After bagging a 77 in round one of the Class 2A state golf tournament at the Roy Kizer Golf Course in Austin, Muenster junior Garrett Hess bounced back in a big way on Tuesday, May 21.

Hess cut six strokes off his score and shot 71 to finish in fifth place overall.

Hess finished in 16th place at state his freshman season, 10th last year and fifth this year, so Hess has shown progress each trip to Austin.

Head coach Lynn Cook said he expects the same improvement for next season with perhaps a chance to win the entire tournament.

“Even though the conditions couldn’t have been more night and day between each day, he learned how the course was set up and he learned how to deal with the overly sandy greens,” Cook said. “He’ll take this season and dissect it over the summer. I’m sure he’s going to be more prepared. Next year will be up for grabs with a couple seniors graduating.”

Overall, Hess said he thought he continued his consistent play from the first round Monday, May 20.

“It’s always nice to improve from Day 1,” Hess said. “I gave myself a shot. I never made a double bogey and didn’t make many mistakes. I kept the numbers down and made some key par putts. It was close to being a really, really good round. It’s not like football or basketball. Putts are going to go some weeks and not other days.”

Cook and Hess mentioned before Tuesday about Hess’ ability to turn it on at a moment’s notice. Hess did so Tuesday as he picked up three birdies in his final six holes.

“I put myself in position to make birdies and they finally started falling,” Hess said. “ I made three birdies in the final six holes and I gave myself a shot which is all I could ask for after a not-so-great first day. For me, it’s always big getting the putts to drop. You get more confident with your stroke and you trust it. Sometimes when you don’t trust your stroke, you don’t make many putts. Next year, I need to commit to my lines and hopefully next year I can take home a gold medal.”

The sand on the greens was particularly challenging according to Hess.

“I wasn’t very confident in my lines the first day and a half,” Hess said. “Once I got one to fall, I started to feel confident. You have to take into account a lot of factors. The greens were sandy, which meant you had to hit the putt solid. If you didn’t do that, it might take a bad hop.”

Hess said retaining his confidence mid-round will be key for next year’s tournament if he can qualify.

“This year has been different from any year,” Hess said. “This year the greens were sandy and dry and my freshman year they were rolling really well. I didn’t putt well last year, so I think my mindset has to change. I have to be confident and not change my mind midway through my stroke.”

While his putting wasn’t up to par, Hess said he was proud of the rest of his game and doesn’t have any plans for slowing down.

“It was another really, really good day and one of the best weeks I’ve had with ball-striking,” Hess said. “It’s close to how I played at the regional tournament. Like anything, it’s lots of hard work and practice. You can’t take a day off. It slips from you faster than any other sport. You have to be committed to practicing every day. If you take days off, you lose it quick.”

During the summer, Hess will play in some tournaments and he said he needs to focus on improving his short game.

“Right now, it’s maintaing the great ball striking I have right now and working my short game,” Hess said. “It’s probably the least fun to practice, but you have to do it. You lose or gain the most strokes in the short game. For me, it’s mental. Your consciousness and subconsciousness have a big role. If you don’t trust the shot in the back of your mind, you’re more likely to do it. You’re not thinking positive.”

Cook said if Hess had received some luck earlier on in Monday’s round, that the results could have been much different.

“If he could have got one of those puts to fall early in either round, that breeds confidence,” Cook said. “It took until late today and his demeanor perked up. There is no telling what the result could have been. His speed and lines were good, but sometimes the conditions didn’t allow the ball to do what it normally does.”

Patrick Hayslip can be reached at sports@gainesvilleregister.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip