LAWTON — Carson Jensen felt the pressure during last year’s Class 5A boys state golf tournament.
Entering the final day in third place, the freshman from El Reno nearly imploded and fell to sixth place.
This year could be different.
Jensen recovered from a poor first round Monday to improve his second-round total by 13 strokes and lead all individuals not competing with a team in the state tournament at Fort Sill Golf Course in Lawton.
“Last year, I didn’t know to deal with the emotions,” said Jensen, now a sophomore. “I’m pretty confident. I think if I just go at my next round tomorrow like I did today, I’ll be right in the mix.”
He now sits in sixth place among all golfers with a 3-over par 147 in his two rounds. He opened the cold and rainy day with an 8-over par 80 before dazzling the course with a 5-under par 67 to close the day.
It was an astonishing turnaround for Jensen, who now gets to play alongside the three leading schools’ top golfers Tuesday.
“He’s got to put himself in a situation to go at greens,” El Reno coach Renie Whittern said. “If he can get in the fairway and be able to put the ball on the green somewhere, have some chances to get birdies and at worse get par, he’s got a shot.”
Jensen practiced on the course Saturday alongside his grandfather. It was there he learned where not to hit the ball and adjusted his grip.
Those adjustments didn’t work the first 18 holes Monday.
He was consistently stuck behind trees and visibly frustrated, which led to his pace quickening.
“I was really frustrated because I knew I knew the course, how to play it and how to execute it,” Jensen said. “I just didn’t play at it the right way that I should’ve.”
He turned to former El Reno coach Ken Posey for guidance. Posey simply told him to slow down, and it worked to near perfection.
Jensen went 2-under par on the front nine and 3-under par on the back nine. He could have been one stroke better had he made a putt for eagle on par-5 No. 14.
Instead, he’s in the exact spot he ended last year heading into the final round. And he’s a much improved player.
“There’s still a lot of room for improvement,” Whittern said. “It was nice to finally see the hard work (pay off) because no one works harder on the team than he has all year.”