On paper, Carson High School will be the team to beat when the Northern 4A zone boys golf tournament tees off Tuesday morning in Elko.
But while the Senators come in as the No. 1 seed from the regular season, coach Paul Croghan is quick to point out that the tournament isn't played on paper - and to express his belief the eight-team tournament at Ruby View Golf Course will be closely contested.
"It would be nice to win it. I just hope we're one of the four teams going to state," Croghan said, referring to the four teams from zone that will advance to the NIAA/U.S. Bank 4A State Tournament May 15-16 in Las Vegas.
"Usually, the third and fourth teams are 30, 40 strokes behind the leaders, but that's not going to be the case now."
Just look at the final points from six conference regular season matches. Carson led the Nevada Cup point standings with 67.5 points, just ahead of Galena (66) and Reno (65). Elko was fourth with 59 points, followed by Lowry with 56, McQueen (51.5), Reed (47) and South Tahoe (32). Galena is the two-time defending zone champion, and Carson won three straight titles between 1995 and '97.
"I think six teams are going to be right there; it may even come down to sixth-man tie-breakers," Croghan said. "That could work in our favor, too, because we usually have 8 to 10 strokes separating our six guys."
Carson's balance is reflected in the Nevada Cup individual standings, led by its two seniors: John Chirila and Toby Steele. Chirila, second in the individual points, shot an 76.8 average for the regular season 18-hole matches. Steele carried a 78.8 average, Nick Zappin an 81.2 (five matches), Justin Bryant 84.2 (four matches), Josh Bratzler 85.1 and Nick Carlson 86.8. Zappin came up big as a freshman at last year's zone tournament, when he shot 78 to finish fourth at Dayton Valley.
Galena sophomore Bryson Young led the pack and shot a 73.5 average. Two-time state champion Travis Whisman played in five of the six matches and finished No. 4 in the standings.
Further evidence of the Senators' balance was seen in the first round of the Dick Stoddard Memorial/Carson Invitational, when eight players broke 80 on the Eagle Valley East Course. Among those was Aaron Satterwhite, who shot 76 that day, and was also Carson's leading scorer with an 84 at the high-powered California Invitational this past Saturday at Plumas Pines.
What will the key be on Tuesday? Not surprisingly, Croghan feels the short game will be decisive.
"I think it's going to be a matter of who putts and chips well," Croghan said. "My experience is that if you don't hit the greens, you'd better be able to chip, and if you do hit the greens, you'd better be able to putt."
"The greens at Ruby View are pretty quick and there's a lot of undulation that will create some deceptive breaks.
Tuesday's first tee time will be 9 a.m.