirk also feels a comfort level playing on the Midland Country Club layout. As one of the courses that the Chaparrals practice on, having that extra knowledge can be valuable.

“It definitely helps to have that knowledge, especially when you know where the misses are around the green,” Kirk said. “You just have to be patient and take what the course gives you.”

Kirk is hoping to maintain that same mindset in today’s final round. But as he prepares for that last round and for his sophomore season at Midland College, he credits playing in this tournament as a great way to get ready.

“Everyone can play,” said Kirk of the tournament field. “It’s not just a select few that show up and you know is going to win. You have a lot of guys that can play well and be consistently good.

“I just have to go out and try and post a good number and see what happens. That’s all I can really do.”

When asked for his reaction on Monahans winning a second straight state championship in 2019, Kirk said he was thrilled for his former teammates to get the job done.

“It was awesome. I was hoping that they’d be able to pull that off and it was great to see the guys do that. I’m really proud of them.”

When Michael Salazar of El Paso finished his round Saturday, there was a strong possibility that he would enter the final round as the clubhouse leader with a two-day total of 3-under-par 141. Shortly after he walked off the ninth green, however, he found out that his tournament was over.

Despite shooting a tournament-best 67, Salazar was withdrawn from the tournament after Texas Golf Association officials noted a technical error on his application.

According to tournament director Neil Gilman, Salazar’s application did not include an option to select whether he was a member of a TGA club. He was deemed ineligible for the tournament as a result. The TGA took responsibility for the error and refunded Salazar’s entry fee.

Salazar, a rising senior at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, is a member of the Arizona Golf Association.

“It’s definitely a bummer that I wasn’t able to finish but it is what it is,” he said. “That said, I’m glad I was able to come out, play well and have some confidence for the rest of the summer.”