PCHS boys’ golf: In a solo sport, golfers thrive as one
If you’re looking for any rhyme or reason as to how they continue to do it year in and year out, all you have to do is take a look at Mitch Schow. As a freshman on this year’s Park City High School boys’ golf team — the same team that has won four straight 3A state championships and is the obvious favorite to win No. 5 — Schow shrugged his shoulders and said he enjoys being the hunted.
"There’s not really that much pressure," he said. "I’ve played in tournaments my whole life, so I’m used to the pressure. I actually kind of like it."
In his first year with the Miners, Schow finished second in Region 10 play behind teammate and defending 3A state champion Justin Shluker. And as the Miners prepare to defend their impressive streak of hoisting state title trophies, they realize that in order to win No. 5, they’ll have to shine individually, as well as a team.
Senior Jack Egan, who came to Park City his sophomore year from Rowland Hall Academy in Salt Lake City, said right away he was introduced to the culture of the program: the culture of winning.
"There’s definitely extra pressure," he said. "I’d say it’s fun, though, because we want to live up to the expectation and we want to do what we should do — not just win, but go out there and show everyone how well we can play."
Junior Harry Hanskat remembers coming into the program as a freshman and playing in the No. 12 spot on varsity. Initially, there was no pressure on the player who finished third on last year’s state title team as a sophomore, but now that he’s played on the biggest stage, he knows what he must do.
"I got third in region this year, so the bar is definitely set pretty high right now," he said. "At state, I feel like we’re expected to win — not by a little, but by a lot."
Much like Schow, Hanskat said he plays better under the weight of having to deliver another trophy to the halls of Park City High School.
"When we’re just goofing off, I don’t play very well," he said, laughing.
The Miners didn’t goof off in Region 10 play this season, winning five of the six region tournaments and the region crown. Park City had three golfers in the final four region standings after the region finale in Sandy last Thursday and had four in the top 10.
Park City’s lone loss of the season came at the hands of the Union Cougars on their home turf in Roosevelt, the same place where the 2012 3A state tournament is slated to be held Oct. 3-4.
Shluker said it’s a difficult course to play, especially a front 9 that could make or break a number of players’ state title aspirations. He said it’s lined with many trees and the wind has the ability to pick up at any time.
"If you can escape at even-par on the front 9, that’s a win," he said. "Being the favorites, you’ve got to go out and do something special. Everyone is gunning for us, so we have to show everyone we’re still dominant."
Sophomore Jalen Roberts was a region medalist at Stansbury High School in 2011, but in his first year with the Miners, he said Park City must be able to stay the course and play the way it has been all season.
Senior Adam Eisenbarth echoed his teammates’ thoughts.
"I just want to implant in all of their minds that the team is first, but I know individually that we could all have the potential of winning because we’re a pretty stacked team," he said.
The group of six Park City golfers took shots into the wind on the driving range at Promontory Golf Course before participating in a practice round Wednesday afternoon. On the far right was head coach George Murphy, the stabilizing force behind the program’s dominance over the last few years.
"He’s able to make us come together as a team and not just look at it as an individual sport anymore," Hanskat said. "(We) look at it like we need to pull for each other, or help each other out when we have a bad round and just aim to play well, so we can do well for the team, not just ourselves."
Eisenbarth said Murphy’s ability to help players move on from mistakes on big stages such as the state tournament is what makes him such a successful and engaging head coach.
"He just helps us always with whatever problems we may be going through or any obstacles we’re going through," he said. "He just tells us to focus on the next hole because that last one is over with."
Murphy said the momentum the team carries into next week’s state tournament is the togetherness the entire program has learned to thrive on.
"They’re there for each other a little bit more," he said. "Individually, yeah, they’d like to go out and win, but there’s nothing that compares to getting a team state title, so I think you see kids pulling for each other more.
"It’s a pretty cool thing. It’s a good position to be in and hopefully we can keep it going. If not, it’s golf, and things happen. We approach it that way: if it happens, great. All six of these kids are capable of it. It’s just a matter of who’s going to put it together for those two days."
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