With only the Mingus Invitational Tournament separating the Longhorn golf team from its first appearance in the 4A Grand Canyon regional showdown, the Longhorn fall campaign is reaching its climax.
The 18-hole Mingus fray is slated for tomorrow (Saturday) at the Verde Santa Fe course in Cottonwood.
The 36-hole regional tournament is Oct. 29 and 30 at Chaparral Pines Golf Club.
Although coach Bret Morse would have liked to have at least one tune-up match between tomorrow's fray and the regionals, he says the 11 days of off-time will be used for intensive practice on the Chaparral course.
Hosting the regional tournament on the Longhorns' home turf should be an advantage, Morse said.
The coach anticipates the Horns stiffest competition for the GC title will come from Mingus and Flagstaff Sinagua.
Mingus, he said, appeared to be a strong team early in the season, but the Marauders' recent performances have been sub-par.
For the Horns to advance to the state championships Nov. 5 and 6 at Sundance Golf Club in Buckeye, the team must win the regional tournament.
As a member of the 3A East region last year, all Payson -- or any other East team -- had to do to qualify for state was to finish among the region's top four.
In the 4A conference, to which belongs, only one team from the Grand Canyon region qualifies for state.
"That makes it tough to get to state," Morse said.
The Payson players got a glimpse of their upcoming regional competition Oct. 6 at Chaparral Pines. There, Mingus, Page Sinagua and the Horns clashed in a nine-hole regular season showdown.
Playing the par 37 back nine holes, Brandan Kelley captured low-medalist honors carding a 35. Troy Marrs finished as the runner-up with a 37. Marrs' tally represented his best score of the season.
Billy Bob Hoyt (38) and Tyler Danielson (41) trailed the two front-runners in the "play five keep four scores" format. A 43 from Brad Meyocks was not calculated in the final score.
With an overall tally of 151, the Longhorns easily outdistanced runner-up Sinagua (165). Mingus and Page trailed by large margins.
Although the convincing wins over three regional foes was a confidence builder, the Horns opponent's unfamiliarity with the course might have played a role.
"I think it was the first time any of those players had even seen Chaparral Pines," Morse said.
Payson returned to regular season action Oct 9 at Sedona Golf Resort against Page, Glendale and Mingus.
Once again, the Horns easily outplayed host Mingus tallying a meet low 171. The Marauders finished as silver medalists with a 166.
In winning, Payson turned in what Morse called "our best nine holes of the year."
The individual tallies were impressive enough that a score of 40 -- which would normally be among Payson's top four --as discarded.
Kelley led the Horns victory parade with a one-under-par 36. Marrs turned in another superb outing with a 37. Hoyt and Danielson posted identical tallies of 39.
Payson was to have locked horns with Deer Valley Oct. 14 at the Rim Golf Club. Only one day prior to the match, Deer Valley officials called Morse and cancelled the meeting.
"They said their kids were missing too much school," Morse said.
"I have no problem with the reason, but it would have been nice to know a week or so earlier," Morse said. "This schedule was made last spring."