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SANTA ANA PUEBLO – It was a must-win situation.
Going into Monday’s District 2AAAA championship golf tournament, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys had yet to qualify for the state Class AAAA championship. A win and only a win in the district tournament would secure the team a slot in the state tournament.
With that hanging over the heads of the Hilltoppers, the pressure was on, but the Hilltoppers came through.
Los Alamos easily outdistanced the other two teams in the boys tournament, Española Valley and Los Alamos. The Hilltoppers shot a 323 on the hairy Santa Ana Golf Course, topping the Sundevils by 27 strokes and the Spartans by 32 strokes.
“I think they learned (Monday) that golf is a team sport,” Hilltopper boys head coach John Stam said. “Our four and five players really came through.”
Los Alamos’ No. 4, Evan Black surprised many people, including himself, by finishing in a dead-heat with No. 1 Curtis Norman after 18 holes Monday. The two squared off in a sudden death playoff in which Black had a chance to sink a short putt for the district’s individual title, but his 4-footer on the second hole of the playoff was off-target left.
Nevertheless, Black was beaming following the playoff, which Norman won on that second playoff hole.
“It was probably the best round of my life,” Black said. “I’ve never shot under a 76. The pars just kept coming. I don’t know how I pulled it off.”
However Black accomplished his 4-over, one big component, he said, was the fact that he hit just one ball into the prickly brush and hard dirt that lined many of the holes on the Tamaya and Cheena nines.
The ball that did go into the desert was his first shot of the tournament. Black posted a double-bogey on the hole, but bounced back quickly, scoring a pair of birdies on the front nine.
With even 38s on both sides of the turn, Black put himself into the playoff.
Even Norman, the hands-down favorite to win the 2AAAA title heading in, couldn’t get into a rhythm on the front nine Monday. He was 5-over at the turn, but righted the ship on the back nine, scoring four birdies, to finish with a 4-over 76 in regulation.
“I really needed to focus,” Norman said. “I started making putts, I got confidence in my game and I turned it around. I hit the ball well all day, but I chipped and putted bad on the front nine. I started getting it together on the back nine.”
Los Alamos swept the top three spots individually in the tournament. Zack Montoya, the team’s No. 5, was at or near par all day. Montoya was 3-over on both the front and back to finish with a 78, the third Hilltopper and one of only three players to break 80 on the tournament.
One of Montoya’s best holes of the day was on the par-4 seventh.
Montoya’s second shot on the hole stuck on the center of the green, leaving him about 30 feet from the flag. His ensuing putt rolled to within a foot of the cup, and he tapped in for par.
Here are the results from Monday’s District 2AAAA championship tournament (players are from Los Alamos unless otherwise indicated):
1. Los Alamos, 323; 2. Española Valley, 350; 3. Bernalillo, 355.
Curtis Norman 41-35—83
Evan Black 38-38—76
Zack Montoya 39-39—78
Joe Roybal, Española Valley 39-42—81
Travis Pecos, Bernalillo 42-41—83
Lyle Tso, Bernalillo 44-43—87
Craig Girrens 46-47—93
Thomas Herrera 44-53—97