Longhorn golf coach Bret Morse has said that Flagstaff Sinagua is the odds-on favorite to win the Grand Canyon region championship Oct. 22 and 25.
The Mustangs have a big advantage over his defending regional champion Longhorns because the championship will be played on one of Sinagua's home courses -- Continental Golf Club. Also tipping the scales in Sinagua's favor is a scheduling quirk in which Payson has not played at Continental this season.
"Home teams playing on their own course have a big advantage," Morse said. "And, it's tough to play (well) on a course you haven't seen before."
The Mustangs picked up another advantage over Payson when the tournament was scheduled to be played on a Monday and Friday so it wouldn't conflict with AIMS testing. The Friday-Monday playoffs mean the Horns must travel to Flagstaff twice rather than once as the team usually does in regional playoffs.
"I don't know if (split days) has ever happened before," Morse said.
Most tournaments are conducted on consecutive days. Morse is concerned that more travel and split playing days could adversely affect the team's effort. While scheduling has branded the Mustangs the regional championship favorite, it was the Horns who were top dogs in a four-way meet Sept. 23 at The Rim Club.
Payson took top honors in the "play five, keep five" scoring format with a 233. Page was second at 238 and Sinagua fell to third at 245. With a 272, Flagstaff trailed.
"We won, but it was on our home course," Morse said. "They have that advantage during regionals."
On the par 36 course, Nate Blanco led the Horn charge with a 37. Trailing Blanco were Brad Meyocks (39), Bryce Danielson (47), Thomas Borkowski (52) and Nate Jones (58).
The demise of the Mustangs might be attributed to their No. 1 golfer turning in a four-over-par score of 40. Their No. 2 posted a 46, Morse said.
After watching the Page Sand Devils play their way to a runner-up showing only five strokes off the Longhorns' winning pace, Morse predicted Page also could be a factor at regionals.
In a Sept. 27 showdown at Chaparral Pines, the homestanding Longhorns had to settle for third place in a three-way meet.
Arcadia (203) was first, Scottsdale Saguaro (206) second and Payson (216) trailed.
Playing the par 35 front nine, Sahuaro's Danny Fossey won the tournament championship with an even par score.
For Payson, Blanco and Meyocks both finished at 40. Danielson had a 42 and Blanco a 46. With a 48, Borkowski was Payson's fifth-place finisher.
In the play six, keep five format, a Payson score of 49 was discarded.
Although the Horns didn't have the two low scores they had in the earlier meet at Rim Club, there also wasn't the two 50-plus tallies.
"We played a little better as a team," Morse said.
The Horns returned to action Oct. 11 in a nine-hole meet hosted by Chandler High School (results not available at press time). The team travels Oct. 15 to Verde Santa Fe in Cottonwood for an 18-hole match hosted by Mingus.