SHS boys golf team on verge of qualifying for state meet
The Socorro High School boys’ golf team had a successful week as they captured two of three necessary qualifying legs to become eligible for the state championship tournament.
The Warriors shot a team score of 329 at the Santa Ana Golf Course on Monday, taking first place in the process. They earned their second leg on Thursday when they carded a 331 at Sierra Del Rio Golf Course in Elephant Butte.
“They’re really getting mentally stronger as the season progresses,” said head coach Russ Moore. “I love the opportunity to see these boys get better and better each week, both individually and as a team.”
Monday’s tournament in Bernalillo brought rain, sleet and snow at times, but none of these obstacles dissuaded the boys. The team qualified in extremely tough weather conditions, braving temperatures in the 40s, with north winds gusting up to 30 miles per hour.
Junior Willie Schaffer shot a team-best 78 at Santa Ana, and eighth grader Sean Moore racked up the individual target score of 80, meaning both boys earned individual qualifying legs as well.
Eighth grader Rick Silva also had a great round, carding an 81 while junior Manuel Anaya rounded out the team with a 90.
Though his score didn’t factor in, senior Robert Smith came out strong, playing his first tournament this year, and shot a 94.
The team’s first-place finish was a significant victory for the class 3A school, as they beat 3A, 4A and 5A schools.
In typical New Mexico spring tradition, Thursday brought completely different weather conditions. The Socorro boys took 11 players to Elephant Butte, and the varsity again stepped up to the plate and hit a home run.
Their team score not only brought about their second qualifying leg, but reinforced the team’s unique personality of having older experience perfectly mixed with unfazed youth and determination.
Schaffer again led the way with a 78, while Moore and Silva scored 81 and 82, respectively. Levi Romero, another eighth grader, was fourth on the team, recording a respectable 90.
Anaya was the varsity’s fifth man, but his score did not factor into the team result. The team finished fourth overall, but was best among the 3A schools.
Schaffer picked up his third and final individual leg for the state tournament, guaranteeing his ticket to the big dance in May.
Schaffer was the only golfer to represent Socorro at last year’s state tournament. He doesn’t think that will be the case this year, as he has the utmost confidence in his young teammates.
“It’s nice to get it (individual qualification) out of the way, but it’s much more satisfying to rack up the team legs. From my experience, I would always rather play with my team at the state tournament,” said the grizzled veteran. “The team is just meshing so well. We’re really enjoying ourselves, and the good feeling and atmosphere are contagious.”
Coach Moore is understandably impressed with the eighth-grade contingent on this team, and he feels like the constant pressure of performing in daily practices has a lot to do with the young guys’ success.
“The internal competition makes them so much tougher,” he said. “We have 20 boys coming out to practice every day, and that’s a real luxury. Those fourth through sixth spots on the varsity are always tight.”
That was evident on Thursday as the junior varsity players showed their mettle.
Eighth-grader Dennis Woods shot a 94, freshman Jeremy Gallegos had a 97, Smith carded a 99, freshman Tyler Crespin netted a 102, eighth-grader Isaiah Anaya shot a 104 and sophomore Alq Fuierer finished with a 109.
The top four junior varsity players’ total beat almost every other varsity team at the Butte.
The Warriors travel to Ruidoso on Monday and Tuesday, where they will be playing at Alto Lakes and the Links at Sierra Blanca.
Schaffer is the defending 3A champion at that tournament, but winning it again is not something that he takes for granted at all.
“The young guys are really stepping up. They push me to excel, and hopefully I do the same for them,” Schaffer said.
Based on the fact that all but two of the 20 boys plan on returning to the team next season, and with sophomore sensation Will Benson getting ready to jump back into action after recovering from a broken thumb, Coach Moore might have summed it up perfectly.
“This is just the beginning,” he said.