KINGMAN - After finishing the season ranked No. 8 in Arizona Interscholastic Association Division III Golf, the Kingman Academy Tigers tee off Friday in the first round of the state championship at Antelope Hills Golf Course in Prescott Valley.
There are more than 200 golfers in D-III and all five Tiger golfers are ranked in the top 100, led by junior Raphael Choi at No. 30. Caleb Boyett (39), Tristen Pitts (44), Matthew Suh (70) and Haley Muswick (95) round the Academy's roster.
Academy shot some terrific scores this season and is capable of pulling off a state championship from the No. 8 slot. It's just a matter of getting at least four of them to turn in outstanding scores both Friday and in Saturday's second round. The top scores count toward the team standings.
"We have the talent," said KAHS golf coach B.J. Maticic. "We've got the three juniors (Choi, Pitts and Suh) who have improved dramatically since the beginning of the season. I'm getting pleased about our consistency."
The Tigers must bring a sense of evenness to the tournament to be successful.
"Consistency will be the main thing," Maticic said. "They have to be consistent in their swings and game plans. It's one of the hardest things to do."
Choi brings a high level of determination to the Tigers, which would be a great thing to have rub off on his teammates.
"Raphael is always trying to improve himself," the coach said. "He wants the info to help him get better, and he's the one I see who really wants to improve."
Choi is the first to admit he hasn't always been consistent.
"I've had good days and bad days," Choi said. "I've gone from 3-under one day to 8-over the next."
The Tigers have earned their spot in the tournament, and Choi is happy for the reward.
"I'm glad we're going as a team," he said. "I feel good about us. Hopefully we play well, get decent scores and have fun."
Pitts brings experience to the team by having played in last year's state tournament as an individual.
He's hoping the rest of the team will be ready for what could be a circus-like atmosphere.
"Mentally, it's a different game at state," Pitts said. "You're just not used to things like tee times down to the minute, having your name called out on a loudspeaker and seeing so many good players."
The junior said playing with really good opponents could get in a golfer's head, which can lead to playing the other players' games rather than playing their own.
Academy begins teeing off at 11:20 a.m. Friday. The Tigers play with No. 7 Payson and No. 9 Show Low in the first round. Friday's scoring determines the schedule of play on Saturday.