Jeff Kelley sinks a putt during a match at Chaparral Pines Golf Club.
Photo by Andy Towle.
The Payson High School golf team is well on its way to earning a berth in the Division III state tournament.
All that’s needed is two additional team-qualifying scores before the regular season wraps up on May 3.
This year, under the Arizona Interscholastic Association mandated realignment that did away with the old region-conference format and replaced it with divisions and sections, prep teams must hit qualifying scores in at least five matches to reach the Division III or state tournament.
Under the old format, teams had to finish among the top four in the region tournament to qualify for state.
This season, the Horns picked up their third qualifying score March 28 at Eagle Mountain in Fountain Hills by carding a match winning 163.
Other qualifying scores were posted at Holbrook.
While carding two more qualifying scores is not a lock, this Horn team appears to have the quality golfers and expert coaching from Bret Morse that it needs to reach the postseason promised land.
According to AIA guidelines, qualifying scores must be on rated courses and then calculated as target scores using a qualifying formula.
For Division III, the formula is course rating multiplied by four plus 26. Course ratings can be found on the Arizona Women’s Golf Association Web site.
Each team in D-III is responsible for inputting their qualifying scores on the AIA Web site.
At the onset of the year, however, Morse was not quite sure how the new division-section format would play out.
“It could be a challenging year to qualify for the state tournament coming off back-to-back state runner-up finishes,” he said.
He also was among those numerous coaches who were not entirely thrilled with the realignment saying the new format, “Quenches some of the great rivalries we have established.”
In the match at Eagle Mountain, the Horns tally of 163 easily bested the 177 turned in by homestanding Fountain Hills.
Individually, Tyler Apps polished off a 39 on the par 35 course to tie the Falcons’ Ty Yoder for low medalist honors.
Also for PHS, Jeffrey Kelley shot a 40, Cody Bossert finished at 41 and Anthony Smith contributed a 43.
Following the match, Morse lauded his squad saying, “A strong team effort gave the Longhorns a third (state) qualifying leg.”
The Horns return to action April 6 in a nine-hole match vs. Fountain Hills at We Ko Pa course.
On April 15 and 16, the team will compete in one of the most competitive tournaments of the year, the 27-hole Safford Invitational to be played on the Mt. Graham course. There, the Horns could earn another qualifying score and take another step toward the postseason.