The Payson High School golf team that will be advancing May 11 to state at Antelope Hills includes (L-R) Anthony Smith, Mason Ridley, Tyler Apps, Coach Bret Morse, Dean Harpe and Jeff Kelley.
The Payson Longhorn Express, which is now steaming toward the Division III state tournament to be held May 11 and 12 at Antelope Hills near Prescott, wrapped up its regular season with a convincing three-team match win on May 3 at Pinetop.
Currently, the Horns are one of 12 D-III teams that have earned an automatic qualifying berth by posting certain minimum scores at selected matches during the year.
With the post-season looming, the Longhorns have played well enough all year long to be tagged one of the state championship favorites.
Especially when it’s noted that the Horns posted eight scores that met Arizona Interscholastic Association qualifying standards or “target scores” in March and April.
Also, some of those team scores greatly surpassed the qualifying marks.
On April 4 at We-Ko-Pa, the Horns needed only a 168 for a qualifying score but carded a 156.
The team’s 146 on March 31 at Wickenburg easily exceed the target score of 160, and the 154 tally on March 28 at Antelope Hills bettered the qualifying standard by 10 strokes.
On March 1, at Chaparral Pines, Payson’s home course, the Horns finished at 153 with the target score at 168.
The only other D-III team to have as many qualifying scores as the Horns is Gilbert Christian, a team that could contend with PHS for post-season honors.
Scottsdale Christian is also expected to be a state contender, as is Horizon Honors.
In the regular season finale at Snowflake, the Horns flexed their links muscle to a match-low 311 that easily outdistanced runner-up Snowflake (338) and Blue Ridge (358).
Coach Bret Morse is calling the match at White Mountain Country Club near Pinetop, “The Old 3A East Invitational Tournament” because it drew some of the powerhouse golf teams from the now defunct East region.
Show Low, also a former East team was expected to participate but dropped out. The Cougars are among the state qualifying teams.
Individually at Pinetop, freshman Dean Harpe swung his way to low-medalist honors with an even par round of 72.
Tyler Apps carded a 73 and was second. Jeffrey Kelley finished sixth with an 81.
Also for PHS, Anthony Smith and Mason Ridley posted cards of 85, and Kelsey Bossert came in at 92.
Tee time Friday at Antelope Hills in the state first round is 10:30 p.m.