Payson High School freshman golfer Dean Harpe made his varsity debut a smashing success by leading the Longhorns to a 153-183 win over Gilbert Christian.
Playing March 1 on the front nine holes at Chaparral Pines, Harpe carded an even par 35 to finish first overall.
Tyler Apps was second at 37 and Jeffrey Kelley took third with a 40.
Anthony Smith posted a 41 and Kelsey Bossert turned in a 48.
In the “play five, keep four” scores format, only the top four cards are counted in the team tally.
Most importantly about the win is that it is one of the five qualifying scores high school teams must attain to earn a berth into the Division III state tournament.
Coach Bret Morse called Harpe’s performance remarkable, mostly because he was playing in his first high school golf match.
The coach also praised Apps for “finishing with seven straight pars.”
Kelley and Smith, Morse added, “played steady golf to help the team mark a qualifying score.”
For the 2012 season, Apps and Smith return for their senior campaign and Kelley is a junior.
“All three are experienced, loyal, work hard and are strong leaders,” said Morse. “We are excited to have Dean to join these guys.
“He has a strong work ethic to go along with the talent he has crafted.”
During pre-season practices, all four young golfers have shown to be evenly matched in that they can beat one another on any given round.
“It’s great to have that competition,” said Morse. “But everyone gets along well as teammates too.”
However, for the team to make a successful run deep into the state tournament, other players must step up to provide depth as the fifth varsity member.
They include Katie Schouten, Tod McCarthy, Tyler Croy and Bossert.
“I’m sure we will see all of these players rotating through for the experience as we find out who will contribute,” said Morse.
To reach prep golf’s promised land, the Horns must outperform some notable foes including a defending state champion Yuma Catholic team that returns most of its players from last season.
Morse is predicting Desert Christian, Scottsdale Christian, Snowflake, Show Low and Valley Christian will also be formidable.
Also this season, the Horns will be playing for the second consecutive year in the division-section format that replaced the former conference-region configuration that was used for decades.
After watching the new system unfold in 2011, Morse observed, “the net effect was far fewer teams qualified for state out of the original 2A and 3A alignments.
“It used to be 12 to 16 teams from 2A and 3A had their own championship tournaments.
“Only 12 (teams) qualified from those divisions last year.”
Of those, eight were private, parochial schools.