high school golf state tournaments
Catalina Foothills' Billy Flower and Andrew Gunn were all smiles Monday looking at the scoreboard at Randolph Golf Complex during the 4A-I boys state tournament.
Their wide grins were for good reason.
After the first of two rounds, the Falcons, at 291, had a solid 13-stroke lead over their closest competitor, Canyon del Oro.
Flower shot a 2-under-par 70 to tie with Scottsdale Saguaro's Keenan Steele for the low round of the day. Flower led the Falcons with a 3-under 33 on the front nine before shooting 1 over on the back.
A 291 for the senior was "a good, solid score. We're happy with it," Foothills coach Julie Walters said. "We put ourselves in a position to move forward (Tuesday.)"
Given how closely Foothills and CDO have played all year, the 13-stroke gap was about the best the Falcons could have hoped for after the first day.
"Foothills did their job," CDO coach John Farbarik said. "They went out there, and they shot a good score, and we weren't able to match it. So, we've got our work cut out for us."
The Falcons took a 10-shot first-round lead over CDO at last week's Sonoran Region championship but won by four strokes after a second-day comeback by the Dorados.
CDO needs a similar scenario in today's final round, only on a bigger scale.
"We're in the position with the least amount of pressure," CDO junior Gentry Hicks said. "We're in the spot where we can catch them."
The Falcons earned their big lead by having all five players shoot 76 or lower. In addition to Flower's 70, Foothills' No. 4 Alec Berens impressed with a 72. Dylan Kornberg shot 73, and Gunn and Christian Muscarello each shot a 76.
None of CDO's golfers shot high rounds, but the Dorados admittedly played below average.
CDO's top two, Hicks and Bubba Metz, had hoped to shoot even-par or lower.
Instead, they both got off to bad starts before shooting 75 and 76, respectively. Metz double-bogeyed the first hole, and Hicks three-putted two of the first four holes and four-putted another.
"If we shoot our best round of the year (today), I'd be happy to let the chips fall where they may," Farbarik said.
Below-average scores were even more common at Dell Urich on Monday when the 4A-I girls tournament got under way.
But disappointment also was in the air, even among the state's most talented golfers. Easily the most disappointed was Cienega's Sun Park.
The senior shot a first-round 6-over 76, after shooting rounds of 71 and 69 at state last season. Park was having a solid day until she ran into trouble on the 16th and 17th holes.
She hooked her drive on 16 and watched her ball sail out of bounds. Then she found water on 17.
For the first round, Park shot 5 over par on those two holes alone.
"Obviously, I didn't do my part today," Park said. "Everybody else did. Maybe they were a couple strokes off their goals, but I was a lot off my goal.
"I'm willing to take what we had today and come back (Tuesday), and I think everybody's just got to go low … including me."
The Cienega golfers must go low, that is, if they want a chance to beat Foothills.
The Bobcats (323) were seven strokes behind the Falcons (316) after the first round.
That margin could have been much larger, but the Falcons also struggled.
Laura Jabczenski led Catalina Foothills with a 2-over 72, but the scores went up from there.
Erin McClure tied Park with a 76, Brittany McKee shot 78, and Grace Tooley carded a 91 as she battled an illness.
Jabczenski's 72 tied Cave Creek Cactus Shadows' Lindsey Weaver for the girls low round of the day.
Cactus Shadows (330) has won the state title the last two seasons but will enter the final round in third place, 14 strokes behind Foothills.