Boys golf: Toppers finish fifth at state tourney

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By Mike Cote

ALBUQUERQUE — Going into the second day of the state Class AAAA golf tournament, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys had some ground to make up.

They did improve on day two of the tournament, but not enough to make a move into the top four Tuesday.

The Hilltopper boys golf team finished fifth at the AAAA tournament, which concluded Tuesday at the University of New Mexico Championship Golf Course. The Hilltoppers finished with a total of 687 shots.

The team’s score of 339 in Tuesday’s second round was a 9-stroke improvement, but not enough to jump up in the team standings.

Albuquerque Academy, as expected, blew away the rest of the field at the tournament, even with a score that was 14 shots above its Monday finish.

Academy fired a 606 for the two days, not even breaking a sweat in the team competition. Its next-closest competitor, Farmington, was more than 40 shots off the pace.

Individually, Los Alamos’ Curtis Norman finished fifth overall. Norman, who was tied for sixth going into Tuesday’s round at the 7,324-yard, par 72 course which featured plenty of rolling and not-so-rolling hills and very fast greens, shot a 6-over 78, a stroke off his finish Monday, but tied for the fifth-lowest round of the day.

Norman was 1-over on the front nine and played, smart, solid golf throughout the tournament.

He had a chance to get to even par on the 10th, just going wide on a 60-footer, missing by less than six inches.

“Curtis had a great tournament,” Hilltopper boys head coach John Stam said. “There was one hole where he got a couple of tough breaks, and he couldn’t get a lot of putts to drop. But he hit the ball well enough the whole way to win.”

It would’ve been tough for the Hilltoppers to make a serious run into the top three because of the disappointing opening day, although some of the Hilltoppers had marked improvements Tuesday.

Among the top performers for Los Alamos on day two was Craig Girrens.

Girrens struggled Monday, but bounced back to turn in a solid round Tuesday, finishing with an 83, a 13-stroke improvement.

“(Monday) I was in a lot of trouble,” Girrens said. “It’s good to know I got back and didn’t do too badly.”

Girrens, who has played No. 2 for Los Alamos behind Norman most of the season, had a 5-over at the turn and turned in a 6-over on the back Tuesday.

Zack Montoya also came in lower in the second round, improving his day one score by four shots.

Chandler Smith-Stetson of Los Alamos shot 1-over pars on both days to win the AAAA individual state title, topping Artesia’s Brian Price by five strokes.

Academy’s Chargers put three individuals in the top four to roll to the title.

Despite finishing well behind of the Chargers, who were the hands-down favorites to win the tournament heading in, it was still a solid finish to the season for the Hilltoppers.

Going into last week’s District 2AAAA tournament, Los Alamos still hadn’t qualified for the state tournament, but thanks to huge performances from Norman, Montoya and Evan Black, who all shot sub-80 rounds, Los Alamos easily won the district title and earned the automatic bid for the state tournament.

“For a first-year coach, I’m proud to be associated with these young men,” Stam said. “They made me proud the whole time. Maybe the scores weren’t always what we’d like, but they always behaved like gentlemen.”