After watching helplessly as two of its much-anticipated home matches were snowed and rained out, the Payson High School Longhorn golf team finally teed itself back into action April 9 and 10 in the 36-hole Camp Verde Invitational Tournament. The outing was contested on the Verde Santa Fe course near Cottonwood.
The return to play turned out to be a rewarding one for coach Dave Bradley and his charges when the Horns battled their way to a trophy-winning third-place finish in the 16-team field.
In the bronze medal slot, Payson carded 625. Second-place finisher Fountain Hills tallied a 623 and champion Phoenix Christian turned in a 608.
The effort left Bradley optimistic. "Things are looking better for us," he said. "This was a real good step up in preparing us for the next three or four weeks and the central and state tournaments."
The Central Division championships, which will determine which teams advance to the state finals, will be played April 28 at the Desert Canyon course in Fountain Hills. The tournament' s top three teams, plus individual qualifiers, advance to the state tournament May 11 and 12 at Dove Valley course near Cave Creek.
At Verde Santa Fe
As he has done most of the season, sophomore Tyson McKee carried the Payson banner in the Camp Verde tournament, finishing with a 145. His efforts were also good enough for second place in the overall tournament standings.
On the first day of play, McKee finished with a 73. On the second, he improved to a 72, but it was the opening score that most impressed Bradley.
"He teed off with the first group early Friday morning and the cold wind was blowing in gusts of 30 mph. A 73 in those conditions was very good," the coach said.
The only other Horn golfer who could medal was 11th-place finisher Rayne Rhorbach, who tallied a 157.
The Horns' best day of the tournament turned out to be the second, when the team boasted of four varsity players in the 70s. They included Joey Cobun (78), Keith Stevens (78), Rhorbach and McKee.
"Those were some of the best scores we've turned in," Bradley said.