The emergence of Anthony Smith as one of Division III’s best golfers renders the Longhorns a state championship contender when the final tournament unfolds May 11 and 12 at Antelope Golf Course near Prescott.
His steady play this season, combined with the talents of Jeffrey Kelley, Dean Harpe and Tyler Apps, gives Payson High a four-pronged attack that will be tough for any Division III team to contend with.
Smith flexed his links muscle April 4 at the We-Ko-Pa golf course where he led Payson to a first-place finish and tied Kelley for the tournament’s low medalist honors.
As a team, Payson finished at 156 to edge runner-up Fountain Hills (161) and bronze medalist Chino Valley (247).
Smith and Kelley dead knotted for top individual honors with identical scores of one-over-par 37s.
Coach Bret Morse calls the pair’s efforts simply “strong.”
Also in the Payson showing, Harpe finished at 40, Apps shot a 42 and Mason Ridley posted a 48.
Smith’s emergence as a prep power began in mid-March at the Thatcher Invitational where he scored a 76 that was the lowest 18-hole tournament round of his high school career.
Just one week later at Snowflake, Smith lit up the Lobos’ home course scoring a two-under-par 34 that was his best-ever nine-hole score.
On March 30 at Wickenburg Country Club, he continued his lofty play, shooting a 77 on opening day.
That score combined with the cards of Apps, Kelley and Harpe totaled a 294, which set a net 18-hole school record of 294, breaking the previous mark of 297.
With the 2012 season now past the halfway point, Payson has four strong golfers that some are declaring the best group since the 2001-2004 glory years when the Horns were led by Brandan Kelley, Billy Hoyt and Troy Marrs.
Only time will tell if the current group is really the better of the two.