There have been a number of great golfers to come through the Mountain Pointe program.
None of them have been able to accomplish what Ben Harden did on Saturday.
The Pride senior played a bogey-less final round at Aguila Golf Course to come back from a four stroke deficit to win the Division I medalist honors with an impressive 5-under 67 to finish at 6-under for the two-day event.
“When you think about all of the tremendous talent to play for Mountain Pointe, Ben did something pretty special,” Pride coach Tony Ramseyer said. “I knew he had a chance and when he got on a roll it was pretty special to watch. He’s been getting better every year and now he’s is a state champion.”
Harden, who was four shots back to start the second round, had five birdies and no bogeys on the day playing steady golf. His final round of 67 equaled the best round of the tournament.
He got hot on the back nine (actually the front nine since he teed off on No. 18) when he had four birdies in eight holes to bring home the title.
“I birdied my ninth hole and got to 2-under and the leader was still at 4," he said. "I figured I might as well go for it. I got more aggressive than I usually do and I was still able to score well.:
On his 17th hole (No. 8) Harden had a great approach shot and buried a 9-foot putt after the ball didn’t spin back as much as expected to essentially seal the title.
“I was standing in the fairway with him and told him what to expect after watching several golfers come through,” Ramseyer said. “He threw it in there and it didn’t spin like we expected, but he took advantage of it.
“Ben is one of those kids who is almost too safe at times, but he went after it.”
Red Mountain’s J.T. Rodenkirch and Chaparral’s Jake DeForest finished tied for second at 3-under 141. Tied for fourth was Desert Ridge’s TJ Kathineberg and Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor’s Eric Ghim at 142.
Desert Vista had its best regular season ever, winning three tournaments, and seemed primed to end its string of four straight state runner-up finishes, but it never came to fruition.
The Thunder finished in fifth place to champion Red Mountain, which won it at 10-over par, after a tough 16-over par on the second day after to finish 20-over par overall.
“I don’t think it was the pressure,” Desert Vista coach Paige Peterson said. “These guys all know how to prepare. It was just one of those tournaments that didn’t go well. I think we had a hard time adjusting to the greens. They were slower than we expected and we didn’t make putts.”
The Thunder lost a great senior group in Randy Ross, who is committed to New Mexico, Alec Costello, Colton Estevez and Matt Liringis, who plans to turn pro in the months to come.
“I can’t say enough about what they have done for this program,” Peterson said. “I told them they have to be proud of themselves. They had a great season, re-wrote the record book again.”
Liringis, the defending individual champion, finished tied for 11th 2-over par, Ross (5-over) placed tied for 22nd and Costello was 6-over in 30th place.
Mountain Pointe finished eighth in the 21-team race as Ryan Rybicki (6-over) finished tied for 30th, while Elisha Cable and Johnny Campion both shot 14-over to tie for 71st.
“We thought we could make a run at it. We played really well, but we didn’t have it,” Ramseyer said. “We’ve had a pretty good year.”
None better than Harden, who was named the Junior Golf Association of Arizona’s player of the year during the summer, as he awaits his college plans to become clearer.
“The first two years he kind of played in the shadows of his older brother, Max, but he got better every year,” Ramseyer said. “He really fell in love with the game and became dedicated to the game, and if there is anyone who can control his breathing, not get to high or low, it’s him.
“He did everything he needed to in order to get the job done in the end.”
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