Ingram golf coach Tony Vela and Kylie Chapa both flash smiles on April 23 when they discover that Chapa will advance to the state tournament as an individual.

Before Kylie Chapa teed off at Scott Schreiner Golf Course on April 22, before she cemented her legacy as one of the best golfers in Ingram Tom Moore History, she pulled into the Garden of Memories cemetery. Before she could compete in the Class 3A Region IV golf tournament, she had to visit her grandfather’s gravestone.

Kylie was 9 years old when Carlos Chapa passed away, but he still remains in her thoughts, especially whenever she’s playing golf. Carlos introduced her to the sport when she was five years old, and is a big reason why the Ingram senior loves golf today.

So, before one of the biggest tournaments of her career, she placed a golf ball next to his tombstone and said, “This one is for you.”

“That could have been my last tournament ever,” Kylie said. “(Playing for him) is definitely a little motivation. He holds a special place in my heart for sure.”

Here’s another sure thing: Carlos would have been proud of his granddaughter’s performance at the two-day tournament last week. On the same course where he once helped her master the sport, Kylie finished with an overall score of 179 to qualify for the state tournament as an individual. She will conclude her high-school career on May 13 at the Grey Rock Golf Course in Austin.

“She’s a great all-around kid who is a great leader to have for the program,” first-year Ingram girls golf coach Tony Vela said. “To see her get to do something like this — coming into her own, being a leader on a young golf team her senior year, and having a chance to be a state qualifier — that’s meant more to me than anything else … It’s been great to see.”

Later in the interview, Vela chuckled when hearing the question. What makes Kylie a good golfer? To him, that’s easy to answer: She simply excels at everything.

She’s confident, trusting that the ball is going to land where she wants it to land. She remains poised whenever she does miss a drive or putt, knowing she will eventually atone for her mistake later in the round. And she’s a force whenever she steps into the tee box, launching drives further than the majority of his peers.

But perhaps most importantly, she’s a smart golfer. She knows how to play a course.

“She’s a veteran,” Vela said. “She’s mastered so many shots that a lot of kids don’t have. … She’s fun to watch.”

She credits her grandfather for helping her attain that veteran-golfer status. When she was 5 years old, Carlos set up a putting green in his front yard for her. That’s when she first began to love golf.

“I didn’t really know what I was doing,” confessed Kylie, laughing at the memory. “But, I thought it was fun.”

The two continued playing golf together, mostly at Scott Schreiner. Sometimes, she just tagged along with her grandfather, sitting next to him in the golf course as he played a round of 18. Other times, he taught Kylie how to master different skill sets.

Needless to say, It was harder to find opportunities to play when he passed away.

But she re-embraced the sport in middle school. She loved her golf coach Loren Greenshield, and she loved her Ingram teammates (Katie Olive, Marissa Vela, Ryan Spencer and Jourdan Craft). They experienced a lot of success, too, earning the nickname “The Fab Five.” During Kylie’s junior year, they captured the Class 3A girls golf state title.

But Kylie contemplated not playing her senior season. Greenshield had retired; her four beloved teammates had graduated and she had already won a team state championship. “What was the point of playing another season?” she asked herself.

“It was like starting a whole new chapter,” Kylie said. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that.”

Vela. though, sold her on the idea of stress-free senior season. After all, she really had nothing to lose. Anything she accomplished as a senior, Vela told her, would simply be icing on a cake to a great high-school career. Plus, she had a chance to be a role model for the younger golfers, helping ensure the future success of the Ingram golf program.

Despite her initial reservations about playing, she never suffered from senioritis (at least on the golf course), logging countless hours a week at Schreiner. She led the young Ingram girls team to a runner-up finish at the District tournament in late March, and entered the regional tournament hoping to qualify for the state tournament as an individual for the first time in her career.

She finished the first day of the regional tournament with a score of 90. She was even better the second day (89), so she knew was in contention to advance to state.

But she had to wait nearly two hours for the final results. During that time, she constantly peered at the leader board, frantically checking for any updates. When she finally realized she was going to state around 3:20 p.m., she was overjoyed.

“In those two hours waiting, it was definitely nerve-wracking to say the least,” Kylie said. “It taught me that you never really know how bad you want something until it’s right there in your hands. … I always had a team there with me at state. To know that I was able to do it as an individual is a super-cool feeling. Not only for me, but for my school and my coaches and it’s really cool.”

Before the state tournament, she might have to give her grandfather one more golf ball.

“It’s my last high school tournament,” Kyle continued. “So I am going to play to the best of my ability while having fun at the same time.”

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