Longhorns Battle Winds And 3a’S Best

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For decades to come, coaches, players and fans will spin stunning tales about the state golf tournament that was held in 55-plus mph winds that spiraled putts away from their intended destinations and puffed tee shots tens of yards off course.

“It was just hard to stand up, I had to lean into the wind to not get blown backward,” said Kevin Kelley who was at the 3A state tournament May 10 and 11 in Snowflake to cheer on his son — Payson High freshman Jeffrey Kelley.

Although the winds inflated both individual and team scores to new highs, homestanding Snowflake managed to nail down the Lobos’ third successive state title with a score of 656.

Payson checked in at 706 to take second. Show Low was third at 753 giving the East Region a clean sweep of the top three state spots. Safford and Estrella Foothills entered the finals with sterling reputations that they could give the Lobos and Longhorns a run for the gold.

In fact, Safford had beaten Payson earlier in the year. With a 773, Safford was fourth and EF was fifth at 784.

“I was very proud of our players — they didn’t crack,” said coach Bret Morse. “There was some cracking going on, but it wasn’t by us.”

Individually, the East again reigned supreme taking nine out of the 10 top finishing spots. In the 68-player field that had to qualify last week to participate, Payson’s Tyler Apps was third overall, Kelley took sixth and Cody Waterman claimed 10th.

Morse praised the three saying “they remained mentally strong” while playing in adverse weather conditions they might not see again in their life times.

“They did well, I’m really proud of them,” he said.

The state second-place finish came on the heels of the Longhorns taking second at the East regional tournament played last week near Show Low.

Finishing runners-up to the Lobos is a sterling accomplishment because the Snowflake team features some of the finest high school golfers in the state. In fact, Kyle Jones — who was the region and state low medalist — is nationally ranked.

With the regular season at an end, Morse expects Apps and Kelley will play this summer on the youth circuit. Both return next season to lead a team that will graduate three of its top five players.

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