Rich Hamilton needs to work on his breathing techniques.
Watching his Red Mountain boys golf team try and hang on for another state championship was tough on the coach.
“I don’t think I took a breath for an hour,” Hamilton said
You’d think this would be a breeze for Hamilton considering the success he’s had in the golf program, and in winning state championships as the Lions’ girls softball coach.
But you would be wrong.
Saturday was stressful, and, eventually, sweet for the Lions at Aguila Golf Course, as they watched their first-round lead dwindle to one shot at one point.
In the end, the Lions hung on to win the state title, the school’s ninth. They won by three shots over rival-Mountain View, last year’s champions.
Hamilton took third place, five shots back.
Red Mountain was in position to win this title because of Friday’s first round. The Lions were at even-par 288 after day one. They shot 298 Saturday to finish the 36-hole tournament at 10-over-par 586.
“We struggled at the beginning of the year and didn’t play as well as we’re capable,” Hamilton said. “We continually got better and better.”
The Lions peaked on Friday when Hamilton said they had their best day of the year.
The Toros cut the lead to one shot on the back nine Saturday, but could not take the lead. Red Mountain got solid tournaments out of JT Rodenkirch with rounds of 69 and 72. He finished tied for second in the individual portion of the tournament. Jake Guess was at 149 for the tournament, as was teammate Brady Dominguez.
Desert Vista’s remarkable string of runner-up finishes came to an end when the Thunder finished fifth. Desert Vista had finished second four-straight years going into the finals and is still looking for its first state title.
Mountain Pointe got a state title of its own as well on Saturday as Ben Harden won the individual title with rounds of 71 and 67. Three shots back was Rodenkirch and Scottsdale Chaparral’s Jake DeForest. Tied for fourth was Desert Ridge’s TJ Kathineberg and Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor’s Eric Ghim at 142.
For Harden it was the end of a journey that started when he was a freshman. Each year he has improved dramatically. As a sophomore he finished a very pedestrian 76th in the state championships. Last year he improved to a tie for 38th. Now he’s a champion.
Harden had five birdies and no bogeys on the day playing steady golf. He final round 67 equaled the best round of the tournament.
“I don’t want to say I’m shocked, but I’m better, right now, than I thought I was going to be,” Harden said. “I’ve just gotten better and better since my freshman year and this year I’ve kind of peaked and played really good.”