The Mingus golf team has played strong this season, but they wont get an opportunity to play for the state title because of qualification changes made this year by the AIA.
One Mingus golfer still has an opportunity to make it individually, freshman Gary Baker. If he shoots 39 or better on the front nine Friday he'll make the cut.
"I wasn't expecting this much success. Not at all. I was practicing a bunch before the season just hoping I would make the team," said Baker. "I think I have a good chance of qualifying and it's going to be fun. My average score is about a 39 or so. I just have to keep practicing this week and make sure I hit the range a few times; keep working on my game to try and get it improved as much as I can."
Golf is a mental game. Baker is playing good golf and he knows it.
"I'm very confident. It makes me more confident on the course too. Going up to a shot I know that I can make solid contact and get it on the green. I didn't think I would have this much success, and having it really boosts my confidence quite a bit," said Baker.
In years past the region tournament decided which teams and individuals made the state tournament, but this year players make the cut by posting five qualifying scores throughout the season. There is no region tournament anymore.
"The season has gone very well, I've been very pleased with the way we've been playing. In the tournaments that we've gone to we've competed against some really large schools and finished in the middle of the pack," said Head Coach Craig Mai. "We're playing against the Hamiltons, the Brophys, and we're not quite good enough to compete against them day in day out, but as far as our play we've been really consistent and competitive all year."
Several Mingus golfers have hit the qualifying score three times, but with only one opportunity left they wont get the chance to compete at state.
"I'm disappointed for the kids that we wont make state," said Mai. "Gary Baker still has one opportunity to make it individually. He'll have to shoot under 40 on the front nine on Friday to qualify. Other than that, he's the last one with a chance. Everyone else ran out of opportunities, so I'm disappointed for the kids because they played too well to not experience state this year. If we had the same format as last year I feel very good about our chances finishing second in our region and qualifying."
Senior Wally Wilburn said he played well this year and he agrees with coach Mai.
"It's too bad we can't go to state. I've gone pretty much every year, and this year I can't," said senior Wally Wilburn. "We got those two freshman, Gary and Ryan, they've really helped us out. Mikey came along toward the end of the season and Travis played pretty well. I'm pretty happy with the team. This is probably our best team, and we wont go to state."
To make matters worse, the Mingus team is peaking right now. They posted their best score of the season last week. To peak at the end of the season is every team's goal, but under the current format their progress won't be rewarded with a postseason birth.
As it were, the season is almost over, but Mingus has one more tournament to host.
The John Uidenich Memorial Invitational on Friday at Verde Santa Fe has huge importance for the team. Since it's the last tournament for Mingus it's like their championship, but it's more important because of the name the tournament bears.
Former Mingus golf coach John Uidenich was killed last Easter Sunday in a freak car accident. It was an unexpected shock to the entire community.
"This is an important tournament for me. It's Uncle Johnny's tournament. He's the guy that taught me, Travis, Wally, and JC here; he was our first coach. Mr. Mai is important to us too, but Johnny will always be the number one golf coach to me," said senior Mike Rebstein.
Uidenich was well known locally, but he was also well known in the region among other golf coaches.
"I'm excited about the first annual John Uidenich Memorial Invitational. All the other coaches in the region knew John very well, so I think it's a nice thing to have his name on our invitational. I think we have a really good chance to do well in it. If we play like we did on Tuesday in our home match I like our chances of walking away with the trophy. That would be nice to put it in our trophy case," said Mai.