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(Courtesy Photo)

Artesia High School head golf coach Dusty Bean is living the dream.

In his first two years at the helm of the AHS program, the Lady Bulldogs have racked up back-to-back Class 5A state championships while the Bulldogs took the blue in 2017 and finished runners-up the year before.

The squads swept the District 4-AAAAA Tournaments in both seasons, as well, and have been breaking school records right and left.

In their 2018 season opener Tuesday at the NMMI Golf Course in Roswell, a little more history was made, as both the Lady ‘Dogs and Bulldogs wasted no time qualifying their first of three team legs for the state event.

“How could you be upset with anything those kids did Tuesday?” Bean asked today. “I was really proud. We were talking as coaches… I’ve been a golf coach in Artesia for a long time now, I think this is my 13th year, and I don’t remember the boys ever getting a leg at the first tournament of the season.

“I also don’t remember not having any guys shooting in the 90s at the first tournament, and everyone was 88 or below. So the boys did great, the girls did great, and now we’re one step closer to our ultimate goal.”

The Lady Bulldogs took the tournament by a wide margin Tuesday with a team score of 338 – well under the qualifying mark of 402 – ahead of Clovis (368) and Ruidoso (384). Senior Josey Jackson also tied for second individually with her team-leading round of 78.

On her heels was sophomore Taysea Powell with a 79, and rounding out the performance were junior Brehnan Davis (87), senior Christa Bratcher (94) and senior BriLe Ybarra (96). The Lady ‘Dogs’ top four also qualified individual state legs.

The ‘Dogs, meanwhile, came in second as a team with a 317, just short of Class 6A Covis’ 312 and better than Hobbs (325), Portales (339), Dexter (355), Goddard (358), Ruidoso (360), Alamogordo (365) and Roswell (386).

Leading the charge with individual qualifying rounds were seniors Wesley Davis (77) and Parker Sanders (78), and sophomore Canon Carter (79), followed by senior Hector Flores (83) and sophomore Clay Houghtaling (88).

Davis and Sanders are the only returning members of the Bulldogs’ 2017 state championship team, while the Lady Bulldogs lost only one to graduation.

“Canon and Hector have been in the mix for a couple of years now, pushing these guys to get better, and now it’s their turn,” said Bean. “Clay and Kincaid Jackson are also stepping up, so there’s a lot of competition on our boys’ team right now, and I’m very proud of all of them.

“On the girls’ side, we return everybody except Teagan Archer, and Christa Bratcher has stepped up there. We’re excited about having the rest of those girls back.”

Bean says the Artesia golfers are hoping to knock their three team legs out of the way in their first three outings of the season, and they’ll take another step toward that goal Tuesday at Colonial Park in Clovis.

“I haven’t been to that course, so this will be new, but we’ve done a lot of scouting on it and we should be just fine there, hopefully,” Bean said. “If we can get legs there, we could qualify our third legs right here in Artesia, which would be great.

“But again, we don’t want to be playing our best golf now – we want to be playing our best golf in May at the state tournament.”

The Artesia Invitational is set for April 2 at the Artesia Country Club.

As for the program’s goals this season, the primary aims of adding to the trophy case remain the same. In the here and now, Bean says he hopes to simply see his athletes continue to improve both as team members and individuals.

“We keep track of stats – hitting fairways, hitting greens, putting,” said the coach. “We want to hit 50 percent of our fairways and 50 percent of our greens, and to get 1.8 putts per hole or better. If we can do that, we’re in good shape. And we keep all those stats to try to keep it competitive, because golf is a competitive sport, but it’s competitive individually. So if an individual can say, ‘Hey, this is what my goal is and this is what I have to do,’ it keeps them on track.

“Our short-term goal overall is to win district and state. Our long-term goal is that we help mold these kids into good people.”