The Longhorn golf team opens Class 3A state tournament today (Tuesday), at Dove Valley Ranch in Cave Creek, with a renewed sence of vigor.
Over the course of 18-holes and two days of play in the state finale, among the favorites for the crown are state number-one-ranked Cactus Shadows and Fountain Hills.
Much to the delight of Payson fans, in a rescheduled three-way tournament contested last week at Chaparral Pines, the Longhorns proved they could play on even greens with both CS and FH.
The Horns finished with a meet-low score of 439. Cactus Shadows (456) and Fountain Hills (474) trailed in the standings.
The shoot-out against CS and FH was originally to be played April 7 but had to be rescheduled due to adverse weather conditions.
Playing the match later in the season might have been a blessing in disguise, Horn coach Dave Bradley said. "It was a good experience, a good way to prepare us for state."
Top effort in the Horn win was turned in by Tyler Perna, who finished with an 83. Adam Stazak carded an 85, Tyson McKee an 88, Rayne Rohrback a 90 and Keith Steven a 93.
The team's effort on the front nine, a 163, was especially impressive, Bradley said.
The scores sagged on the back nine but that might have been because of fatigue incurred by the length of the Chaparral course.
To be successful in the state championships, Bradley predicted, the top four team members will have to break 80 over the course of the two days.
Although it's a lofty goal, it's attainable, Bradley says.
"(Dove Valley) has some tricky holes and split fairways, but we can break 80s," he said.
The Horns enter the state tournament with an automatic full-team berth, having finished third at the Central finals held April 28 at Fountain Hills. There, Tyson McKee led the Horn links attack with an 83 and finished eighth in the 35-player field. Rohrback, a senior, was 10th with an 85.