steeliepriest

Lorena’s Steelie Priest has progressed each time she has competed in the state tournament, from the back of the pack as a freshman to 16th as a junior, the senior has her sights set on a top finish.

Staff photo — Jerry Larson

Lorena golfer Steelie Priest has a name that sounds like it’s straight from an old Western movie much like her older brothers, Dakota and Laramie.

The name fits because her coach, Ken Thompson, thinks she has nerves of steel on the golf course. And she’s a bit of a gunslinger.

“She’s pretty fearless,” Thompson said. “She can get into trouble but she’s good enough to get herself out.”

Making her third appearance at the state golf tournament, Priest hopes she can put it all together and win the Class 4A championship Monday and Tuesday at Slick Rock Golf Course at Horseshoe Bay.

Priest believes her past experiences at the state tournament have prepared her for her final shot as a senior. After finishing deep in the pack as a freshman in 2014, she placed 16th as a junior last year, 18 strokes behind Andrews’ Libby Walinder.

“My freshman year, I wanted to go but I was crazy nervous,” Priest said. “Now I’m just going in playing my best and hoping it’s enough to win. I’ve been playing a lot of golf and had consistently low scores. I’m ready and anticipating it. I want to win and bring it back to Lorena.”

Priest advanced to the state tournament by winning the Region III tournament in Huntsville with a two-round score of four-over-par 146. She won district by shooting eight-under-par 136 over two rounds, and has averaged 72 during rounds throughout the season.

The Slick Rock course will be challenging but Priest believes it fits her game after playing it three times.

“I know the course pretty well,” Priest said. “It fits how I like to play, so I’m excited about it. It’s not super wide open, but there are easy places you can set yourself up for a good approach shot on the greens. It’s not very easy and it can come around to bite you at some places. But it’s definitely enjoyable to play there.”

Priest is a three-sport athlete at Lorena who played guard for the basketball team and played on the back row for the volleyball team. She started playing golf relatively late as a freshman, but it quickly became her favorite sport.

“I had a cousin who played golf at Salado and I watched her play at regionals,” Priest said. “I thought that looks like fun and I might try it. I just picked up a club and fell in love with it, honestly.”

Constantly looking to improve her game, Priest practices with the Robinson boys team which has qualified for the Class 4A state golf tournament.

“Her boyfriend is (Robinson golfer) Chase Allison, and he pushes her and they challenge each other to win,” Thompson said. “He’s been really good for her.”

Priest said she enjoys competing in practice against the Robinson boys team because they raise the level of her game.

“I know it’s the rival school, so it’s crazy,” Priest said. “I tend to play with the guys, and they give me a hard time about playing from the red (shorter distance) tees. So I try to hit it a lot farther and higher. I think playing with the guys has definitely improved my golf game and has pushed me to try to figure out different things I can improve for sure.”

Priest plans to attend Baylor in the fall and has been asked to walk on to the golf team by coach Jay Goble. She’s not sure if she’ll continue playing at the collegiate level but is considering the option.

“I’m kind of seeing where God leads me, and wherever it takes me it takes me,” Priest said. “Coach Goble was nice enough to offer me a spot, so I’m thinking through all the possibilities. I definitely think it would be a challenge but I would have to work at it a lot.”