A Payson High School golf team that is being hailed as one of the best in the program’s history celebrates this evening, May 18, the end of a highly successful season that culminated with a Division III state runner-up finish.
From 6 to 8 p.m. at Chaparral Pines golf club, coach Bret Morse, assistant coach Denny Morris and members of the team gather to relive a season filled with thrills, challenges and great accomplishments.
The event will also serve as a goodbye of sorts to Tyler Apps and Anthony Smith, the only two senior members of the team.
Among the topics of conversation will undoubtedly be the team’s spirited comeback on the second day of the state tournament, May 12, at Antelope Hills near Prescott.
After a rough opening day during which the team carded a 324 and fell to fourth place 11 strokes off the pace of defending state champion Yuma Catholic, the Horns rallied the following day for a tournament low 301 to finish as state runner-up eight strokes behind champion YC.
Bret Morse partially attributed the sluggish opening round to swirling winds and a course that “played tough.”
Although finishing as state runner-up was not the players’ goal, Morse contends the team showed plenty of grit and determination in fighting back into contention during the second round.
“There was no quit in the team,” he said. “They believed in each other and they rallied, but it wasn’t quite enough (to win state).”
The coach also says he was impressed with the way the players “carried themselves throughout the season” and they “were a great group to work with.
“I was very proud to be their coach.”
Apps paced the team at state, finishing at 74 on both days for a 148. That score tied him for fifth on his two-day total. However, Arizona Interscholastic Association officials used the second day, back nine score to break the tie, which relegated Apps to sixth.
Also at state, Dean Harpe carded 156, Jeffrey Kelley finished at 156 and Smith turned in a 165.
Mason Ridley posted a 183.
Kelley, Harpe and Ridley will return to form the nucleus of next year’s team.
Bret Morse also anticipates several promising junior varsity players will move up to fill the void created by the graduating seniors.
During the off season, the coach anticipates several of the returning players will compete on one of the junior circuits including the Southwest PGA that hosts tournaments in the White Mountains and the Valley based Junior Golf Association of Arizona.