By Dave Wagner
The Clovis High boys golf team is on a mission — beat three-time defending Class 5A state champion La Cueva.
Desert Lakes Golf Course in Alamogordo will be the site of this year’s 36-hole, two-day state meet. The Wildcats’ five players are slated to tee off between 8:30 and 9 a.m. today.
CHS girls are also in state competition. Junior Amanda Drake will be the Lady Wildcats’ first player off the tee today at 11:05 a.m.
Clovis boys have won nine of the 11 events in which they’ve played this spring, finishing second once and third once in tournaments won by La Cueva.
“The last two years they’ve overcome us at state time,” Clovis junior Perry Jackson said of the Bears, who are the favorites going in despite a five-man roster that includes two sophomores and two freshmen.
“This year we’re taking a different approach — we’re not going to worry about La Cueva. We’re just going to play our game, and if we do that I don’t think there’s anybody in the state that can beat us.”
Clovis opened a five-shot lead after the first round in last year’s event, but settled for third place on a tiebreaker after La Cueva came on strong the second day.
“They know they can (beat La Cueva),” CHS boys coach George Simmons said. “It’s just a matter of it happening.
“We’re going to have to play solid golf. Four of the five guys have been to the state tournament before, so they know what to expect.”
Sophomores Travis Reid and Guillermo Chavez have led the Cats in most tournaments, but Jackson has come on strong this season and Simmons thinks he could also make a run at individual honors. Senior Charles Gonzales and freshman Jordan Moore round out the squad.
“Charles and Jordan are real solid players,” Jackson said. “They haven’t played with us hat much this year, but this is the team we wanted to bring out here.”
The Cats had a good practice round on Saturday and hit the ball well on the driving range on Sunday, Jackson said.
“We’re feeling real comfortable right now,” he said. “Everybody’s hitting the ball real well. We just want to take care of business and have fun.”
The girls are hoping to finish as high as third in a seven-team field, but know they’d have to play well to do it.
“It’s a tough field,” CHS girls coach Jeff Fontanilla said. “Alamogordo, Hobbs and Carlsbad are definitely the top three teams in the state, so that’ll be a tough group to crack. We’ll have to play mistake-free golf.”
Senior Mae Mercadante broke through with an 80 on Monday to tie for the district championship with Hobbs’ Heather Goodwin and Sara Wallach.
“I just hit a lot of good shots,” said Mercadante, whose previous best round this season had been an 86. “I just tried to play the best I could and not think about it.
“Heather and Sara are really good golfers. I just played really well that day and I hope I can do it again.”
As they did in the earlier tournament at Desert Lakes, the girls will be teeing off from the front of the men’s tees, Fontanilla said, which could make for higher-than-usual scores. But he’s hoping the Lady Cats can get four people under 100, something they haven’t done yet.
Mercadante and Drake will be joined by seniors Haley Brown and Christina Gallegos and junior Susan Shelley.
“I think Mae will do well,” Fontanilla said. “Her confidence is extremely high coming off the district tournament. I think all the girls will do well if they don’t put excessive pressure on themselves.”
Mercadante said everyone seems to be hitting the ball well.
“I think we’re more confident than we’ve been,” she said. “If we hit the ball that well in the tournament, I think we can get at least third place.”