Teeing off and teasing each other are golfers Brandon Kelley's and Billy Bob Hoyt's favorite sports.
The pair's playful rivalry has brought them through three years of 3-A high school golf. Last year, their junior year, Kelley and Hoyt traded off No. 1 and No. 2 spots depending on how well each was playing.
Payson High School's golf team placed first in the division during Kelley's and Hoyt's first year of play in 2000. It placed second the two subsequent years.
Golf coach Bret Morse said much of the team's success in the past three years can be attributed to Kelly's and Hoyt's stellar game.
"Those guys have been the nucleus of the team," he said. "(They) both have a great work ethic and both are very committed, and that's contagious. It rubs off on the other guys. They are a crucial part of our success."
He added that the two could face tougher challengers now that the school is in the 4-A division.
"We're going to have to pick up the notch a little bit," Morse said. "We've got a good nucleus back from last year, so we should be competitive."
Kelley and Hoyt, both 17, said they aren't worried about the new division, and that by casting searing insults on each other's game, they will catapult themselves into success.
"I've always got someone on my own team after me," said Kelley, who has a 1.4 handicap. "You're thinking, ‘Is he going to beat me or am I going to beat him?' It makes you strive harder. It makes us better for it."
Hoyt said he would not be as good a golfer if Kelley weren't there to keep him on track.
He added while sitting in the passenger seat of Kelley's car, "We're always telling each other ‘I'm right on your heels.'"
Kelley retorted, "Not when I'm winning by 10 you don't."
This banter is typical of an average conversation with Kelley and Hoyt.
Hoyt, who has a .9 handicap, said his best golf score is a round he played at the Payson Golf Course; a 64. Kelley's best score at the same course is 66.
"Yeah, I got him on that one," Hoyt teased.
Kelley said the best game he ever played was in a regional match at the Silver Creek Golf Course in Show Low.
"I shot a 68 in 30 mph winds," he said.
When asked if he won the game he playfully said, "I'm not going to lose on my best game. If I had lost, it wouldn't have been my best. I beat Billy ... and he's still hearing about it."
Besides doing well this season, Kelley's and Hoyt's immediate goal is to receive college scholarships so they can continue to golf. Their cumulative GPA is 3.86 and 3.7, respectively.
After college, both dream of going pro and making golf an even more integral part of their lives.
Hoyt wanted to dispel the myth that golf is a boring sport.
"It's the toughest game there is and that's why I like it so much," he said.
"The toughest part about playing golf is just the fact that it can get so frustrating. You've just got to rise above it, then you hit that one shot that is so perfect and you're playing again."
Kelley's and Hoyt's love of the game stems in part from their families. Kelley's father taught him how to play when he was 3 and Hoyt's taught him when he was 6.
"He takes my suggestions and we don't fight about it," Kelley's father, Kevin, said. "It's really pretty fun. He has faith in what I say and it makes me feel good, too."
The boys said that they will continue to razz each other as long as they have golf clubs in their hands.
"You have to rub it in," Kelley said. "You've got bragging rights until the next time you play."