It appeared earning a ducat to prep golf’s version of the Big Dance turned much tougher two years ago when the requirement to earning a state berth changed from a top-four region finish to carding five qualifying scores.
But lo and behold, the Longhorns have defied that logic by already posting four qualifying tallies, which has them well on their way to filling out a Division III dance card.
The fourth qualifying score was the 325 the Horns turned in while finishing second March 17 at the Thatcher Invitational played over 18 holes on the Par 72 Mt. Graham Golf Course near Safford.
The score also earned PHS a second-place finish behind tournament champion Safford, which used their home course advantage to score a 321. Show Low was third at 346 and Tanque Verde took fourth at 357.
Individually for Payson, senior Anthony Smith turned in the game of his life, scoring a 76 that represented the lowest 18-hole tournament round of his high school career.
The round also was good enough for a fourth-place finish.
Smith’s top showing among the Payson contingent marked the fourth time in four matches that a different player had turned in the team’s best score.
Also for PHS, Dean Harpe posted an 80 and was fifth. Jeff Kelley turned in an 80 and freshman Mason Ridley carded an 87 that was his lowest round this year.
Ridley also received a medal for having the lowest score of the No. 5 players on the 15 teams that competed.
Kelsey Bossert rounded out the Payson effort with a 97.
Jon Goswitz of Desert Christian claimed low medalists honors with a three under par 69.