The SSHS squad will get that chance this week when its hosts five other teams at RedHawk Golf Club for the 2009 NIAA 4A State Golf Championships. Spanish Springs tied Bishop Manogue with a two-day team total of 802 for the Northern 4A title at last week’s regional tournament, but lost the championship trophy in a tiebreaker.
That bitter taste will be easily forgotten if the Cougars can win their second state crown in three years.
“I think it really boils down to how bad the kids want it,” Spanish Springs coach Victor Sherbondy said. “This whole last week has been a good week of practice. They’re all hungry. It really hurts them when somebody else is standing up there holding that first-place trophy. I hope that’s enough to motivate them and keep them focused for 36 holes.”
Playing on their home course should do nothing but help the Cougars’ cause. Although Spanish Springs has practiced and played on RedHawk’s Lakes Course throughout the spring, it has not stepped foot on the local track in nine days.
NIAA rules stipulate that state qualifying teams and individuals may not play the designated state course during a seven-day blackout period prior to the tournament. That rule is usually waived for host schools so they still have a practice facility, but it was not for Spanish Springs.
That’s because Sherbondy thought it would help his bid to see RedHawk awarded as the state tournament’s host site if his Cougars agreed to live by the blackout rule, as well. It did indeed, and the Cougars have found other practice options over the past week, playing at D’Andrea, Wildcreek and the private RedHawk Hills course instead.
“Because it was kind of a political issue and because we are a contender, I said we’d abide by the blackout,” Sherbondy said. “Ultimately, what I came to find out was the NIAA didn’t have a lot of options. RedHawk was by far its best (hosting) option. We probably could have gotten the RedHawk bid without giving up the blackout period.
“It’s just tough in today’s economy to find a course willing to give two days, let alone two great days of tee times. We’re very grateful to the board at RedHawk.”
Sunrise Region champion Coronado and Sunset Region champion Palo Verde will join Spanish Springs and Bishop Manogue in competing for a state title, as will Sunset and Sunrise runners-up Green Valley and Centennial. Five individuals from each of the state’s three regions, from non-qualifying state teams, will also compete at RedHawk.
Senior Ren Wilson (11:24 a.m. tee time), freshman Jordan Gilmore (11:32 a.m.), senior Robert Perea (11:40 a.m.), senior Gatlin Harris (12:36 p.m.), senior Anthony Pair (12:44 p.m.) and sophomore Dylan Ernst (12:52 p.m.) make up the competing roster for Spanish Springs. The RedHawk Lakes Course is 6,996 yards and players will compete from a hybrid of the course’s blue and black tees.
So how will the Cougars fare over the next two days of play?
“I honestly think that our chances are very good,” Sherbondy said. “I know that we’ve shot good numbers. We’ve played 13 tournament rounds this year and three of those times I believe we’ve shot a number good enough to win state. One of those three was on our home course when we hosted our invitational tournament earlier in the year. We’ve just got to get some momentum.”
While the Cougars’ coach believes his team can win the tournament, he said Coronado may come in as the prohibitive favorite. He said the Henderson school consistently shoots in the 370s as a five-member team. But he also added that’s not a direct correlation to winning.
“I know some of the guys are probably a little intimidated by some southern scores,” Sherbondy said. “But traditionally when you look at state scores, they are usually higher than the season scores. We have to guard against that and realize this is just another tournament. Go out and play.”
Not surprisingly, Spanish Spanish has played its best golf in ideal weather conditions. Wednesday’s weather forecast calls for an afternoon high near 79 degrees with light winds. On Thursday, golfers are looking at a temperature near 59 degrees when tee times start at 8 a.m. and rising to 82 by late afternoon. Light winds are also expected Thursday.