The Payson Longhorn golf team played its way to an eighth-place finish in a Division III “state” tournament dominated by small, parochial schools.
On May 13-14 at Antelope Hills Golf Club near Prescott, the Horns carded a two-day total of 656 to finish 49 strokes behind tournament champion Yuma Catholic. Of the top-10 finishing teams, seven were Christian schools, some of which were last year members of the “small school” 2A conference.
They include second place Desert Christian, fifth place Valley Christian, sixth-place finisher Gilbert Christian and seventh Scottsdale Christian.
Pusch Ridge Christian tied Estrella Foothills for ninth place.
Only Estrella Foothills, second place Snowflake and the Longhorns busted the hold the parochial schools owned in the state showdown.
On the opening day of the tournament, playing the south course at Antelope Hills, Payson posted a 325.
“Ironically, it was our low score of the season and we still found ourselves in 12th place,” said coach Bret Morse.
On the second day on the north course, the Horns finished at 331, but still moved up in the team standings.
“On day two, we leapfrogged some teams to place eighth overall,” said Morse. “Our day two score was higher than our day one score, but it was on a much tougher course.
“Only the top four teams had a better score on the north course than we did.”
Individually, Jeffrey Kelley led the Payson effort tying for ninth place with Scottsdale Christian’s Neil Evans. Both carded identical scores of 151.
Over the two days, Kelley was a model of consistency finishing 75 on the first round and 76 on the second.
“His day two score was one stroke higher than his day one score, but only four or five of the field of 80 posted a score lower than him on day two,” Morse said.
Also for Payson, Tyler Apps — who last week won the sectional tournament championship — dead-knotted for 25th place with a score of 159 (77 and 82).
Anthony Smith posted a 169 (82 and 87) and tied for 48th place.
Senior Cody Bossert wrapped up his prep career in 68th place with a 169.
“We will be sad to have Cody move on as our lone senior,” said Morse. “But we will be excited to move forward and see what we can accomplish next year with everyone else on the team returning, along with new players coming in.”
In the “play five, keep four (scores)” format at state, Katie Schouten and Kelsey Bossert combined to be Payson’s fifth player.
Bossert played day one and finished at 92. Schouten played day two and carded a 113.
Snowflake’s Kyle Jones, bound for Baylor University on a golf scholarship, won the individual state title with a meet low 138. On the first day he scored a sizzling 67 and followed it up the second day with a 71.
The division tournament represented the first-ever played on the Arizona high school sports scene.
In previous years, prep teams competed in a region-conference format that Arizona Interscholastic Association bigwigs did away with last summer replacing it with a division-section format.
The change has received mixed reviews from high school coaches.
Morse has said the change did away with many of the region rivalries that had built up over the seasons.