The Artesia High School golfers made a marathon run through the conclusion of their 2016 regular season last week.
After starting out Tuesday at Rockwind Community Links in Hobbs, the Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs then headed to Lovington Wednesday for the Black Murphy Invitational at Lovington Country Club before taking one last trip to the NMMI Golf Course Thursday for the annual Last Chance Open.
The teams racked up solid results as they went, with the Lady ‘Dogs placing second in all three tournaments and the ‘Dogs’ varsity going second and third in Lovington and Roswell. The Artesia boys elected to give their top five some time off Tuesday, and their underclassman lineup took fourth in Hobbs.
“It was a good three days for us,” Bulldog coach Paul Kirkwood said Saturday. “That first day, we let our No. 1 group rest up, stay in school, get caught up on their class work, and we let some of our younger guys play. It was a really good test for them. It was really windy, about 40 mph winds, but they did well and got some good experience, so I was proud of them.”
The high winds at aptly named Rockwind threw all golfers a bit off their game, but Lady ‘Dog sophomore Josey Jackson was still able to top the girls’ field with a qualifying round of 83. The girls shot a qualifying team 382 on the day, one shot behind Hobbs.
Brehnan Davis and Taysea Powell both posted a 97, followed by Sydni Salmon (105) and Bri’LeAnn Ybarra (115). The team is currently without junior Teagan Archer due to injury.
“Conditions were just horrible in Hobbs,” said Lady ‘Dog coach Dusty Bean. “That’s Hobbs’ golf course, and our girls weren’t real familiar with it. Still, we got our eighth leg there, so considering the conditions, how could you not be excited about the way we played there.”
For the Bulldogs at the Buck Brandon Classic, sophomore Hector Flores led the way with an 83, followed by classmate Wesley Davis (92), juniors Tanner Parker (94) and Jake Nelson (102), and eighth-grader Canon Carter (104).
“Hector Flores came through with a real good score for us, and I was happy to see that,” said Kirkwood.
Wednesday at the Black Murphy in Lovington, the Lady Bulldogs shared the runner-up spot with Clovis with a qualifying team 362. Both squads were three shots in back of Goddard (359).
Jackson took top honors once again with a 76, followed by Davis and Powell, who also shot qualifying legs with round of 88 and 90 respectively. Ybarra posted a 108 on the day and Salmon a 110.
The Bulldogs came in second behind Hobbs with a qualifying 309, led by Chaz Matthews and Caleb Morton with respective rounds of 76 and 77, which earned them legs as well as sixth- and seventh-place finishes. Jake Craft and Giovanni Huitron tied for eighth with 78s, and Parker Sanders posted a 91.
“We played exceptional,” Kirkwood said. “This was Giovanni’s low round of the year, and I was really proud of the way the guys stepped up and shot these good scores. This is where district will be played on Monday, so it was good to see the layout of the course.”
The Last Chance Open Thursday was more of a final tune-up for Artesia.
The Lady ‘Dogs were edged out by Goddard for the second time in as many days, 330-333, but Jackson picked up a hat trick for the week with a first-place 75. Davis came in fourth with a 78, followed by Powell (85), Ybarra (95) and Salmon (103).
“Josey won three tournaments in a row, and all of the girls did very well in all three tournaments,” said Bean. “We faced some adversity, put up some big numbers on a few holes Tuesday, but we came back and finished strong.
“Josey was actually four over after five holes in Hobbs and ended up shooting an 83, which was a pretty astonishing finish, and Brehnan shot her first sub-80 round at NMMI. All the girls are playing their best golf at the right team. We haven’t peaked too early, and we’re not even waiting till district to peak. District isn’t the prize – the prize is state.”
The ‘Dogs placed third at NMMI with a 302, three shots off second-place Clovis and four back of NMMI. Craft logged a runner-up finish with a solid round of 68, followed by Morton (73), Matthews (78), Huitron (83) and Sanders (84).
“The guys did a fabulous job Wednesday and Thursday,” said Kirkwood. “It was a good way to end on a positive note before going into district and getting ready for state. We want to be playing our best golf at the end of the season, and right now, it seems like we’re getting ready to.”
The AHS golfers will return to the Lovington Country Club Monday for the District 4-AAAAA Tournament with the goal of continuing to hone their games.
“The weather might be a little rainy, but we’re just going to have to concentrate on hitting the ball in the fairways and getting on the greens,” said Kirkwood. “The greens are usually a little faster than in Artesia, so the kids will have to focus on whether they have an uphill or downhill putt, which is good, because once we get up to state, that course has a lot of uphill or downhill putts.
“If all the guys come in with the good scores they’re capable of, we should be in really good shape for the district tournament.”
“Lovington’s a wide-open golf course,” said Bean. “There aren’t a lot of obstacles there, but the greens should be very fast, so we just have to focus on our putting and getting the ball in the hole before everybody else does.
“What I love about district is that, with our four-team setup, you get to see what everybody’s shooting. Every group is playing with everybody else’s ones, twos, so my whole thing always is just beat the people in your group. And our girls are definitely capable of doing that. We should be able to bring home a district championship. It’s something we can attain, but they don’t just hand them out, and we know that. We’re going to go work for it and make it happen.”