In recent years, the golf storylines in Ahwatukee have mostly centered on the boys squads.
Whether it was Desert Vista making a run at the state title and coming up just short or individuals like Mountain Pointe’s Ben Harden winning a individual state championship, the boys have grabbed most of the headlines.
There just might be a shift of focus in 2014.
The boys teams, which begin the year at the Ahwatukee Cup on Aug. 25, will be strong, but the girls programs have made enough strides to garner attention of their own.
The Pride girls are strengthened by numbers this year as Pete Manigold begins his second year of his second stint of running the program.
“We should make a lot of improvement throughout the season due to many new players coming out,” Manigold said. “They have the work ethic and enthusiasm to be successful.”
The team will be led by senior Lauren Blumears, who was last year’s No. 1 and is coming off an extensive summer of success, including finishing second in the JGAA Winter Classic in December 2013 with a 81-78-159 played at Maryvale Golf Course.
She will be backed by seniors Micha Liggett and Shannon Feeley, who were the No. 4 and No. 5 players, respectively, on the varsity last season.
The Thunder girls bring back three starters and mix in a quality freshman that could lead to the program’s most competitive season under Matt Russo, who begins his third year at the helm.
“It’s a dedicated group of girls that genuinely enjoy the game,” Russo said. “My team has shown a strong work ethic and a willingness to constantly improve. There is a great team dynamic as well. The team will be built from a solid core of young players, and we expect to steadily improve over the next several months.”
Desert Vista will be led by Megan Fusak, who played in the top two spots last year, and sophomores Arianna Medina, last year’s No. 3, and Chloe Medina, who saw some varsity action last year. Throw in tournament-tested freshman Anya Ross and the Thunder have a quality top four.
“I expect DV to compete at each match with strong individual performances and we should have the foundation to post some quality team scores as well,” Russo added. “The program should be trending upward, showing improvements in scoring at all competing spots.
“We take pride in our Desert Vista players representing their families, our program, our school, and our community with high character. We have a great group of young girls focused to improve.”
The Thunder boys are going to be strong again with two quality returning players and an impressive freshman joining the program.
Desert Vista, which has challenged for the state title the last four years, will be led by junior Jack Snyder, who averaged 36.5 for nine holes and 76.5 for 18 holes while playing in every event, and sophomore Tyler Svendson, who came in 38.5 and 79.5 in limited action.
Freshman Davis Evans is already being recruited after competing in the U.S. Junior Amateur and the Junior World Championships over the summer.
The key to the season will be developing reliable fourth and fifth golfers among several candidates.
“The top players will be critical for the team success and hopefully the development of the other players will help the team succeed,” Thunder coach Paige Peterson said. “We are a very young team without much experience playing together as a team.”
The Pride boys are also top heavy with seniors Alex Stoken, Elisha Cable and junior Ryan Rybicki returning with varsity experience that was only strengthened on the junior circuit this summer.
Mountain Pointe will also be helped out by freshman Zack Ramseyer, who is the son of Pride coach Tony Ramseyer, to give the Pride a solid foursome.
“Team chemistry should be great this year with seniors being strong leaders in and out of the classroom,” Tony Ramseyer said. “It is a rebuilding year for us with some new faces getting an opportunity to shine. The goal is to be competitive enough to make it to the state tournament.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.