Golf: Los Alamos invite opens fall season

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By Mike Cote

The first of the two-act season starts Monday for the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys and girls golf teams.

The Hilltoppers’ fall season starts at home with the Los Alamos Fall Invitational.

Golf is the only prep sport whose season is split into two parts, the fall season, in which both teams will play five tournaments, and the spring season, in which the District 2AAAA and state tournaments are held.

For the Hilltopper girls this fall, Los Alamos head coach John McBride said he’s going to keep his expectations reasonable.

“I think we’re rebuilding a little,” McBride said. “We’ve only got three coming back from the state playoffs.”

Tiffany Nasise and Miranda Olinger will play for Los Alamos Monday. Another member of the state tournament team, Alicia Herrera, is running cross country this fall but is scheduled to return during the spring season.

Los Alamos lost its best player from 2007-08, Cayla Sanderson, to graduation. Another player from last season may join the team before the end of the fall season but McBride said he’ll go with what he’s got for now.

Morgan Vaughn, who played in some varsity tournaments last season, is penciled in at the No. 3 position for the fall season.

At the state tournament, the Hilltoppers finished fourth in Class AAAA. The championship was won by the Piedra Vista Panthers, who are supposed to have most of their top five back this year.

McBride said he’s not entirely sure what to expect out of Monday’s tournament. Although he said he’d be tickled to see his squad get a qualifying leg for state, he wasn’t sure if that was a realistic goal for the opener.

To earn a leg, Los Alamos’ top four scorers would have to shoot under 393.

“If we get a little lucky and get the whole team to play better, we could get a leg,” McBride said. “If our top players break 90, which their capable of doing, and Morgan breaks 100, which she’s capable of doing...that should be enough to pick it up.”

Teams need three legs over the course of the season to automatically qualify for the state tournament.

Approximately eight girls teams and 20 boys teams are scheduled to compete Monday. A grand total of 119 golfers – the course’s tournament limit is 120 – are expected to turn out.

On the boys side, a full slate of teams, including the defending Class AAAA champion Albuquerque Academy, are scheduled to appear Monday.

Los Alamos will have to find replacements for some key graduates, including No. 1 Curtis Norman and No. 2 Craig Girrens.

With a good crop of players coming up, head coach John Stam isn’t worried about finding a solid top five during the fall.

“We’ve got a very competitive team internally,” Stam said. “We’ve got seven kids in competition for varsity spots. It’s a good mix of seniors, juniors and sophomores.”

Senior Evan Black came on late in the spring, finishing in second at the district tournament to Norman, while sophomore Thomas Herrera played much of last year on the varsity squad and senior Garrett Idler has looked solid in the preseason.

Stam, like McBride, said his team will have to improve its short game to shave off strokes and get in tournament contention.

For the moment, however, Stam isn’t worried about picking up qualifying legs. The important thing, he said, is getting on the course and getting used to playing in tournaments. If his team’s doing that, everything else will take care of itself.

“Score-wise, we’re a little better than we were last year,” he said. “The main thing is to get that experience.”

for the fall season, that’s pretty much our focus.”

Boys team qualifying legs for Class AAAA Monday will be roughly 320 strokes.

In all, the Hilltoppers took fifth as a team in 2007-08.

Course conditions are good for the most part at Los Alamos Golf Course, although McBride said the greens are touchy and could be tough to judge.