DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Few golf teams can match Xavier Prep's Gators

This isn’t a game of putt-putt. This is the real deal, and nobody does it better than Xavier Prep’s Gators.

The school has won 36 big-school golf championships, including eight in a row, and will attempt to write another chapter beginning this weekend when it participates in the Nighthawk Invitational at the two courses at the Omni Tucson National resort, site of the Division I state tournament in recent years and the spot again this fall.

The team’s top player doesn’t need much of an introduction. She is senior Ashley Menne, who won individual state title trophies in her first three years and is looking to make a clean sweep. Menne also has won numerous national tournaments outside the Xavier confines and will join the program at Arizona State in 2020.

“We think we have a very good team,’’ said Sr. Lynn Winsor, co-head coach with Tui Selvaratnam and the school’s athletic director. “We have our top girls returning and they have experience. Everyone is excited and enthusiastic.’’

The Gators have been practicing of late at their Phoenix Country Club home to get ready for the start of the season.

“The girls have been valiant in the oppressive heat, but we have made sure they are hydrated out there with Gatorade, water, ice and cold towels,’’ Winsor said.

Xavier has 13 players on the team compared to 16 a year ago, but that allows the team to be more efficient, according to Winsor.

She added that the program has received great support from the parents. The program also has been the recipient of a grant from the Phoenix Thunderbirds, sponsor of the annual Phoenix Open in Scottsdale. Xavier is not the only school to benefit – other schools receive monetary assistance and all must apply to be recognized. Many Xavier golfers volunteer at the Open.

Xavier will have a good balance between seniors and underclassmen. There are five seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen.

“We want to be able to finish strong, do it again (win title). It’s always fun,’’ said Menne.

She has played in several out-of-state tournaments over the last year and says her putting has improved.

“And I hopefully will be better with my chipping,’’ she added.

Menne will be joined at ASU by current Xavier senior teammate Breyana Matthews, who finished in a tie for third place at state a year ago.

“It will be fun to play together, but we want to win another title here first,’’ Matthews said. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves, though, we need to be patient and take one match at a time.’’

Matthews hopes greater accuracy with her short game will help carry her this season.

Senior Sydney Trout said one of the keys to the Gators’ success is due to the closeness between the players and coaches.

“We have really bonded,’’ she said. “It’s great knowing you have support from each other and a lot of teams don’t have that.’’

Consistency off the tee is a benefit to Trout, but she also has enhanced her overall game with better chipping and putting.

Xiaoyu (Sissi) Wang, a senior who was on last year’s team, enjoys her overall experience at Xavier, including the academic aspect. She is a native of China and transferred to Xavier after playing at a school in Florida.

She would like to go on and play in college, and she hopes she has helped her chances by playing a lot more golf over the last year.

“I am trying to read the greens better and control the speed of my putts,’’ she said.

Senior Danae Bravo believes the Gators will be up to the challenge presented my teams such as Phoenix Pinnacle, Chandler Hamilton and Mesa Red Mountain.

“I think it’s about not letting the pressure (of a winning streak) get to you,’’ Bravo said. “You need to just play and relax.’’

She has played a lot over the summer, focusing on putting, at Valley courses such as Moon Valley and Cave Creek.

Xavier’s first competition in the Valley will come on Monday (Aug. 27) against Chandler Basha and host Phoenix Desert Vista at the Foothills Golf Club in Ahwatukee.


(Listed alphabetically)

Danae Bravo, Sr.; Annie Dawson, Fr.; Mary Beth Doss, Jr.; Lauren Garcia, Jr.; Breyana Matthews, Sr.; Ava Mayberger, So.; Ashley Menne, Sr.; Kate Ryan, So.; Audrey Sanchez, So.; Ivy Song, So.; Sophie Stamatis, Fr.; Sydney Trout, Sr.; Xiaoyu (Sissi) Wang, Sr.

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