When Ironwood Ridge High School’s girls golf team won its second consecutive Division II State Championship, twin sisters Raina and Hannah Ports pulled such a clichéd move—they finished with the exact same score.
“People are always asking which one of us is better, but we really don’t have an answer,” says Raina.
Apparently, it depends on which way the wind is blowing that day or which of them slept better or who got the last slice of pizza. “We often tie,” Hannah starts the sentence that Raina finishes with, “But not on purpose. We’re really competitive.”
And so it has been since they first started playing at age 4. A relative fashioned some clubs to fit their hands and match their stature and, except for a brief experiment with soccer, it has been golf ever since. And thanks to the delightful Arizona weather, they are able to play just about every day, year-round. Hannah chimes in, “I’m sorry, but I can’t play when its 120 degrees.” Fortunately for her and her sister, in the history of Tucson, it has never gotten above 117, so they’re good to go.
Doug Kautz is a coaching whirlwind. When he’s not leading the Nighthawk girls to back-to-back state titles in golf, he’s coaching middle-school girls basketball or boys baseball. He coached football for a long time and is the son of a legendary Hall of Fame track coach. When the pandemic hit, Kautz was afraid that his squad wouldn’t be allowed to defend their 2019 State title.
“It was tricky,” he says. “The Phoenix teams were allowed to start Aug. 17. We didn’t start until nearly a month later. But I had everybody back from a state championship team, so there was that.”
The second championship proved to be tougher than the first. The Nighthawks’ main (and basically only) competition for the title came from Phoenix-area Cactus Shadows, a golf powerhouse that has as many as 20 athletes vying for one of only five spots on a tournament-competition roster.
Cactus Shadows was led by Calynne Rosholt, a transfer from Texas who will be playing for Arizona State next year. In her two rounds, Rosholt shot 69(!) – 72 for a stunning total of 141. Of the over 150 rounds played by the athletes during the two days, those were the two lowest recorded scores. Ironwood Ridge responded by grabbing the next three individual spots in the standings, as the twins and teammate Zoe Newell all finished with the same score. Eight of the top 12 scores were put up by athletes from Ironwood Ridge and Cactus Shadows.
The Ports twins both had two-day totals of 149, but Hannah shot 74-75, while Raina shot 73-76. Four rounds, four different scores. As Mr. Miyagi said when looking at a photo of Daniel LaRusso and his girlfriend, Ali, “Different…but same.”
In state tournament play in Arizona, five athletes from each school compete with the four best scores making up the final team total. After the first day, Ironwood Ridge held a relatively comfortable (low-score) lead of 298-309. But after six holes on the second day, Cactus Shadows had narrowed the margin to two strokes.
“It was a really nervous time,” recalls Kautz. “Cactus Shadows had all the momentum, but our girls just steadied themselves and toughed it out.”
After that sixth hole, the twins had different reactions (or lack thereof) to the challenge. Raina is constantly checking the leaderboard, while Hannah never looks at the scores. They both played brilliantly down the stretch. Ironwood Ridge would hang on for a nail-biting 603-605 state championship. Just to show the excellence of the top two programs, Catalina Foothills finished third in the state with a score of 680. Salpointe finished eighth at 701.
Now the scary part: Kautz will have his entire squad back next year, yet again. The pressure to repeat will be enormous, but will be eased a bit because the top two players at Cactus Shadows will be graduating in May.
Both Hannah and Raina (currently juniors) want to play golf in college, preferably somewhere Back East. They both like Ohio State but their options are open. In the meantime, they have a year-and-a-half of high school left. Both are good students but, sadly, neither claims to have a deep and meaningful relationship with math. Nor, on the plus side, with boys. (Not enough time in the day.)
Because of the pandemic, the interview was conducted over the phone. As an ice-breaker, I asked Hannah when the last time was that she uttered the phrase, “I’m gonna tell Mom!”
Quickly she answered, “Last week. Raina left the car running.”
“She left it running in the parking lot at school. All day.”
Even for twins as close as these two, that probably is snitch-worthy.