The Mingus Union golf team continues to march its way toward the state tournament, most recently by posting a win in Flagstaff against and getting a preview of the state tournament at the Aguila Invitational.
When the team traveled north to Flagstaff, senior leader Gary Baker continued his dominance by shooting a 37 and being named co-medalist. Baker picked up his third state qualifier, while fellow senior Ryan Sullivan battled problems with his swing.
"Ryan struggled again, I think he ended up 41 or 42, and then Orlando and A.J. both struggled," said head coach Craig Mai. "What was really nice, a bright spot was Bryan Valenzuela, a sophomore. (He) went and played for us, played our No. 5. He shot a 44, which is exactly what we're asking from our No. 5, played boogey golf for us ... those were our two bright spots, Gary and then Bryan."
Following the match in Flagstaff, the Marauders began to prepare for the Aguila tournament. The five golfers Mai took to the Valley were Baker, Sullivan, A.J. Valenzuela, Orlando Machado and Bryan Valenzuela.
Sullivan was the only Marauder to earn a state qualifier at the tournament. Sullivan was able to use the 18-holes to work out his swing and make the adjustment needed. Golfers had to shoot at least a 39 to earn a bid, and Sullivan was able to end the front-9 on the second day of play with a 37. Baker shot a 40, 1-over the qualifier.
"Ryan shot 83 the first day, but made better contact with the ball, started striking the ball better," Mai said. "He came back and shot a 76 the second day. The qualifying was on the front-9 on day two, so he was able to get a qualifier for him, so that was nice because he had been struggling the last two weeks. It was nice to have him start hitting the ball well again ... rather than trying to figure it out on nine holes, over 36 holes in two days, just had a lot more opportunity to get into a rhythm and to feel confident again. He played really well."
While Sullivan and Baker had strong showings, overall, at Aguila, their teammates were not as fortunate. Machado shot a 43, A.J. tallied a 44 and Bryan hit a 52 during the state-qualifying portion of the tournament.
"Individually, I really can't say that I was too disappointed. Orlando played solid ... he's starting to play really solid, really consistently," Mai said. "A.J. struggled, again for a second time out. I think he ended up shooting a 94 or 95 both days. Bryan struggled, but as a rookie there, as a sophomore, I was not surprised by that, I was expecting that. It's a big, long course and it can eat you up in a hurry."
With the Marauders also having one team qualifier for state so far, the important thing for the golfers to do is focus on playing what Mai calls "boogey golf." What the head coach means is that as long as his golfers are able to play decent golf, the team can earn a bid to state and the other members will be going, regardless of an individual bid.
"If one of our top players is having a rough day, then you can fit right in," Mai said. "I'm not asking you to go out there and play par or anything; so don't try it ... just go out there and play solid boogey golf, keep yourself in play. Make a bunch of boogies, throw in a par."
As a team, Mingus Union was 2-strokes away from a team qualifier. The Marauders shot a 164, and the magic number was 162.
"The disappointing thing for us, on the second day on the qualifying-9, we were a collective eight over on the last hole, the ninth hole, and we missed qualifying by 2-strokes," Mai said. "Even if we play that semi-poorly, not even well, we get a second qualifier as a team, easily ... we ended up with a boogey, two bogeys and a triple boogey. Again, a little better on that hole and we shot a team qualifier, and we put a stamp on the weekend as a great event."
At the end of the tournament, Mingus Union finished No. 18 with a 2-day total of 664, 333 on the first day and 331 on the second.
The Marauders will host their second tournament of the season on Oct. 1 at Verde Santa Fe Golf Course, followed by a trip to Bradshaw Mountain for a four-way match with Bradshaw, Prescott and Flagstaff on Oct. 3.
"Gary's got three, Ryan's got two, so they're well on their way and now we just need to get the team and hopefully get those two guys done, so they can relax and get that money off their back and just start playing golf," Mai said.