The Ironwood Ridge girls golf team made history on its home course late last month when they captured their first state title in convincing fashion. The Nighthawks, led by Hannah Ports and her twin sister, Raina, as well as Zoe Newell, lapped the field during the two-day tournament held at Omni Tucson National on Oct. 28 and 29.
The team, coached by Doug Kautz, finished with a five-stroke advantage over runner-up Cactus Shadows. The Nighthawks finished with a score of 592 in the 36-hole event.
Hannah was the team’s low finisher. The freshman finished fourth in the 80-player field with a two-day score of 140.
Newell was the team’s next-best finisher, coming in fifth with a score of 140. Raina finished eighth overall with a score of 150 in the tournament.
The team’s convincing win was the result of on-course comradery and their familiarity with the facility.
“Just to be at Omni and be able to practice on Sonoran course and to represent Tucson and just win a state championship, it’s all great,” Hannah said.
The team’s success is no surprise to Kautz, who is in his fifth year as the team’s coach. Kautz expected big things out of the team’s trio of budding stars because of their bond and ability to thrive under pressure.
Kautz cited last year’s team, which finished second-overall in the Division II tournament, as a measuring stick for this year’s squad.
Newell said the team knew they were in good shape during the second day of the tournament when team’s third, fourth and fifth-ranked players birdied their first holes of the day.
That cushion allowed the Nighthawks to build separation over Cactus Shadows and Catalina Foothills, who finished second and third overall, respectively.
“It was also nice just to have a good, comfortable lead,” he said.
Kautz cited the team’s yearlong motto, of ‘WAR,’ standing for ‘we are ready,’ as proof of their healthy mixture of confidence and eagerness to win the school’s first title in the sport.
“It was just about them really preparing and knowing they could do it, which is very good for being such a young team,” he said. “They’re very special.”
Kautz said the key to having a solid team in golf rests on the ability of players to thrive on the course, while getting along with each other off of it.
The Nighthawks’ mixture of both elements is what makes them special, according to Kautz, with their chemistry achieving a piece of history for the Oro Valley high school.
“These girls have been playing since they were young. I’d like to take credit for, for truly coaching them up, but these girls came with great skills,” he said. “But I think for it to happen as a team, the kids have to be able to function as a group, which doesn’t always happen.”