Since he was only knee high to his golf-playing father, 16-year-old Tyson McKee has shown the links promise to become one of the best young golfers in the Rim country.
His interest in the sport took a sharp upswing during his middle school days when he was befriended by Brent Greenwood, a student from Georgia Tech, who was working in Payson for the summer.
"That was kind of like a big brother, little brother relationship and really got (Tyson) interested (in golf)," father Mike McKee said.
"He really helped me with my swing and with the mental part of the game," Tyson agreed.
Now, as a sophomore member of the Payson High team, McKee is realizing the potential others saw in him.
"He's done an excellent job," Longhorn golf coach Dave Bradley said. McKee after carded a one-over-par 37 to finish as the gold medalist in a four-way fray played March 24 on the Johnson Ranch course near Coolidge.
McKee's performance helped the Horns finish second to Eloy Santa Cruz in the team standings. Payson carded a 226, nine strokes off the Dust Devils' showing. Coolidge (242) was third and San Manuel (267) fourth.
Trailing McKee in the individual scoring for the Payson squad were Josh Coburn (43), Tyler Perna (44), Rayne Rohrbach (45) and Cameron Omoto, who turned in a personal best 47.
Showing the same winning form he displayed at Johnson Ranch, McKee was at his best days earlier in the highly competitive, 13-team River Valley Tournament.
Battling winds the likes of which the Payson team had not experienced this season, McKee shot 166 over the course of two days to finish 13th among the 65 varsity golfers entered.
A pair of Longhorn teammates --Coburn (174) and Rohrbach (173) -- played "pretty well," Bradley said.
The trio's efforts might have been better, the coach said, had it not been for the desert weather conditions.
"The wind blew about 25 mph the first day and about 30 to 35 on the second day," he said.
Five of the teams which finished ahead of the seventh-place Longhorns in the team standings -- Snowflake (2nd), Show Low (4th), Eloy Santa Cruz (5th) and Needles, Ca. (6th), -- all play in windy areas, Bradley said.
Rounding out the team standings were tournament champion Palo Verde and bronze medalist Wickenburg.
Riding the efforts of McKee, Bradley said the team's goal is "good group scoring but with lower scores to earn the regional championship and be better at state."
The team has also received supplemental help from two jayvee athletes -- Dallin McLaws and Keith Stevens -- who will soon be receiving varsity experience.
"They've been playing exceptionally well," Bradley said.
At Johnson Ranch, McLaws finished with a 41 and Stevens a 43.
On the freshman team, a trio of players have drawn plaudits from the coach for recording personal bests. They include Jeff Higgins who carded a PR 56, Logan Mileham with a 55 and a 60 from Stephanie Marrs.
The Horn varsity returned to action yesterday, Monday, when it traveled to prestigious Troon North Country Club near Phoenix for a 3 p.m., nine-hole tournament. Results were not available at press time.
The team has two upcoming home dates at Chaparral Pines. Snowflake, Show Low and Sedona visit April 5.
Cactus Shadows, Fountain Hills and Snowflake will be in town April 7 for an 18-hole tournament.