Desert Vista junior Cody McManus golf
Desert Vista junior Cody McManus, lining up a putt at the 2009 state tournament, is one of four returning players from last season's state runner-up squad. AFN file photo

The boys golf season begins with the Ahwatukee Cup and if all goes well it will end with it as well.

"I think on paper Desert Vista is the (state) favorite and we should be right there as well," Mountain Pointe coach Tony Ramseyer said. "They have (almost) their entire team coming back after finishing second and we lost only one of our top five after finishing fifth." It would be something if the two local schools battled it out down the stretch at the state tournament at Randolph Golf Course in Tucson, but that is too far off, the teams just had open tryouts, to focus on just yet.

The start of the season, however, gets under way on Aug. 30 with the 15th annual Ahwatukee Cup, a three-day event played under Ryder Cup-type rules, at two different courses involving 11 schools.

"It's a great way to start the season," Ramseyer said. "We play for three days and then give out of prizes and have dinner afterward." Mountain Pointe brings back an impressive group in an attempt to better last year's fifth-place finish at the Class 5A Division I tournament.

The Pride regularly finished in the top 10 (top five the last two years), but can never seem to make the final push to a state title.

Ramseyer believes the program has the right mix to give it a serious run this year.

"It comes down to making sure each guy does their job for three days," he said. "The last two years, we have been right there, but there has been that one bad round. If we can clean that up, we can play with anyone." The Pride is led by Michael Anderson and Chris Felix, who tied for seventh at the state tournament last season with a two-day total of 150.

Anderson shot a 32 in the team tryout at Ahwatukee Country Club and Ramseyer said that his senior could make a run at the school's record of 35.3 scoring average set my Cameron Eden.

Also being counted on is newly crowned JGAA player of the year for 15- to 18-year-olds Ben Porter, a solid contributor to last year's squad who missed out on the state tournament after losing in a 36-hole playoff to a teammate for the final spot.

"I think that really motivated him all offseason," the coach said. "He has been playing great." Rounding out the senior class is Justin Hyden, who played in last year's state tournament, with junior Brendan Wiberg and sophomore Austin Fletcher, both of whom played well on the JGAA schedule.

Desert Vista is coming off a second-place finish at state to Chandler Hamilton, which has won five straight state titles.

The Thunder didn't have anyone finish as an all-state players (top 10), but everyone in the top four finished in the top 20 to finish second.

Junior Sean Buchanan, who finished at team best 15th at last year's state tournament, is back along with juniors Cody McManus and Ryan Witte, who tied for 20th. Only Erik Long-Goheen isn't back out of the team's top four, but senior Brad Goodlander, who finished 28th at the state meet, is in the fold.

It gives both squads tournament-tested experience coming back this year, but golf is so fickle it doesn't guarantee anything until the ball hits the bottom of the cup.

"We've had good summers before, but haven't put it together in November (for state meet)," Ramseyer said.

Making things more difficult to win it this season is the new format for the state meet. It changes from six separate tournaments (Class 5A I through Class 4A II in the fall and 3A through 1A/2A in the spring) to a total of three (Division I and II in the fall, Division III in the spring).

Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe are in Division I. Teams and individuals have to qualify through AIA sanctioned tournaments by meeting a score rating to be determined.

"We will see how it all plays out," Ramseyer said.

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