Arbor View plots cerebral path to boys state golf title

The Arbor View boys golf team is in prime position to achieve something the program has never done — win the Division I state title — and the aspiration is more than just talk.

Aggies senior Van Thomas, the defending Division I state champion, leads a loaded roster. Junior Sam Dickey, an All-Southern Nevada player, and junior Ethan Boozer also help anchor a team that finished third in the Sunset Region tournament last year.

“This is by far the best team we’ve put forward here at Arbor View, talent-wise,” coach David Fish said. “We have to learn how to win. We have come in third in the regional tournament several times. You have to be in the top two to go to state. We know we will once again have to battle Palo Verde and (Bishop) Gorman.”

Fish, in his seventh season at Arbor View, doesn’t focus so much on players’ strengths and weaknesses, largely because each golfer has his own coach. He wants to teach his team how to win.

Fish’s focus is course management, which is important in team golf because the top five finishers count toward the combined score.

“I go out with the players and watch them play and question them,” he said. “‘Why are you using that club? Why are you aiming for that part of the fairway?’ … I want them to think about risk-reward. Is this really worth the risk of going for a big shot when it more than likely will cost me a double bogey because of a bad shot?”

Players are taking the lead on course management. Thomas and Dickey established a group text message in which they send online links to teammates about the mental aspect of golf, how to prepare for tournaments and how to practice.

“What I’m trying to instill in our team is that every shot counts, especially in this region,” Thomas said. “With Gorman and Palo (Verde), we are all equally matched. We cannot throw shots away, even if you are the fifth man and struggling, you still have to grind. Every shot counts for the team score.”

Thomas has prepared for the season by playing in numerous American Junior Golf Association tournaments. He finished third at the Eddie Hogan Cup in Portland, Ore., after shooting 69 the first day. He also led an event in Scottsdale, Ariz., with a first-round 64, but had to withdraw after pulling a back muscle in the second round.

“I’m a pretty unique player. I don’t go to a lot of coaches,” Thomas said. “I don’t have a lot of instruction. I like to sit on the range for a couple of hours a week and find my strengths and weaknesses and work from there.”

Fish compares Thomas’ style of play to that of two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson.

“Both are big, tall lefties who like to hit it long,” Fish said. “He is a risky player. He has a lot of confidence in himself that he can make every shot. It is hard to get him to think a lay-up could be a good shot because he has the confidence and ability to make some shots we all dream of.”

Dickey said he expects the team to compete for a state title. He also hopes to battle Thomas for the individual title.

“I have really high goals and high expectations — both as a team and individual,” Dickey said. “As far as experience and talent level, we have one of the best teams in Nevada.”