Palo Verde’s chances of repeating as the Sunset Region boys golf champion — let alone winning a second straight Class 4A state title — looked murky early this season.
But after being edged by rival Centennial in their first two Northwest League matches, the Panthers intensified their practices and newcomers to the lineup began to develop.
That formula led Palo Verde to a Sunset tournament victory and high expectations entering the 36-hole state tournament starting today at Red Hawk Lakes Course in Sparks.
“I think we just started practicing a lot more,” junior Kyle Melchiorre said. “Some of us weren’t going every day. When we started going every day, we saw how much potential we had.
“Every single one of our players can shoot low 70s, so I have confidence in all of them.”
The Panthers are gunning for their third state title and to become the first repeat 4A champion since Bishop Gorman in 2002 and 2003.
Palo Verde coach Jeff Wolfram pointed to record-setting Sunrise champion Coronado, Sunset runner-up Centennial, Northern Region winner Bishop Manogue and host Spanish Springs as likely favorites.
But Wolfram concedes that his team belongs in that mix, as long as it puts together a solid first round.
“We’re going up there with the idea that we’re all business to try to play the best we can,” he said.
Wolfram said no player has been more pivotal to Palo Verde’s resurgence than Melchiorre, who finished third in the Sunset tournament. He placed 19th at state last year at TPC Las Vegas.
“Kyle Melchiorre has really stepped up,” Wolfram said. “The kids look up to him for a lot of leadership.”
Melchiorre’s confidence is high after he shot a 1-under-par 71 last week in a practice round at Red Hawk.
“It’s a course that our team can tear apart,” he said.
The Panthers also are counting on Nick Roman, Thanapon Iamsaard, Josh Lo Manto and Errek McClellan.
Coronado is led by freshman and Sunrise winner A.J. McInerney and sophomore Tad Darland, the defending state champion. Sunrise runner-up Green Valley is aiming for its first state title since 2005.
Ten area players from nonqualifying teams also will compete, led by Arbor View freshman Zane Thomas, who won the Sunset tournament. Other qualifiers from the Sunset are Bonanza’s Yongsoo Shin, Gorman’s Connor Morris, Pahrump Valley’s Shane Lindemann and Durango’s Aaron Page.
From the Sunrise are: Las Vegas’ Ray Gillip and D.J. Padron, Silverado’s Josh Fisher, Chaparral’s Rick Carrillo and Foothill’s Bailey Rogers.