Marauders golf head coach Craig Mai had high expectations for his team going into the season, and after their first tournament, those expectations were reaffirmed.
"I'm pleased. It tells me that my expectations are right where they need to be. We ended up three strokes away from a team qualifier," Mai said. "We're right where we need to be. It would have been great to get the first one out of the way, first match getting a team qualifier, but we got close, so now we know we can do it."
Mingus Union kicked off its season hosting Bradshaw Mountain, Coconino and Flagstaff High Schools at the Verde Santa Fe golf course.
"I really liked it," said senior Ryan Sullivan. "I've been itching to get out here for our first match. It seemed like practices were starting to drag on there, the last couple of days, so it was nice to finally get out and have some competition, to see how we're stacking up this year."
While the approaching storm avoided the golf course, the Marauders secured a first place team finish with 165 points, and Sullivan took home top honors by shooting 2-under-par 34.
"I started off really hot, made two birdies right out of the gate," Sullivan said. "I started hitting it a little bit thin, the next few holes, off the tee boxes, but my putting was really on today, I think I only two putted two or three holes and was up-and-down on the rest."
While Sullivan's putting game was on point to open the season, one part of his game that improved was his iron play. The senior said that leading up to the tournament, he was struggling with it, but felt he used his irons well for the tournament.
"(I've) been kind of struggling with them on the range, the last couple of days, but I felt like I hit them pretty solid today," Sullivan said. "I've been making puts a lot more frequently, they've been falling a lot more."
Mai was pleased with how Sullivan opened the year and said that the first place finish for Sullivan will give him confidence going forward.
"That's a fantastic score (Ryan's 34)," Mai said. First match of the year, and that's going to give him a tons of confidence for the rest of the year."
Senior Gary Baker worked on his mental game over the summer, which he said affected him during the 2012 season, and was able to see how much he improved it at the tournament. Following two rough holes that gave Baker five penalty strokes, the senior was happy with how he rebounded, shooting par on the final three holes. Baker ended play with a 42.
"Mentally, I did pretty well, given that I had two really bad holes," Baker said. "I think I kept my cool pretty well through those two holes, and I finished strong with three pars in a row, so that was good, I came back from it. I think my mental game is pretty strong, and I think I've proved that to myself."
His coach was also happy with how he was able to rebound, and recalled how the senior showed his leadership before the tournament.
"Absolutely," Mai said. "We had a little team talk, right before the match, and he was the one that said, 'hey, you never know, it might be you that needs that one stroke at some point along the way, so don't give up if you're struggling.' He bought in to it, and did it ... I'm pleased."
Like Sullivan, Baker's irons were one of the better parts of his game. The senior got himself on, or near, the green, and the accuracy "saved my game," Baker said. The one thing that he will continue to work on is building confidence in his shots.
"I need to work on having a confidence swing, and having confidence in every single shot, and if I can do that, I think I can do fine," Baker said.
Now that the Marauders are rolling, they move their focus towards Payson, who they will visit on Sept. 5.
"We are going to work on short game, short game, short game," Mai said. "That's going to be the key, especially up at Page. With a course that you're not familiar with, you're going to hit less greens, so getting up-and-down is going to be critical over there. It's a tough course, but if you're playing it smart, you can play well up there. It's a challenging course, but its not overly difficult."
More like this story
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- Baker, Sullivan shoot best rounds of year before state, team misses state by two strokes
- Baker, Sullivan each earn another qualifier as Mingus golf progresses through schedule
- Marauders golf team hopes to end state tournament drought with crop of upper classmen
- Baker rebounds from rough start to season, golf inching closer to qualifying team for state