Longhorn golf coach Bret Morse is among those on the PHS athletic staff welcoming the school's return to the 3A conference.
Morse believes that playing in the small school division the next two years will be good for fledgling golfers because they can receive better match-time coaching to perfect their skills and increase their knowledge of the game.
"The 4A is far inferior (to the 3A conference) in course etiquette and knowing the rules (of the game)," Morse said.
Morse said the reason 3A is a better conference, at least for golf, is because coaches are allowed to walk the course with their players to give hints, instruction and advice.
"We can be with them from tee to green and coach them on club selection, and course management," Morse said.
In the 4A conference, coaches cannot talk to the players once they have teed off. Most coaches simply play the course during match time.
"Coaching in 4A was not real fun for me" Morse said. "If you can't talk to your players, not much coaching is going on and that's what we are there for."
Morse said those limitations helped produce a number of 4A prep golfers who are not fundamentally sound and not familiar with the etiquette of the game.
"That's why I'm looking forward to 3A," Morse said.
The negative in Payson's move to the small-school conference is that Longhorn players must go about a year-and-a-half without school competition.
In 4A, golf is played as a fall sport; the Longhorn season wrapped up two weeks ago.
In 3A, golf is a spring sport which means the seasons don't tee off until March. That will result in PHS players not having a competitive match from October of 2004 to March of 2006.
"That's a long time to not play," Morse said.
Although the respite from the course will be substantial, the Horns will have a solid core of veterans returning when play resumes.
The only player the team will lose to graduation with the PHS class of 2005 is Tom Borkowski who played a limited role with the varsity this past fall.
The team's most seasoned players, juniors Brad Meyocks and Nate Blanco, both qualified for the 4A state tournament last week with top-10 finishes in the Grand Canyon region Oct. 30 on the Verde Santa Fe Course in Cornville.
The team's bid for regional championship and a berth in the state showdown was ended by the Sinagua
Mustangs who won the 36-hole GCR tournament with a card of 665. Runner-up Payson was 22 strokes off the winning pace. Bronze medalist Page finished one stroke behind the Longhorns.
In prep golf circles, Sinagua's victory was considered an upset in that the Longhorns had corralled the Mustangs five times during the regular season.
"We were obviously the best team in the region, but we didn't get it done," Morse said. "I think the boys were disappointed we didn't get to the state playoffs.
Since 4A conference rules allow only the GCR champion to advance to state, Sinagua received the berth. In 3A next school year, Payson will only have to finish among the top four in the region to go to state.
Small-school conference rules concerning the number of state qualifiers are more liberal because there are fewer schools in 3A than 4A.
At the state finals Nov. 3 and 4 at the Duke course in Maricopa, Meyocks and Blanco participated as individuals qualifiers only. Blanco turned in the finest two-day showing of his career, carding a 78 and 76 on the on the par 72 course. His tally of 154 earned him a top-20 finish among the individual qualifiers.
Meyocks, the team's ace most of the season, posted an 82 and 78 for an overall score of 160.
AIA grants Payson wishes
Payson High School's move from the 4A to the 3A conference was approved at an Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Board meeting Oct. 11 in Phoenix,
PHS school officials petitioned for PHS to drop a school size classification mostly because its enrollment was on the cusp of 3A maximum and 4A minimum.
Payson's is the smallest school in 4A with 954 students -- just five more than the 3A maximum of 949.
Morse was among those coaches who supported the move to 3A. Others contended that Payson should have remained in 4A to keep hopes alive of being aligned in the newly formed 4A Region 3 with the East Valley schools of Apache Junction, Arcadia, Coronado, Higley, Tempe and Queen Creek. Some coaches said such a placement would have been ideal mostly because the geographical locations of the member schools would have cut down on travel, there would be no winter bus trips over snowy mountain roads and spring sports play would have taken place in the warm Valley climate.
In the small-school conference, PHS has not yet been assigned a region but athletic director Dave Bradley anticipates the Horns could go to the East with Blue Ridge, Show Low, Snowflake, Round Valley, Alchesay and possibly Holbrook.