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Reigning state champion Shamrocks look to show they are once again the best team in the state
When Yuma Catholic golf coach Bob Anderson says this will be 10 years in a row in the top four at the state tournament, he doesn't qualify the statement with any ifs.
He is unequivocal in his belief that his Shamrocks are, again, the best team in the state.
And with three returners back from last year's state championship team — including two of the top three individual finishers — his confidence is seemingly justified.
“We got our three big guns back,” Anderson said. “Yuma Catholic golf is as strong as it's ever been. Our goal, always to win the state championship. But it's different this year. It's to defend the state championship. But there's 12 guys here who would play on the varsity anywhere else in the county. And they're going to battle for those last two spots.”
Back from last year are Grady Bourguignon, who took second in the state behind the now-graduated Kyle Jones, Joey Pickels, who was third, and Max Coffeen, who finished in a tie for 15th. Two part-time varsity players from last year, Kody Boyd and Zach Estes, are expected to round out the top five.
While Anderson is brimming with confidence, Bourguignon is more grounded — at least a little, anyway.
“Right now we're just taking it one match at a time,” Bourguignon said. “We still have to qualify before we make state, but we should handle it pretty well once we get there.”
The sophomore said he's more interested in how the team does than whether he can take his first prep state title after falling two shots short last year.
“I'm just going to go up and play the best I can,” Bourguignon said. “Whatever happens, it'll be fine. Hopefully we'll get a team title, and if I win an individual one, I won't be sad about it.”
Boyd played the second round of the sate tournament last year, shooting a 90. Pickels shot a 74-70—144 with Bourguignon shooting a 68-72—140, one shot behind Jones each day.
“We're pretty heavily favored to win and anything less would be a little bit of a disappointments to us,” Pickels said. “We really don't have anything to prove, we just need to stay focused on what we need to do. We have three of arguably the best players in our division, let alone the state. We have to keep doing what we do best and ground out a good season.”
Anderson said pushing Boyd and Estes are senior Matt Soares and a pair of freshmen. Anderson added that the girls may crack the top-six before the season is over for the first time since 2006. Loretta Peffers is one of six girls out for the team this year, which hasn't had a girl regularly golf on the varsity team since Natalie Hoppstetter did it in 2007 — the same year she was Miss Yuma County.
The Shamrocks' cross county rival Antelope doesn't have YC's depth, and in fact has only three players back from last year. Tyler Johnson and Skyler Salcedo will take the team's top two spots, and Nicholas Melcher will slide into the No. 3 spot once he's back later in the year, said Antelope coach Allen Hill. Fatima Alvarez, Richard Rodriguez and Ben Cota will round out Antelope's top five Monday at Desert Hills, when the Rams face Parker and YC to start the year.
“It's kind of a growing year. We only got three counting Nichols back with any time at all last year,” Hill said. “We have a couple freshmen that are still learning. It's just going to be about trying to get people qualified for state.”
But for the Shamrocks, Anderson said he is reminded of a quote by Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lomardi that stated that it takes talent to wins titles but character to defend them.
“This year we check out the character,” Anderson said. “I think these guys will stand up and do the job. We have more kids that are waiting behind for a turn.”