Verrado golf looking strong as state nears
assistant sports editor
Despite new rule changes to the qualifying system for state, Verrado managed to get all its golfers to state for a chance to compete for the team title.
"Some of these scores guys are shooting and not getting in, you can shoot in the 30s but not qualify," Verrado coach David Hopkinson said. "It seems like there's a bunch of teams that have qualified, so it should be a pretty competitive state tournament, but I think there's going to be some good players and good teams that don't get a chance to play either."
In the past, all a school needed to do to qualify was finish in the top two positions at their region tournament, or individuals needed to make the top 10 if their team didn't qualify. Now, it's different. There are only two divisions for all classifications across the state, which makes the pool of teams trying to get in bigger. It's much more difficult though because teams have to record a certain score based on each course's rating, and teams have to do that in five matches during the year. Verrado only played 11 total.
"It's tough," Hopkinson said. "You take the course rating, so say a par 36 [for nine holes], but the front nine at Sundance [Golf Club] is rated at 35 from the tees we play. So the kids get 35 plus four strokes, so they've got to shoot a 39 or better to qualify as an individual."
For a team to qualify, it gets four strokes per player spread across the best four scores of its five-player team, so the best four scores have to be less than 16-over par for that course rating in order for that to be a qualifying score. Therefore, someone could shoot par and another player could be eight strokes over, but the team would still be on pace for that round.
"There was a couple rounds where we had three kids shoot in the 30s and we only made it by a few strokes, so there wasn't really any room for error," Hopkinson said. "The guys had to play well every time out."
They did though, and did early, getting all five of their qualifying rounds in by the end of September. The courses they qualified on were Sundance, The Raven Golf Club at Verrado and Palm Valley Golf Club.
No. 1 playerCorey Knight has been the team's top golfer, and has gone as low as 32 this year for a nine-hole round. Hopkinson said Knight has really worked on his game because he wants to play at the next level. The senior is also mentally strong on the course, and putting is the best part of his game.
"He hits the ball so far, he's a big, strong kid, but his touch around the green, there's a couple times when he hasn't been playing that well from tee to green but is still getting up and down and shooting around par," Hopkinson said. "You see a lot of high school kids, when one part of their game goes they're done, but he's able to fight through and sink some putts, make some pars when he needs to."
Sophomores P.J. Garcia and T.J. Halvorson battle back and forth between the Nos. 2 and 3 spots on the team. Hopkinson likes the competition with which they fuel each other.
"They're teenage boys and they're competitive, always trying to beat each other, which is good," Hopkinson said. "It makes for some good competition, it's bragging rights, too, and they let each other know."
Kyle Thraen and Josh Mun are the Nos. 4 and 5 guys, respectively. Both are seniors who have been to state every year.
"They really wanted to do it again, go out senior year by making state again," Hopkinson said.
Nolan Rozell, Kyle Nguyen and Zach Olson round out the team.
Verrado's regular season is over, but the state tournament is not for two more weeks. The Vipers were on fall break this week though, so Hopkinson used the time to have his athletes work at the range and get in a few nine-hole rounds. It has been tough, however, because many of the courses are closed for overseeding.
"Sundance has been nice to let us out there, but it's just trying to find a place to play," Hopkinson said. "The course for state in Tucson is closed as well, so it's tough. That's always the hard part of golf this time of year, you get in a groove, you get your game to a certain level and then you have to take two weeks off."
If Verrado's players can keep their game polished until Oct. 29-30 when they hit the links at Randolph Golf Course in Tucson, they could compete for a state title.
"It's going to be tough to win, there's some really, really talented players out there, but you never know," Hopkinson said. "We've got some guys that have the ability to go low and it could be interesting. We could turn some heads when we go out there."
Casey Pritchard can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.