Matt Liringis likes to be in control.
It partly explains why he bailed on baseball and instead took up golf as a youngen in Colorado (a good decision). It partly explains why there are a couple YouTube videos of his 5-foot-9 frame dunking in the school gym. It’s also why he switched from a traditional putter to a longer, more stable “belly” putter.
Without two of those events in the timeline, someone other than then Desert Vista junior would have been this year’s runaway Division I golf state champion and Tribune Boys Golfer of the Year.
The YouTube videos were done to quiet those who didn’t believe him when he said he could dunk.
The oft-jammed individual leaderboard among the state’s best high school boys golfers was much the same this year, except at the top. Liringis fired a 65 for a four-shot lead after the first day at Aguila Golf Course, then shot a final-round 69 for a six-stroke win.
Meanwhile, the Thunder stuck themselves in second place as a team for a fourth consecutive year while Mountain View caught fire and curtailed a 13-shot deficit as D.V. kids struggled on Nos. 17 and 18. The clubhouse feeling of jubilation and another team disappointment — this time by one shot — was uncomfortable.
“When a team shoots 10-under, that’s hard to beat,” Liringis said. “We were about 9-over par combined for the last four holes. It was crucial to finish it off but we didn’t.”
He also won the 27-hole Dobson Invitational by four shots, and his 18-hole (tournament) average of 70.3 is elite and the lowest in school history.
Both he and coach Paige Peterson credited the work he put in on his short game in making the move from “good” to “great.” Liringis used to practice for hours hitting balls and a few minutes on the putting green. Now — with help from the “belly” putter he quickly grew to like in the past six months — he does the opposite. Citing the likes of Rory McIlroy, Liringis is proud of his slender stature, his athleticism (witness his vertical leap) and body type’s irrelevence in being a successful golfer.
“I wanted to control my own destiny,” he said. “...I like to show that golfers are athletes, not a bunch of overweight guys.”
A solid baseball player as a youth, he eventually gave up the sport because he was frustrated at not having any control in other people’s performances. He took up golf when his father bought his older brother some golf clubs, and his game rapidly evolved once the family moved from Colorado to Phoenix before junior high.
Winning the title was a realistic self-expectation for Liringis, and he wasn’t about to let a first-round 65 be forgotten.
“When you get that low and confident in your game it’s fun out there,” he said.
The Thunder are looking for more fun next year, as five of the school’s top six golfers will return next fall. Meanwhile, he’ll play in junior tournaments and try to qualify for the Farmer’s Insurance and the Waste Management Open in Scottsdale.
The feeling being as long as his short game and mental approach continue to evolve, next year will be about team and individual titles.
“We looked back at all the strokes we had left out there,” he said. “Don’t look up at the finish line until you cross it.”
All-Tribune First Team
Name School Yr. Comment
Brandon Carlson Perry Sr. Chandler district POY and leader of come-from-behind, fourth-place finish for Pumas; Three top-10 tournament finishes, including eighth at state with final-round 67 and a 9-hole average of 35.75.
Austin Fletcher Mountain Pointe Sr. Four-year starter finished career as scratch golfer; Avg. of 35.6 for 9 holes, won Mtn. Ridge Invite and placed in the top five in almost every tournament this season, including Div. I state.
Tyler Kertson Brophy Sr. Finished with a 35 scoring average and 4-under par for state tournament to lead third-place Brophy; Playing at Santa Clara next year
Matt Liringis Desert Vista Jr. Dominant in winning Div. I ind. state championship and Dobson Invitational champion; 70.3 scoring average for state runners-up
Randy Ross Desert Vista Sr. Terrific alongside Liringis; fifth place at state and won Brophy Invite champion and Tempe city champion boasted a 73.5 average for 18 holes
Hayden Webb Mountain View Sr. POY candidate after fall of 36.1 avg., 71.6 for 18 holes for state champs; 15 rounds of par or below on season and 4-time medalist finished third ind. at state
Player of the Year: Matt Liringis, Desert Vista
Coach of the Year: Chuck Powell, Mountain View: Helped a young Toros’ squad (two seniors on the roster) stay relaxed which led to huge Day 2 comeback and first golf state championship in 20 years
All-Tribune Second Team
Name School Yr. Comment
Jake Gerard Mountain View Sr. Tied for fifth at state after season of 37.2/73.4 and nine rounds of par or below
Chad Hardy Mountain View Jr. Avg. 36.5 per 9 holes and 72.4 for 18, including a win at Lost Dutchman Shootout tournament and 65 at the Antigua Invitational; Shot par or better in 13 rounds for Div. I state champs
Prescott Mann Horizon Sr. 36.2 scoring average and took top-10 placement in four tournaments; Tied for 13th at state after second-day 69
Andrew MacMillan Brophy Jr. Shaved four shots off his sophomore year finish with 36.5 average; finished season with a 36.5 scoring average from last year
Cade Montplaisir Dobson Sr. Medalist in four matches and shared Lake Havasu City tourney title with teammate Alex Aulerich; Three-time all-tournament team and first team all-city player was heart of Mustangs’ solid program and terrific academically.
Jino Sohn Hamilton So. A 36.69 average and winner of AZ Fall Preview tournament; Took top 10 in four tournaments and was first team within a loaded all-Chandler district team
Arcadia: Jake Wiley, Sr.; Brophy: Michael Feagles, Fr., Blake Toolan, Sr.; Campo Verde: Michael Lawson, Jr., Addison Aubrey, Sr.; Chandler: Derrick Ghim, Sr.; Chaparral: Jesse Lawrence, Sr., James Russo, Sr.; Coronado: Victor Hanks, Sr.; Desert Mountain: Sam Engel, Sr., Ian Hagener, Sr.; Desert Ridge: TJ Kathrineberg, Jr., Ryan Rahm, Sr.; Dobson: Alex Aulerich, So.; Gilbert: Chance Cochrane, Jr.; Connor Cook, Jr., Zack Stodola, So.; Hamilton: Sol Park, So.; Highland: Tony Bustillo, Sr.; Horizon: Zach Olson, Sr.; Mountain View: Blake Gerber, So., Cooper Wayment, Fr.; Notre Dame: Dru Anderson, So., Austin Stadeli, Jr.; Perry: Jerod Alleman, Sr.; Mike McGilton, Jr.; Pinnacle: Keenan Spillum, Sr.; Red Mountain: Jake Guess, Fr., J.T. Rodenkirch, So.; Saguaro: Matt Hauser, So.; Seton Catholic: Forde Makas, Jr., Austin Nelson, Jr.; Williams Field: Colin Kernaghan, Sr.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.