Payson Longhorn golf team members swung their way to a third-place finish in a Thatcher Invitational tournament that drew a field of 15 prep teams and 76 golfers.
The fray was contested March 19 on the par 36 Mt. Graham Golf Course near Safford.
The Horns carded a 333 to finish behind runner-up Snowflake and tournament champ Desert Christian.
DC posted a 307 and Snowflake scored a 326.
At the conclusion of the tournament, Payson’s 333 actually represented a tie with Blue Ridge.
With the dead-knot, tournament directors decided to break it by using each team’s five-player scores on the front nine holes.
“Tod McCarthy carded a 45 on the front nine to beat Blue Ridge,” said PHS coach Bret Morse.
For Payson, taking the bronze behind powerhouses such as Snowflake and DC actually represents an accomplished feat mostly because Snowflake is a two-time defending 3A champion and DC is a small parochial Valley-area prep school that annually draws some of the state’s finest young golfers.
Snowflake’s talent-laden roster also features two-time individual state champion Kyle Jones, who is bound for Baylor University.
At Thatcher, Jones finished as low medalist with a 72.
Individually in the “play five, keep four scores” format, Tyler Apps tallied a 77 to lead the Longhorns. He was also was sixth overall.
Jeffrey Kelley finished at 80, Anthony Smith had an 85 and Cody Bossert rounded out the scorecard with a 91.
In action earlier this season, Payson traveled March 9 to Hidden Cove Golf Course near Holbrook where the Horns dominated the three-team field that included Camp Verde and the homestanding Roadrunners.
Individually, Payson golfers swept the top four places with Apps posting a one-under 35. Kelly had a 37 to take second and Bossert and Smith were third and fourth with a pair of 41s.
The team score of 154 represented one of the five qualifying scores the Horns need to earn a postseason berth.
In the new Arizona Interscholastic Association-mandated realignment that did away with the region-conference format and replaced it with sections and divisions, teams now earn state tournament berths by meeting five qualifying scores throughout the course of the regular season.
Payson is playing in Division III, but high school golf teams were not assigned sections, as other sports will be given next school year.
On March 10 at Payson’s home course of Chaparral Pines, the Horns hosted a Phoenix Christian team that could not field the necessary players for a team score.
The Longhorns, however, had a full roster that shot a 177 — a score not quite good enough to meet the state qualifying criteria.
Apps led Payson with a one-over par 36. Kelly posted a 40 and Bossert had a 49.
PC’s three golfers finished at 41, 43 and 48.
The PHS golfers return to action March 25 at the Metro Invitational to be played at Coyote Lakes Golf Club in Surprise.