Waikiki Warrior Makes Run For Varsity

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Former Longhorn golf star Billy Bob Hoyt, now a freshman at the University of Hawaii, has his sights set on soon making the Warriors' starting five.

"If I can make the traveling team, I'll get to play at ASU in April and in New Mexico and Colorado," he said. "We'll be playing all our Western Athletic Conference opponents during the spring season."

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Former Longhorn Billy Bob Hoyt was in Payson for the Thanksgiving holidays to visit with family and friends. During his brief stay, Hoyt played a round of golf at the Payson Golf Course.

For Hoyt to achieve his goal of a varsity roster spot, he'll need to finish among the top five of 12 candidates in five days of qualifications that will take place after the school's Christmas break.

"If I can shoot around par, I'll have a good chance (of making varsity)," he said.

The last time Hawaii conducted varsity qualifying tournaments, in August, Hoyt narrowly missed earning a starting berth. He finished sixth overall -- one spot out of a varsity roster position.

Hoyt said he looks back on those tournaments as being especially tough for a freshman. He was new to the islands, had never played the Oahu courses and was struggling to make the adjustment from small-town Arizona to living in Manoa, a suburb of Honolulu.

"It's really different than high school. There's a lot of changes you have to get used to," he said.

The biggest challenge he faced was learning to putt on greens where the ball rolls much different than on the mainland.

"They have different grass, some of it is Bermuda and another Hawaiian style that is salt water tolerant," Hoyt said. "Also because of the lower altitudes, the courses play longer and the (ocean) winds can be tough."

Another challenge for the teen was adjusting to the higher level of competition on the collegiate level.

"Everyone was No. 1 or 2 or their high school teams," he said. "But, I expected that going over there."

Also on the collegiate level, practices consist of much more than playing rounds of golf.

"We have timed one-mile or more runs, weight training routines, and then we practice," he said.

A fall tournament on Oahu was one of the teen's favorite highlights of the season. Playing against the varsity as a "B" team member, Hoyt outplayed all but two of the varsity members.

At another tournament held on an Arnold Palmer-designed course at Turtle Bay, Hoyt shot one over par and finished third overall.

When he is not playing golf or attending classes, he likes to hang out with his teammates.

"I've got to know all the guys and we go to the beach and do that kind of stuff in our free time," he said.

After four months at Hawaii, Hoyt returned home Nov. 24 to spend Thanksgiving with his family.

As thankful as he is to be back in Payson, he's not looking forward to another airline trip like he experienced traveling from Honolulu to Phoenix.

"The trip took about 24 hours," he said. "My flight got canceled because they smelled something burning on the airplane while it was on the runway."

Hours later, Hoyt jumped aboard a flight bound for Seattle. There, he transferred to a flight headed to Phoenix and arrived in the wee hours of the morning.

"I'm tired, it was a long, long trip," he said. "I'm tired."

But not too tired to hit the links.

Saturday, Hoyt played 18 holes at Payson Golf Course with former teammate Brandan Kelley, current Payson High School golf star Brad Meyocks and Meyocks' father.

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