The Payson High School golf team has taken another step toward its goal of advancing to the season-ending Division III or “state” tournament.
To earn a ducat into the postseason under a new set of Arizona Interscholastic Association mandates, the Longhorns must meet or exceed minimum team qualifying scores at five meets.
The fourth of those was accomplished April 15 and 16 at the Safford Invitational on the Mt. Graham golf course.
“We were able to get the fourth of five legs on the state qualification system,” said coach Bret Morse.
The team score of 498 was also good enough to lift the Longhorns to a fourth place finish in the 16-team field. Desert Christian was first at 459, Snowflake second with a 473 and Pusch Ridge took third at 484.
The first day of the tournament featured nine holes of play and the second day was 18 holes.
Individually, Tyler Apps paced the Longhorn charge with a 109 (36 and 73) that was also good enough for a third place finish behind champion Kyle Jones (101) of Snowflake and runner-up Jon Goswitz (104) of Desert Christian.
Jeffrey Kelley also turned in an excellent effort for the Horns, finishing 12th in the 78-player field.
On opening day, Kelley carded a 41 and during the second round shot a 79 for a final 120.
Also representing Payson in the match were Anthony Smith (44 and 89; 134), Cody Bossert (46 and 89; 135) and Tod McCarthy (49 and 98; 147).
The Horns return to action April 26 against Blue Ridge and Snowflake in a nine-hole match to be played in the exclusive confines of White Mountain Country Club.
If the Horns attain their goal of qualifying for the state tournament it will be played May 13 and 14 at Antelope Hills golf course near Prescott.
The state tournament will be unique because the Horns will be pitted against some teams they have never before played in past state showdowns under the now defunct region-conference alignment.
With the new division configuration, Division III, which PHS has been assigned, includes several former Class 4A teams.
How the former 3A teams, like Payson, will fare against those schools with larger student body populations won’t be known until the postseason wraps up.