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TAOS — About a week before the District 2AAAA championship boys golf tournament, Hilltopper head coach John Stam said, despite the team's growing pains throughout the 2008-09 season, he was happy it would have one more chance to get to state.
But earlier this week, it looked like that chance wouldn't happen.
All sporting activity in the state was suspended earlier this week by the New Mexico Activities Association, the governing body of most interscholastic prep sports, due to the closing of several schools in the southern part of the state.
However, Los Alamos was afforded the chance it sought to get into state when the 2AAAA tournament was allowed to happen. The decision was made Wednesday and the tournament was set for Thursday afternoon.
Unfortunately, the Hilltoppers weren't able to take advantage of their last opportunity to get in. Los Alamos finished second to Bernalillo at the event by 32 shots at the 2AAAA tournament, held at Taos Country Club.
The Bernalillo Spartans, also fighting for their postseason lives, shot a solid 334 as a team Thursday. Los Alamos was second with a 368 and host Taos finished third with a 385.
"I'm glad they let us play," Hilltopper Woody Moss said. "I wish we could've done better, but that's how it goes."
The Spartans place three players in the top five individually Thursday, including district medalist Lyle Tso. Tso shot an outstanding 6-over 78 against some blustery conditions and on a course where balls even a few yards off the fairway could easily get lost in the sagebrush.
Tso just held off Los Alamos' Thomas Herrera, who finished just one shot behind. Herrera got off to a slow start Thursday, taking bogeys on three of his first four holes, but played the remainder of the front just two over. He played a tough stretch of the course,13 through 15, at just one over, then birdied the 18th to put the pressure on Tso, who was playing two groups behind him.
Tso, meanwhile, was 2 over at the turn but shot a 40 on the back, which was just enough to give him the title.
While Los Alamos finished short of its goal — neither the team nor any individuals were able to qualify this season — Stam said he knew coming in that it would be hard for his young team to get in.
"This is where I expected to be at district," he said. "They didn't understand the pressure of a district tournament. It's a little harder than the rest of their tournaments. The only way to get that experience is to play in it."
The Hilltoppers had just one player, Herrera, who had significant varsity experience prior to this season.
Henry Stam at No. 3, finished with an 87. He bounced back from an 8 on the par-5 14th to finish his round with a birdie and a par to close out his day.
Despite a relatively tight fairway and the breeze, Henry Stam said he thought things could've gone better.
"I don't think (the course) was playing that tough," he said. "There were just a few tough shots that didn't go so well, but the course was playing just fine."
Following Stam, Tim Branch had a 99, while Jin Park finished with a 103 and Moss a 104.
Stam said he thought the Hilltoppers would make a better push Thursday than they did.
"It was a little worse than I expected, but not so much worse that it was surprising," the junior said. "Somewhere in the round, I thought (Thursday) wasn't meant to be. I saw that in some of our guys' body language."
Coach Stam is already looking forward to what he thinks could be a big 2009-10.
"Next year, we've got everybody back," he said. "We should have a good season."
Here are the results from Thursday's District 2AAAA tournament. Players are from Los Alamos unless otherwise noted.
1. Bernalillo, 334; 2. Los Alamos, 368; 3. Taos, 385; 4. Española Valley, 390.
1. Lyle Tso, Bernalillo, 78; 2. Thomas Herrera, 79; 3. Scotty Quintana, Bernalillo, 83; 4. Kevin Herrera, Bernalillo, 85; 5. Chris McCallum, Taos, 86; Henry Stam, 87; Tim Branch, 99; Jin Park, 103; Woody Moss, 104.