The disparity in the level of talent among the top two or three divisions in high school football is often not that noticeable, as Division II teams beat Division I teams all the time.
But in golf, it’s a different story.
That talent gap was all too obvious as this year’s state championships were decided in the top two divisions of girls’ golf. Tucson’s Sahuaro High School won its first-ever girls’ team state championship by shooting a 64-over-par 640 on the Aguila Golf Course in Laveen. Xavier Prep from Phoenix won its 14th state title in the last 15 years by traversing the same 36 holes on the same course in a 2-under total of 574.
Both teams had to stage comebacks to win their respective championships – something that no one would have expected from Xavier, which has been dominant all season long. The Gators set the tone for this year back in September when they won the Antigua Golf Invitational by 20 strokes. That elite national tournament featured 42 teams from various states around the country and many of those in the field were defending state champions.
This year’s state championship is Xavier’s 31st over the past 34 years. And the slight lapse the Gators had during the first day of this year’s state finals, when they fell behind Pinnacle High School, proved to be a mirage. Xavier was behind Pinnacle by two strokes after the opening round, but stormed back the next day to shoot a team score of 11-under 277 and won the championship going away by 23 strokes.
But Sahauro and Xavier took different approaches to winning their state titles this year. Xavier’s Hannah O’Sullivan won the Division I individual title by shooting 4-under for the tournament and teammate Madison Kerley finished in a tie for second. Both Kerley and another teammate, Ariana Macioce, shot 69s and were joined by a fourth team member in the scoring column as Katie Dunaway shot 72.
However, Sahuaro won its first girls’ golf title in school history without having a single team member finish in the top five and just two players in the top 15. Even without an all-star line-up, the Cougars outplayed Salpointe Catholic, which was looking for its third straight state title. Sahuaro finished with a 64-under 640, Notre Dame Prep took second with a 649 total, and Salpointe settled for runner-up by shooting 652.
Desiree Hong led the Sahuaro drive to the title by finishing 5-over par for sixth place, as Sahuaro had to come back from nine strokes behind first-day leader Notre Dame to eventually win by nine.
Abbie Cantwell from Cactus Shadows High School was this year’s individual winner in Division II. She shot 73-71 and her even-par total of 144 was just enough to deny Salpointe’s Krystal Quihuis her third consecutive individual state title. Quihuis got off to a slow start, shooting 77 on the first day and finishing with a 145 total.
The good news for the rest of the field in Division II is that Cantwell says she plans to play circuit golf next year, rather than compete on the school team. She feels that will better prepare her for her move to college, where she has committed to play for University of Arizona.
The bad news for the rest of the field in Division I is that O’Sullivan will be playing – and has two more years to compete for Xavier.
The rest of the bad news in the state’s top division is that Xavier will continue to be… well, Xavier.