Extra practice paid off in big way for Triad's Buente

News-DemocratNovember 28, 2013 

— Triad High School senior Austin Buente has been around and involved in athletics for as long as he can remember.

A top-notch baseball pitcher, who also played soccer while growing up, Buente took a sabbatical from the national pastime a year ago to work on his second passion -- golf.

Why?

"My (older) brother Blaine and I stopped playing baseball and soccer about the same time, because we thought we could make it the furthest in golf,'' Buente said.

With a tie for fifth place at the Class 2A state tournament on his resume and a future as a collegiate player almost guaranteed, it appears Austin Buente's decision was the right one.

Buente stepped out of the shadows of his older brother in a big way during the 2013 season as he set school records for lowest nine-hole average (35.9 ) and 18-hole average (74.7).

But Buente was at his best in the postseason.

Motivated by the disappointment of losing a playoff to get to the Class 2A state tournament a year ago, and a desire to surpass his brother's state tournament finish, Buente carded back-to-back rounds of 75 at Weibring Golf Course in Normal last month to earn all-state recognition.

For his accomplishment, Buente has been named as the Belleville News-Democrat Co-Player of the Year. He shares the honor with Collinsville senior Keenai Sampson.

And while Buente has been playing golf for a few years, the real motivation for this year began when he lost in a six-man playoff at the sectional a year ago.

"I always knew I had the ability to get to state," Buente said. "But last year after coming so close, and then losing in the playoff at sectional to get to state, I just practiced all the time. I mean all the time.

"My brother and I work at Gateway (National Golf Links) and so we get to practice there for free, which is nice. I just worked on my game all year long. I was positive that I was going to make it.''

Buente also was motivated by the accomplishments of his brother. Now playing at Millikin University in Decatur, Blaine Buente had tied for second at the 2012 Class 2A state tournament with a 73.

The second round of the 2012 state tournament was canceled by rain.

"My goal was to beat Blaine's finish. I was trying to get first,'' Buente said. "A couple of mistakes hurt me, but I was happy with how I did.

"We're close and when he's home we hang out and play a lot of golf together. And yes, we have friendly little bets when we play. The loser will buy lunch or buy gas for the car on the way home.

But which Buente is better?

"I always get that question,'' Buente said. "The answer is whoever shows up to play that day. It really is.

"He probably hits the ball a little further than I do. But my short game and putting may be a little bit better than his. I maybe have a couple fewer three-putt greens than him, which helps."

Buente had the lead at the state tournament for one hole after making an eagle to start his opening round.

But having difficulty hitting fairways off the tee and struggling a bit with his putter, a 75 was the best Buente could do.

"I had three or four 3-putt greens,'' Buente said. "The first day I wasn't really comfortable hitting the ball left to right or right to left. I really had no idea where the ball was going to be honest about it.

"The second day I was a little better. I still had a couple three-putt greens. I hate three-putting. It's like giving strokes away. But overall, it was a good two days. To finish fifth in the state tournament is pretty good.''

Knights coach Bruce Lewis said Buente became a complete player during his senior season.

"Austin really came into his own this year, and stepped out from the shadows to become a premier golfer in Southern Illinois. He is a great all-around athlete, which really helped his mental focus and his ability to get out of trouble if it arose,'' Lewis said. "I am sure that his best golf is still ahead of him.''

Buente is undecided where he will attend college, but is considering Central College in Iowa, Southern Indiana and Union University in Tennessee.

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