The Payson Longhorn golf team travels today (Friday) to Mount Graham near Safford, where the links crew will participate in the 16-team Bulldog Invitational Tournament.
The jaunt will mark the second time this season that the Longhorns have played the Mount Graham Golf Course. March 22, the team participated there during the Thatcher Invitational.
Although two of the Class 3A conference's best teams --edona and Fountain Hills -- are not entered in the Bulldog showdown, the field will include several other title contenders including Snowflake, Globe and Payson.
With almost two-thirds of the season over, coach Bret Morse is predicting that Sedona is the favorite to win the state championship.
"After Sedona, it's a dogfight between Snowflake, Fountain Hills, Globe and us," he said.
The 36-hole state tournament is May 13 and 14 at Johnson Ranch in Queen Creek.
At Sedona and the Rim Club
Battling an eight-team Red Rock Invitational field that included defending state 3A champion Sedona and a trio of big school powers from Las Vegas, Nev., the Longhorns swung their way to fourth place.
Contested April 17 and 18 at Oak Creek Country Club, the tournament was billed as an Arizona versus Nevada showdown.
When the final team cards were tallied, it was an Arizona team, Sedona, that emerged as tournament champs. A pair of Las Vegas schools -- Coronado and Sierra Vista -- finished second and third.
For Payson, Brandan Kelley led the charge finishing with a 79 on the first day and an 80 the second.
Billy Bob Hoyt turned in a 72 on the first round but didn't play the second round due to a prior commitment to participate in his first American Junior Golf Association qualifying tournament.
Hoyt's decision to leave the team for the AJGA showdown was a tough choice for him to make.
"My coach was very helpful. He encouraged me (to go to the AJGA tournament)," Hoyt said.
"Billy didn't want to leave, but the tournament offered him the opportunity to be seen by college coaches and scouts," Morse said. " A (college) scholarship could mean thousands of dollars in the future."
Tyler Danielson finished the tournament with an 86 and Kyle Kent and Troy Marrs both carded an 88.
On the second day, Kent turned in an 81 and Brad Meyocks, who replaced Hoyt in the Longhorn lineup, finished at 83. Trailing the field were Marrs (87) and Danielson (89).
Morse said the individual scores were commendable mostly because the players were forced to battle cold, rainy conditions during most of the tournament.
The Longhorns also faced adverse weather April 15 in a dual match against Northwest Community Christian played at the Rim Club.
"We played in 15 to 20 mph winds and snow flurries," Morse said. "Conditions were difficult."
In the "play six keep five format," the Longhorns carded a 420 on the 18-hole par 71 course.
With a 399, NCC outdueled the Horns.
"They are ranked No. 1 in the 2A conference and are likely the state champs," Morse said. "They handily defeated us having never seen the course before and were playing in difficult scoring conditions."
The Crusader's top-five players turned in cards of a pair of 78s, a pair of 80s, and 83.
For Payson, Hoyt's 72 drew praise from the coach.
"That was one of Billy's finest rounds, his one-over-par was very impressive," he said.
Trailing Hoyt for Payson were Kelley (80), Kent (85), Marrs (91), Danielson (92) and Meyocks (97).