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Heading into Monday’s Los Alamos Invitational, the Hilltopper boys golf team knew it would be seeing some pretty good competition.
That competition didn’t disappoint.
In Monday’s tournament, held at Los Alamos Golf Course, two of the top small school programs in the state took part and they took the top two team slots in the tournament.
Los Alamos finished Monday’s tournament, its first and only home appearance of the fall season, in third place behind tournament winner St. Michael’s and runner-up Hope Christian.
The St. Michael’s Horsemen top individual shot a ridiculous total of 288 — even par — with both Nos. 3 and 4 players Parker Ashton and Marty Sanchez both finishing 2-under. Ashton won a sudden-death playoff to take medalist honors.
Hope Christian shot a none-too-shabby 326 but were no match for St. Michael’s. St. Michael’s head coach Lee Sanchez, who himself is a four-time champion of the men’s Atomic City Invitational, said he thought the total might have been the best in school history.
Los Alamos, for its part, finished with 349 strokes, eight shots ahead of District 2AAAA rival Española Valley in fourth place.
Monday’s tournament was the second of the fall season for the Hilltoppers — golf is divided into a fall and spring season with roughly half of all regular season events being played each semester. They opened last week at the East Mountain Invitational at Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Course, one of the tougher courses in the state, so playing at home was a nice treat after a challenging opener.
“We did better than last week,” Hilltopper Tim Branch said. “It’s an improvement. We could’ve done better, though. We’re hoping to get four scores under 90. It didn’t happen, but we’re improving.”
Los Alamos was paced by Thomas Herrera Monday. Herrera, who is battling through a pretty severe cold, still finished with an 80 and crack the top 10 individually.
Behind Herrera, who was playing in the No. 3 position Monday, was Hilltopper No. 1 player Henry Stam. Stam finished with an 84, shooting a 41 going out and a 43 coming back.
Branch finished the day with a 90, while Woody Moss had a 95 and Dillon Alexander, playing in the first varsity tournament of his career, shot a 98.
Although Los Alamos didn’t earn a state tournament qualifying leg Monday, it finished right about where it expected to.
“I thought it would be good if we could finish in the top three,” Hilltopper head coach John Stam said. “We managed to finish ahead of our district. That was our first goal. It gives us a good start to build on.”
The Hilltoppers got by both Española Valley and Capital in the team standings. Defending District 2AAAA champion Bernalillo brought three players to the tournament who shot an 85 average.
Herrera, who finished as the district runner-up this past spring, had 40s on both sides Monday. After getting into a little trouble on the seventh hole, he sent his approach to within eight feet of the cup to save par.
Los Alamos still has plenty of work to do, however, with its short game.
“The long game is looking good from tee-to-green,” Stam said. “We still need some work around the green with our chipping and putting and getting up and down.”
1. St. Michael’s, 288; 2. Hope Christian, 326; 3. Los Alamos, 349; 4. Española Valley, 357; 5. Moriarty, 368; 6. Las Vegas Robertson, 372; 7. East Mountain, 379; 8. Raton, 410; 9. Capital, 458.
1. Parker Ashton, St. Michael’s, 70 (won playoff); 2. Marty Sanchez, St. Michael’s, 70; 3. Zach Berhost, St. Michael’s, 74; 4. Miguel Macias, St. Michael’s, 74; 5. Jay Hickey, Hope, 76; 6. Nathan Gruda, St. Michael’s, 77; 8. Thomas Herrera, 80; 9. Alec McMullen, Hope, 82; 9. (tie) Joe Roybal, Española Valley, 82; Henry Stam, 84; Tim Branch, 90; Woody Moss, 95; Dillon Alexander, 98.