By Kevin Wilson
Pat Crowley used to be the head golf coach for Portales, and now he works for the school as a substitute teacher. Next week, he’ll be a little of both.
Crowley, the current junior varsity coach, is substituting for head coach Greg Poynor when the Portales High teams start the season at the Leroy Gooch Invitational, a two-day tournament in Ruidoso.
The team he is substitute-coaching is shaping up to be a good one, one that expects to compete for one of the top three spots in Class 1A-3A this season.
“We’ve got a very good team this year,” said senior Kevin Welch. “We’ve got to prove to people that we are a team that can compete and we’re not just a fluke.”
The team played in a practice round at Hobbs two weeks ago. Welch, the medalist for the last two years at PHS, was middle of the pack but the team score still would have given the Rams a qualifying leg by 13 strokes.
The qualifying score varies from course to course, as it is rooted in a course’s rating. Teams can reach the state tournament by winning their district, or by hitting the qualifying score three times.
The team that will do that isn’t for certain just yet. Crowley said there are six considerations — Kevin Welch, Dale Welch, Chris Adkins, Matt Parkey, Trevor Ferguson and Chris Carter — for the varsity lineup at Ruidoso (top four scores among the five will count as the team score).
The boys qualified for last year’s state tournament by hitting qualifying scores on their last three tournaments, a situation they’d like to avoid this year.
“Team goals are solid, smart play throughout the year,” Crowley said. “We want to qualify as many legs as we can and peak at the end. We’ve got to peak at the end.”
The girls team is taking a similar stance. After qualifying for state midway through the season and winning district easily, the girls team stumbled to a fifth-place finish at the state tournament in Socorro.
Girls coach Brenda Gomez is optimistic that the team’s poor finish in 2003 will be balanced out by a strong finish in 2004.
“The majority of the team is seniors and they’d like to end it on a strong note,” Gomez said. “(Junior) Michelle Miller has been a part of it long enough and she’ll want to finish well. It’s all going to be about finishing.”
Three seniors isn’t a veteran team by the standards of most sports, but it is in golf. Three-time team medalist Cassidy Merrick will lead the squad, along with fellow seniors Roni Gomez and Oma Creighton.
“Nobody’s going to expect us to come (to the state tournament) and play well,” Creighton said. “We’ll show them. We practiced a lot this summer, and I think it’s going to pay off.”
For the most part, the teams have been practicing even when their coaches were still involved basketball. Crowley ran the teams in the early stretch while Gomez and Poynor were on the bench for the girls basketball team’s state title run.
Kevin Welch, who has been the team’s medalist for the last two years, is hoping the boys team can give Poynor a similar experience on the course. He expects the Rams to finish with a trophy.
“I think that will be determined by how strong our mental game is,” Welch said. “If we play bad the first day (at state), we’ve got to make sure not to count ourselves out and play like we know how to.
“I’ll be disappointed if we’re third, to tell you the truth.”