Late surge from Sullivan stopped on 18th hole, Baker double bogeys on 17th, both stay in top-30 at state

Ryan Sullivan teeing off. VVN/Travis Guy

Ryan Sullivan teeing off. VVN/Travis Guy

Sometimes there are things that are within your control. Sometimes they are not and sometimes it is a mix of the two.

That was the case at the Division-II golf state championships, Oct. 25-26. Representing Mingus Union were seniors Gary Baker and Ryan Sullivan. Baker was making a return trip -- he was part of the 2012 tournament -- and Sullivan was making his first appearance at the state tournament. Baker finished the tournament 8-over and Sullivan came in at 11-over for the two days.

"The greens were just so slow; it was 50-percent luck for the balls to go in on the putts," said head coach Craig Mai. "While earlier in the year, the greens were in much better shape, much quicker. They probably scored about the same ... but they played so much better at state than they did earlier in the year."

The boys were returning to Aguila Golf Course, where the Marauders went for a tournament earlier in the year. The first day was rough for both golfers, as Baker finished 5-over-par for the day and Sullivan 8-over. Some of that, if not most, can be attributed to the golf course and the decision to over seed the greens prior to the tournament.

"Both days were horrible," Baker said. "The greens were the bumpiest I've ever putted on, plus close to the slowest I've ever putted on."

The over seeding created problems for everyone, not just the Marauders. Putts that should have taken one, maybe two, hits to get in had another stroke added on. The over seeding slowed down putts, forcing golfers to adjust their games on the fly.

"If they had been quality greens like we've been putting on back home, at Verde Santa Fe, or been playing on the past few weeks, I think they would have shot even lower than that, because they were hitting the ball solid the last two days," Mai said.

While all of this affected the boys' performance, they still had a solid showing. Adding intrigue and excitement to the tournament, it looked as though Baker would finish in the top-10 and Sullivan in the top-15-or-25.

Sullivan was streaking on his final holes. The senior shot back-to-back-to-back birdies on six, seven and eight to put him at 1-over-par for the round.

"I made a good shot, happened to make a putt on No. 6, I think that was the first putt I made all day outside of 5-feet, so that felt good," Sullivan said. "Then the mood was just kind of light up on seven and eight, so I wasn't worried too much about screwing it up or anything ... On this last one, I just couldn't hold it together for one last shot, I swung too hard I guess."

Unfortunately, the ninth and final hole (Sullivan began on the back nine) had other plans. Sullivan ended up double bogeying the hole and finishing 3-over-par for the day.

"I made a few birdies then doubled my last hole as a senior, so it leaves a sour taste in my mouth, but other than that I feel pretty honored to be here and to shoot that well today," Sullivan said.

His second day score, combined with his first day, put him at 11-over-par for the weekend, landing him in 27th.

Sullivan's teammate Baker had a better showing, but the course got the better of him as well.

Entering the final stretch of holes, Baker got some momentum when he birdied the fifth hole, sitting at 1-over-par.

"I feel like I played really solid all day," Baker said. "I was two-over on the first nine holes and one-over on the back. I was just getting on in two, two putting, just textbook pars all day ... I played solid, three-putted the second-to-last hole to bogey it, which was pretty upsetting. Other than that, I played really solid."

A bogey and then par on the next holes had Baker back at 2-over as he teed off at hole-8. The eighth hole has a water hazard in-between the tee and the green, but with enough power, the ball could easily make it onto the green, setting up the possibility for a birdie or eagle.

Baker opted to go with the more cautious approach, hitting his ball off to the side of the hazard and then getting onto the green. The over seed and putting issues reared its head again, forcing Baker to bogey on the eighth hole and effectively ending his chances for top-10. A par on the ninth hole kept Baker at 3-over-par for the second day and 8-over for the tournament, sitting him in 18th.

"I knew that if I didn't shoot 72 or 73, I was not going to break the top-10-or-15, so I just tried to hold it together on the last hole and came out with a nice, sandy par, but still a little upsetting," Baker said.

This was the end of Baker and Sullivan's golf careers at Mingus Union, and the end of the season. While the seniors may not be completely happy with their performances at state, Mai is.

"They both played outstanding for the weekend," Mai said. "Both left some strokes out there, but I was very proud, very pleased with the way they performed here at state. Both of them did themselves proud and did Mingus proud, so I'm pleased with their efforts."

As for the team, the Marauders missed out on qualifying as a team by two strokes. They will be losing Baker, Sullivan and A.J. Valenzuela to graduation, but should be paced by Orlando Machado in 2014. Machado will be joined by a young team that rotated in at the No. 5 spot for his senior year.

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