As the prep golf season approaches its halfway point, coach Bret Morse has pinpointed the teams that he feels will give his Longhorns the stiffest competition in their run for the 4A state championship.
The state championship is Nov. 5 and 6 at the Sundance Golf Course in Buckeye. Pinnacle, Arcadia, Scottsdale Chaparral, Tucson Rincon, Apache Junction and Millennium are among the schools he expects to contend for the title.
The coach and his charges had the opportunity to preview Scottsdale Chaparral Sept. 24 in a nine-hole match at Chaparral Pines.
Although the Horns had the distinct advantage of playing on their home course, they just nudged runner-up Chaparral by a single stroke -- 196 to 197.
Cactus Shadows (200) and Coronado (219) trailed the front runners.
Although Morse was satisfied with the win, he expressed concern that Scottsdale fared so well in Payson's back yard.
"Most teams we can beat by 10 or 15 strokes on our home course," he said. "Their players had probably never seen Chaparral Pines."
Low-medalist honors were garnered by a foursome of players who all carded one-over-par scores of 38.
Payson's Billy Bob Hoyt and Brandan Kelley tied in the championship, along with two Chaparral players.
In the play-six, keep-five format, the Longhorns scored Josh Rodriquez (41), Troy Marrs (41) and Tyler Danielson (42). A 43 by Brad Meyocks was discarded.
A day prior to the showdown at Chaparral Pines, the Longhorns traveled to historic Arizona Country Club in Phoenix.
"That was a treat for our kids to play where the Phoenix Open has been played," Morse said.
On the par 36 course, the Longhorns (203) were able to wrestle first-place honors away from Saguaro (205), Arcadia (210) and Basha (266).
Once again, Hoyt was the low-medalist finishing with a 36.
"He had a good week," Morse said.
Kelley (39), Marrs (41), Danielson (43) and Meyocks (43) also scored for Payson. Rodriquez's 45 was not including in the Horn tally.
Payson's win over highly regarded Arcadia, the 4A state champs in 1999, 2000 and 2001, would have been gratifying under most circumstances. But this PHS victory came with a tad bit of tarnish.
"They played their No. 7 through No. 12 players," Morse said. "It was disappointing their varsity wasn't there."
The Horns' mid-season schedule also included an appearance at the Westview Invitational Sept. 20 at Estrella Mountain Golf Course. There, the Horns carded a 317 to finish sixth in a field of 14 teams that included mostly 5A schools.
Mesa Dobson, last year's 5A state runner-up, staked claim to the tournament crown with a 283.
For Payson, Kelley tallied a 77 and Hoyt a 79. Danielson (81), Meyocks (83) and Marrs (87) also scored.
The Longhorns return to action today (Tuesday) in a four-way meet at Sanctuary Golf Course in North Scottsdale. Coronado, Chaparral and the new Notre Dame Academy also will be in the tournament field.
Five-time world junior champion Phillip Francis is on the host Notre Dame team. The youngster, who was recently featured in a national magazine, is being hailed in golf circles as professional golf's next phenom.