November 5, 2010
Golf is more or less an individual sport.
Most of the time, golfers are expected to focus on their own game rather than worrying about opponents on their heels, or the different courses they’re asked to play.
Three Park City seniors have completed what the likes of Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and a couple guys named Ruth and Gehrig have.
Different sports, different stage, different universe, but same result:
A three-peat. The Miners ran their state-title streak to three with the help of a few key seniors.
Michael Coopman finished first at the 3A state tournament in St. George in mid-October, while also joining a rare club being a first-team all-state player in all four years of high school eligibility.
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Matt Vanleeuwen finished third in the state tournament and carried a strong game from his junior year into his senior year and was a leader on the team.
Brian Schwerin placed fifth at the state tournament, and had been a key contributor to a dynasty in the making.
With senior leadership bolstered by some crucial play from some underclassmen down the stretch, Park City dominated Region 10 play and came from behind to win a third straight state title.
Coopman sees it as a team accomplishment, not an individual feat.
"It all came from hard work and determination," he said. "We’re close. All three of us worked really hard and we got what we were working toward. It came with focus."
Focus is something familiar to the Park City golf program.
Head coach George Murphy will be the first to tell you that if not for these seniors, the Miners would not have yet another state trophy to pack into the cabinets at Park City High.
"I think (the seniors) matured having each other on the team for the past four years," Murphy said. "It’s pretty rare. All (seniors) played their way, and finished.
"It was just really neat to see."
Coopman attributed the success of the team to each player’s tremendous work ethic, the team rallied around its leaders who have been on the big stage throughout their respective high school careers.
"We’re all pretty good friends," he said.
The seniors were examples for the younger players on the team, both on the links, and off.
Murphy said that during the team’s dramatic comeback on the second day of the 3A state tournament, a sophomore approached him as he watched the seniors destroy the final four holes where the team had mightily struggled the day before.
"I want to do that," the golfer told Murphy. "I want to up my game like that."
It’s a tradition that seniors before the likes of Schwerin, Vanleeuwen and Coopman had established, and it continues to permeate down the ranks each year.
"These three kids finished so high because they saw the seniors before them," Murphy said. "It’s kind of a teaching tool. There’s a set example,; a high bar."
Coopman was adamant in saying that the Miners’ future is in good hands in youngsters such as sophomore Justin Shluker, but talent doesn’t always bring desired results.
"We all did our own thing, but (the underclassmen) looked up to us a lot," he said. "We put a pretty good image on them for the future. They definitely still have something. But it’s not going to just come back."
Coopman, who moved to Park City from Austin, Texas, during his freshman year, looks to golf as a potential step at a higher level.
"I hope to pursue (golf) longer," he said. "I hope it can get better. I would love to play college golf. I’ve been talking, but it’s mostly just small talk."
When asked what it felt like to finish first four years in a row, Coopman quickly corrected the questioner saying, "First-team all-state, not first."
"That would be insane," he said.
Almost as insane as a trio of seniors delivering a three-peat on their way out the door.