The 3A State Champ looks to defend his title
It sounds cliche, but Austyn Reily really is mature beyond his years. And he’s certainly not your typical high school senior: he comes across as level-headed, thoughtful, and humble.
For most, it would be hard to be humble when you’re on a roll like Reily has been on. He is one of the best junior golfers in the state and has signed to play for Johnathan Dismuke and the Houston Cougars.
Reily is the reigning 3A state champ out of Pottsboro High School. He’s preparing to defend his title next week at Grey Rock Golf Club in Austin.
For the last two years, Austyn has been impressive in the state tournament: he finished 8th in 3A as a sophomore, shooting 77-73. Last year, he fired rounds of 68-69 (-7) to win state by seven shots. He also propelled Pottsboro to the team title as well.
I recently chatted with Austyn to talk about golf, his sister, and a tragedy that struck close to the Pottsboro golf team.
GoCoogs.com: Thanks for taking time for us, Austyn. Let’s dive in: How many titles did you win this year individually? And how many as a team?
Austyn Reily: I’ve played in 5 high school tournaments this year and won them all individually. We’ve won 5/6 tournaments this year as a team.
GoCoogs: Do you know how many titles you’ve won in high school?
Reily: I don’t know how many individual high school titles I’ve won in high school but I’ve won 4 district championships, 3 regional championships, and a state title.
GoCoogs: Why does Grey Rock Golf Club suit your game?
Reily: Grey Rock fits my game well because it’s not a real long course and you have a lot of short irons into greens, which is a strong suit of my game.
GoCoogs: So you excel in control & accuracy. Where specifically can your game be better?
Reily: I do excel in control and accuracy. Specifically I could improve my putting from longer distances. It’s not great but it could be a lot better.
Austyn Keeps His Focus On The Course
GoCoogs: Ok. Do you have a swing or short-game coach?
Reily: I do have a swing coach, Andrew Lewis. (Lewis is facility director at the Altus Performance Institute at Old American Golf Club in The Colony). Andrew has helped me tremendously in golf, but he’s also helped me outside of golf which I really appreciate.
GoCoogs: How long have you been working with him and how has he contributed to your success?
Reily: I have been with Andrew now for about a year and 8 months. His biggest contribution would be my ball striking. My ball striking is the best it’s ever been.
GoCoogs: Does he work with you on the mental aspects of the game, too?
Reily: Yes, we work on the mental aspects of the game just about every lesson. He helps me mentally prepare for tournaments weeks in advance.
GoCoogs: Going into a tourney like state, what are you doing to prepare mentally?
Reily: I try not to let reality set in. Everyone gets nervous at a state tournament just cause it’s state.
So if I can keep myself from letting reality set in, then I think it gives me an advantage over the field because I’m not thinking about state itself. I can focus on the golf.
GoCoogs: Great answer, Austyn. How is your game right now? Do you think you’re playing well heading into state?
Reily: The game right now is great. The past month I’ve been playing some really good golf which has given me a lot of confidence when I step out on the course.
Gaining Experience & Heading to Houston
From the outside, it seems Austyn has been playing great golf for much longer than the past month. After winning the state title last May, Reily played well through the summer. He finished 2nd at the Jordan Spieth Championship (rounds of 73-69-70) and 2nd at the Hunter Mahan (70-70). Late last summer, he finished 24th in a packed field at Junior PLAYERS Championship at Sawgrass.
This year, besides winning every school tournament, Austyn was one of 3 Americans to finish in the top-10 in Nick Faldo’s Major Champions Invitational in Florida. He finished 10th after rounds of 74-72-71.
Two weeks later, he finished 2nd (74-69) at the Nike Junior Golf Camps Spring Showcase in late March. He came from 3 shots back in the final round to tie for medalist before eventually losing in a playoff.
GoCoogs: Ok, let’s switch it up: tell me about your schedule this summer? What tournaments are you playing?
Reily: I have a very busy summer schedule since it’s my last summer of junior golf.
My summer schedule consists of: June 4-6 is the Byron Nelson Junior followed by the US Junior Qualifier on June 13th in Arizona. June 17-20 is The Western Junior in Illinois and on July 22 my US Amateur qualifier is in Houston.
GoCoogs: When do you make the move to Houston full-time?
Reily: I plan on being in Houston on July 5 and classes will start on July 8.
GoCoogs:Cool. How often are you in contact with Coach Dismuke? And how has he guided or encouraged you?
Reily: Coach Dismuke and I are in contact very often. About every day we send a text to each other whether it’s a question or just checking up.
Before every tournament, he sends me a good luck or something positive text for the day. Then after rounds we discuss the positive and negatives which helps both him and I.
GoCoogs: Do you try to “recruit” other HS players to consider UH?
Reily: I’ll put in a good word about Houston or tell Coach Dismuke about a player, but I’ll leave the recruiting part to the coaches.
Austyn & Alli: All In The Family
Austyn is not the only golfer in the family. His sister Alli is a freshman at Pottsboro and has had a great season in her own right. Last month, the Reily siblings pulled off a unique double: they each won their respective UIL regional championship. A lasting family memory:
With the girls playing Monday/Tuesday and the boys on Wednesday/Thursday, a Reily was atop the leaderboard for four-straight days at Oak Hurst GC in Tyler.
GoCoogs: How cool was it to win regionals at same time as your sister?
Reily: Yea, to see Alli play that well at regionals was really cool. Considering she was unable to win district, it showed that she is determined to do better the next matchup.
For us to win regionals at the same time is something that’ll happen once in a lifetime for us. Not many siblings can do that.
GoCoogs: What kind of player is she? What are her strengths?
Reily: She is a very enthusiastic player, loves to show her emotions on the course. Her strength is driving cause she is pretty long for her age and uses that to her advantage.
GoCoogs: Were you able to go to Austin to see her play this week?
Reily: No, UIL won’t let me.
Reily: Yea, it’s a silly rule.
Note: Earlier this week, Alli finished 5th in the state tournament (also at Grey Rock) and earned First Team All-State honors.
Losing A Teammate And Friend
Just four days after Pottsboro’s state title win, tragedy struck the small town: Nathan Halfmann, part of the five-man championship team, drowned in Lake Texoma. The game warden that responded said Halfmann appeared to be swimming back from the dock when suddenly, he went underwater and was not seen again. The 16 year old’s body was recovered early the next morning.
Rest easy State Champ. #BigNate❤️ Love you forever
— Austyn Reily (@austyn_reily) May 20, 2018
Last week, in an article in the Sherman newspaper, Austyn said that this year’s state tournament is different “because we aren’t just playing for ourselves, we’re playing for our brother Nathan.”
GoCoogs: State in 2018 was Nate’s last tournament. Do you and teammates talk about him? How does his passing affect you?
Reily: Everything happens for a reason. Nathan is on our mind everyday. He was one of my best friends and I still consider him one of my best friends.
Our mindset this year on the golf side has been, “State for Nate.” It’s something that I hope no one has to go through.
I’ll have 600 of them tomorrow morning at the school. Come pick one up, their free. pic.twitter.com/1E6LNc7hmJ
— Austyn Reily (@austyn_reily) May 23, 2018
GoCoogs: How does his passing affect you personally?
Reily: His passing has affected me big time. It taught me the value of life, how precious it is and how it can’t be taken for granted.
GoCoogs: Thanks for the candid answers, Austyn. And thanks for taking time to chat with me.
Reily: I appreciate you interviewing me. Go Coogs!
Some portions of the interview were edited for clarity and length.