A rough morning turned bright come afternoon Saturday for Thunderbird's boys golf team.
After reporting an incorrect scorecard to tournament officials prior to Saturday's second round, the defending champions found themselves five strokes back of Notre Dame Prep instead of tied for the lead.
Rather than brood, Thunderbird came together and outshot Notre Dame by 10 shots in the final round to win a second consecutive team title at Aguila Golf Course in Laveen.
Thunderbird shot 2-over 290 as a team to finish at 586. Notre Dame, resting at 291 after Friday, skied to 300 on Saturday giving Thunderbird a 5-shot victory.
The individual crown went to one of last year's trio of runners-up — Notre Dame Prep senior Austin Stadeli. Stadeli had to battle hard for a 1-over 73 on Saturday, but managed to edge Apache Junction sophomore Gage Grimes by one shot. Stadeli, the first-round leader, finished at 2-under 142. Grimes shot even par 70 in the final round and finished at 143. A five-birdie front nine had Grimes in position to win, but Grimes bogeyed five holes on the back nine. Stadeli was four shots back at the turn, but prevaied when Grimes' birdie attempt on 18 fell a couple inches short of forcing a playoff.
Thunderbird can be proud of its team title and as much or more in the way it accomplished it. Thunderbird sophomore Jake Chanen looked at the leaderboard prior to Saturday's final round and saw a 73 after his name. He knew he shot 74. He reported the discrepancy to tournament officials. Going back over the card, he found a 4 recorded on No. 9 on Friday should have been a 5.
Since Chanen had signed his scorecard that meant he was disqualified for the round. Thunderbird had to sub its fifth player's score — Samantha Sandland's 78 — putting the Chiefs five shots back of Notre Dame.
“Jake was beating himself up pretty good about it,” Thunderbird coach Eric Gurule said. “Everyone went over to him, patted him on the back and said don't worry. We've got this.”
Chanen picked himself up shooting even par 72. Senior John Souza shot 73, senior Logan Gardner 75 and junior Dan Strazinski 75. The key score was the lone under-par round of the day — 2-under by Sandland.
“That was the best round she's shot all year,” Gurule said. “If she shoots what she normally does –77 or 78 — I don't think we win.”
Sandland, a sophomore, played from the front tees as any girl in the state tourney would. She was able to compete on the boys team since Thunderbird has no girls golf team.
Winning the individual competition was not easy for Stadeli.
“I was all over the place on the front nine,” Stadeli said.
He shanked a second shot on No. 7, but managed to get up and down for a par. On No. 8 he duck-hooked a tee shot, but sank a 30-foot putt for par. At No. 9 it was more of the same, but got up and down for par.
Stadeli, headed to the University of Arizona next year, said he went to more 3-woods off the tee on the back nine. He went on to birdie two holes (15 and 16) on the back nine and shot even par on the back.
“My putting saved me,” Stadeli said.
The top 10 finishers (including ties) earned all-state honors. Besides Stadeli and Grimes the others are: Canyon del Oro's Chris Meyers (third), Souza (fourth), Sabino's Joel Berkson, Gardner and Notre Dame's J.J. Gresco (tie sixth), Sabino's Matt Spahr (eighth), Sandland (ninth) and CDO's Frankie Wu, Notre Dame's Jack Savage, Higley's Colton Prentice and Seton's Austin Nelson (tie 10th).