Mercer is completing his family’s pipeline to Austin

First there was Shane, then Brittany. And starting Thursday, yet another Mer-cer sibling from Sweetwater High School will be compe-ting in the Class 3A state golf tournament in Austin.Ryan Mercer, a junior at SHS, has qualified as a medalist for the 2011 tournament that will be held at the Roy Kizer Golf Course. His older brother Shane was a member of the Mustangs’ 2001 team that won a state title, and his sister Brittany was on the Lady Mustang team that had a third-place finish at the 2005 state tournament. Both competed at state in their senior year, so Ryan can claim a bit of superiority in one respect since it took him one year less to accomplish the feat.Ryan, who is scheduled to tee off at 9:55 a.m. Thurs-day, won’t have his team-mates with him this week like Shane and Brittany did. But another family member is essentially part of his team. Steve Mercer, father to all three siblings, is the SHS boys golf coach and this week’s two-day event marks the first time he has coached a player at Austin.As you might expect, this is something Ryan has been pointing to for a long time, almost since he began hitting wiffle balls in his back yard with the plastic club he received as a birthday gift when he was four years old. Watching his two older siblings play at the state tournament when he was still a young child merely stoked that desire. “It has always been my dream to go to state,” he admitted.He has put a lot of work into that dream, playing almost every day during the summer and whenever his schedule permits the rest of the year, since he also plays football and basketball for SHS. His goal this week is to finish in the top five and make the all-state team, which goes to the top 10 medalists. Ryan made the all-region team as a sophomore, when he finished 10th, and he also played at the regional tournament his freshman year when he was 14th.This year, only one other player beat him out and Ryan had the lowest score of any golfer who was not on one of the top two teams. “I just wanted to play well enough to give myself a chance,” he said. Ryan said a 20-foot birdie putt he made on the eighth hole of his opening round at the Meadowbrook Canyon Golf Course in Lubbock was a key to his regional success. He finished the round just one shot out of the lead after shooting three-under over the last 11 holes.