Payson High School golf coach Bret Morse has a better grasp on how good the 2006 edition of his team might be.
His ability to predict the team's strengths and weaknesses was strengthened March 18 at the Thatcher Eagles Invitational held at Mt. Graham Country Club near Safford.
"It was a 13-team tournament so I had a good chance to see how competitive the team will be," the coach said.
Much to his delight, the Horns -- who were a question mark at the beginning of the season -- easily won the fray, carding a team tally of 323.
Host Thatcher finished as runner up with a 347.
Safford and Show Low tied for third with identical cards of 360.
Individually, Payson's Justin Shuman won low medalist honors, carding a three-over-par 75. Also for the Longhorns, Nate Blanco was fourth with a 79 and Rod Gershman finished sixth with an 82. Senior Brad Meyocks turned in an 87 for the Horns final tally in the play-five-keep-four-scores match format.
As rewarding as the tournament win was for Morse and the players, it might be the March 20 win over the exclusive Phoenix Country Day School that will spark fond memories down the road.
Playing for the first time on the prestigious Camelback Country Club course, the Horns upset PCD 157-165.
Playing nine holes on the par 36 course, Blanco and Shuman tied for low medalist honors with a pair of 38s.
Bryce Danielson contributed a 40 and Meyocks turned in a 41.
"We played very solid," Morse said. "It was our best team score of the year."
The Horns return to action March 29 against Fountain Hills at the We Ko Pa course in north Scottsdale. Payson also takes on Fountain Hills April 3 at Eagle Mountain.
Payson returns to Mt. Graham Country Club April 21 and 22 for the Safford Invitational.
That two-day tournament, Morse said, will serve as a warm-up for the 3A East regional championships, which will be held April 26 and 27 at Chaparral Pines.