Golf state tournaments a showdown of elite - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Golf state tournaments a showdown of elite

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Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011 5:55 pm | Updated: 6:52 pm, Thu Oct 27, 2011.

At first, there was panic.

Eventually, however, a sense of calm and understanding took over. The elite applied and were (barely or easily) accepted into this weekend's Division I and Division II boys and girls golf state tournament.

Based on a sampling of East Valley golf coaches this week, the byproduct of all these tournament qualifications and baseline scores necessary to make the tournament was more positive than negative.

While the reduced number of tournament has merged the best from former conferences into one "super" division, there were arguments made for changes: revive Super Regional tournaments so another school or two that gets hot can earn a spot at state, or set a hard cap of qualifying teams rather than a requisite score.

In golf's case, two shots above the course rating was a qualifying standard that had to be reached on five separate rounds, with no more than three of those five being shot on the same course.

After 16 Div. I boys teams qualified last season, 13 reached the standard this year. Div. II boys had seven schools from the state qualify, while Div. II girls - after an offseason of significant changes to the qualifying standard after overcrowded tournaments in 2010 - had eight teams make the cut.

One coach expressed concern that kids would open enroll or transfer from other schools into an "elite" golf school for the opportunity to play with a qualifying-caliber school.

"Kids need something to play for, but the state championship should be the best, and I feel like it’s reasonable and it’s good," Red Mountain boys coach Rich Hamilton said. "I know it's not a popular decision, but I do think it's right.

"Some teams say they'll never qualify so there's nothing to play for.  I understand that, but there are softball, basketball teams and others all over the state who have that same dillemma."

At the Division I level, money was an issue on the boys side, as several Valley schools will spend $1,000 (or more) on travel costs for their tournament this weekend in Tucson.

It's the second consecutive year the boys have played down south, despite 12 of the 13 Div. I boys schools who qualified coming from the Valley.

"I'd say it’s not well-liked by everyone yet, but when the numbers come out and you see who earned it, it wasn’t too hard of a number," Hamilton girls coach Kevin Krahenbuhl said. "After the first couple (rounds of the season) kids didn't qualify and panicked a bit, but everyone betters and improved."

Regardless of sex, teams such as defending-champion Red Mountain, Brophy, Horizon, Pinnacle or Notre Dame have been in the running and figure to continue doing so regardless of the alignment.

Others, such as Desert Ridge, face a tall task in Division I, a year after needing a 15-foot putt on a closing hole on an overseeded green at Augusta Ranch Golf Course to earn a state berth in 2010.

The Jaguars' steady play and depth was rewarded with its fifth trip to this tournament, but after a couple third-place finishes in the previous alignment, they know this combining of golfing superpowers - both in the Valley and Tucson - will be tough to overcome.

The Jaguars narrowly qualified in each of their five rounds, and by the time the team scores qualified, none of Desert Ridge players had managed a qualifying score individually.

"The downfall is leaving out the middle, average teams or a bit above," Jaguars' boys coach Ben Brandau said. "I think it's pretty fair, but I think they should leave it for 16 teams like football and all team sports."

Then there are teams such as Frank Campo Jr.'s Dobson squad, which struggled early and missed qualifying rounds early, only to turn it on furiously late in the season. By that point, however, it was too late to hit the requisite five qualifying-score matches for the season, though Jacob Montplaisir qualified as an individual from the Mustangs.

Perennially-strong Mountain Pointe was the boys Div. I runners-up last year, yet barely reached the qualifying standard.

Brophy/Xavier, Chaparral, Horizon, Mountain Pointe, Mountain View, Pinnacle and Tucson Salpointe are the only schools with boys and girls teams headed to state.

Still, many wanted the cream of the crop into this tournament, and that's exactly what's happened, which means if the weather holds true, a long way under-par might be the state tournament-winning standard.

"I definitely like the idea, and I may not get much agreement, but I wasn't a fan of 12 different state champions," Krahenbuhl said. "It's much more representative and appealing of the state tournament as well, to make it a more difficult road to get there.  The best way to do that is to have the best play the best at all levels."

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