By virtue of a third-place finish in the Central Division tournament, the Longhorns golf team qualified a contingent of five athletes for the state championships May 11 and 12 at Dove Valley Ranch in Cave Creek.
With a full team, rather than only a few individual qualifiers as in past years, the Longhorns have positioned themselves to accomplish a goal previous PHS teams have not been able to realize -- to become a legitimate state contender.
In the 3A conference, the top three finishers in the five divisional tournaments are allowed to send a complete squad to state.
Individuals on teams that finish lower than third must qualify by besting a pre-determined score.
At state, a field of about 100 golfers will participate either as individual or team qualifiers.
Final team scores in the state tournament will be determined by the best four individual cards of the five team members.
For the Horns to have a shot at winning the state tournament, coach Dave Bradley said, "we must play better than we did at the divisionals and have four scores both days that are in the 70s."
That could be a tough task for the Horn linksters who were led in the Central finals April 28 at Fountain Hills by sophomore Tyson McKee. Carding an 83, he finished eighth in the 35 player field.
Senior Rayne Rohrbach was 10th tallying an 85. Tyler Perna and Keith Stevens rounded out the Horn effort with identical scores of 86.
Is it asking too much of the four to shave a few strokes off their game toscore under 80 in order to make a run at the state crown?
Bradley says the scores are attainable, if the players can turn in two days of near perfect play.
Central bronze medalists
Payson's tally of 340 at the Central finals was five strokes better than fourth-place finisher Eloy Santa Cruz. The Dust Devils struggled despite the presence of the tournament's third-place individual finisher -- Derrick McEachern (77).
Along with SC, Miami (378), Globe (391) and Coolidge (404) failed to earn state team berths.
The Horns were able to salvage the third and final seed to state, Bradley said, because of their close grouping of (individual) scores.
The schools that struggled -- SC, Miami, Globe and Coolidge -- were all hindered by one or two players whose cards were off the charts.
That didn't happen among the Longhorns, Bradley said. "That was a good job by these four young men."
Cave Creek Cactus Shadows will enter the state finals as the Central Champ (310) and Fountain Hills (327) the silver medalist.
Individually, Brandon Hysona of Cactus Shadows (72) carries the Central banner to state as the division's top medalist. Seth Lutz (Fountain Hills; 76) was second, McEachern third and Matt Tener (77) of Fountain Hills fourth.
In tournaments leading up to the Central shoot-out, the Longhorns set a Payson High School record April 19 at Eagle Mountain finishing with a team total of 199.
"It was the first time the team has broken the 200 mark," Bradley said.
Rayne Rohrbach (38) paced the Horn effort which also received strong support from Joey Coburn (39), McKee (40), Tyler Perna (40) and Keith Stevens (42).
Following the record-setting showing, Bradley said "this has been one of our strong points all year -- the scores are all in a close grouping -- only five strokes separate them."
Trailing the Longhorns in the final tournament standings were Fountain Hills (205) and Camp Verde (236).
At an 18-hole invitational in Safford April 23 and 24, the Horns swung their way to a sixth-place finish behind champion Safford, runner-up Phoenix Christian and third-place Cactus Shadows.
The finish, Bradley said, was the highest the team has accomplished in the five years it has entered the Safford tournament.
In the field of 100 prepsters, McKee was Payson top medalist finishing ninth.