BEN BOLT — Joseph Rey Rodriguez is a long way from Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco High School today, but there’s no place the 18-year-old graduating senior would rather be.

Rodriguez is one of the only South Texas golfers competing in the UIL Class 2A golf state championship at the Roy Kizer Course in southeast Austin. Rodriguez, who helped the Badgers to a district championship and a trip to regionals this season, teed off for the first round of the state tournament Monday morning. The second round is slated for some time Tuesday, depending on his first-round score.

It’s Rodriguez’s first appearance in the state tournament, and it’s by far the most competitive field he’s faced. Still, he’s taking it all in stride.

“Obviously, I want to do well and have some good scores,” Rodriguez said. “Maybe, I can have a good score and do well again on the second day and place, but this tournament for me is really a good time to enjoy myself and hopefully place near the top.”

Rodriguez, who has been playing golf with his dad at the Alice Municipal Golf Course for as long as he can remember, is a three-time regional qualifier. He qualified individually as a sophomore and then as part of the team as a junior and senior.

At regionals this year, he advanced to the state tournament with a two-day total of 169 at the Gabe Lozano Center golf course in Corpus Christi. He turned in a first-round score of 87, but came back strong on the second day with a round of 82.

“It’s a blessing to make it to state,” he said. “It shows that the hard work wasn’t for nothing. Plus, I really enjoy golf. It’s a sport that I can keep playing way after high school. You don’t have to stop playing it like baseball or football.”