Clovis High School golf bags litter the putting green as players practice Friday at Municipal Golf Course in preparation for Monday’s season-opening Tasker Invitational at Hobbs. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)
With Travis Reid and Guillermo Chavez around, Clovis High boys golf coach George Simmons always knew the Wildcats had a shot at winning a Class 5A state championship.
That didn’t happen in the five years those two played for Clovis, although they certainly came close — the Wildcats have finished third at state four times, including last season, and fourth once since 2001.
Simmons, in his fifth year coaching the boys program, knows this will be a transition year.
“It’s a different team,” he said. “With our three-team district (including Carlsbad and Hobbs), I think we have a very good chance of winning our district. Our main goal this year is to qualify for state.”
Clovis’ boys and girls open the season on Monday in the Tasker Invitational at Hobbs.
Reid and Chavez have moved on to college golf at the University of New Mexico, leaving senior Jordan Moore as the Cats’ most experienced player. He has played varsity golf since eighth grade, although he skipped his sophomore campaign to play baseball.
“He’s definitely the team leader,” Simmons said. “I’m trying to have him take some of these other guys under his wing.”
Moore is ready to carry a bigger load.
“I’m just going in like I do any other season,” he said. “This year has actually been easier because I didn’t play basketball, so I’m at a totally different level than I was last year at this time.
“I’m going to have to try to play good every time out this year. But I did that last year, and I think I’ll be able to do it again.”
In a sense, he said he’s more optimistic now as the lead golfer.
“This year I can go into these tournaments thinking I can win them,” Moore said. “In the past, I always had to beat out Guillermo or Travis.”
The Cats also lost Blake Berry and Ryan Hahn to graduation. The only other player with significant varsity experience is freshman Tyler Fontenot.
Juniors Ben Blair, with one varsity tournament under his belt, and Brad Propps will move up from the junior varsity. Simmons said Yucca eighth-grader Kyler Hill has the inside track on the No. 5 spot over four seniors — Tim Vernon, Micah Lansford, James Gant and Kiko Velaz.
The Cats won’t be making any trips to Albuquerque during the season, Simmons noted.
“What I’m looking forward to is qualifying for state,” he said. “Just making it is a goal for us.”
The girls return four players with significant experience in seniors Whitney Jones and Brianne Bracken and juniors Amanda Estes and Tiffany Reid.
Coach Jeff Fontanilla said the Lady Wildcats have a dramatic split by age — three seniors, three juniors and six freshman and eighth-graders.
“We’re older and more experienced now,” Fontanilla said. “I’m not as stressed about getting state legs this year; hopefully, they’ll be easier to accumulate.”
Unlike the boys, they are trying to make inroads on Carlsbad and Hobbs, two of the more dominant girls programs in the state. Carlsbad won the 5A state title last spring, while Hobbs was third.
“We’re not in a position to win the district this year (because Carlsbad and Hobbs are) just that good,” Fontanilla said. “But with the two seniors and two juniors, I think we’ll be a little more competitive.”