Short game stymies Miners at State
"Putting," muttered Park City High School head coach Tim Jeffrey as he watched Sam Bell miss a one-foot putt for birdie on the final hole at the 3A Utah High School State Golf Championships on Tuesday. "And that’s the story of the two days in a nutshell."
The Miners wrapped up the two-day competition held at Birch Creek Golf Course in Smithfield with a fifth-place finish at state. Not quite what the 2004 state title holders had envisioned when they arrived at the course on Monday, but a respectable finish considering the problems the team encountered in competition.
On Monday, the team had what Jeffrey said was one of their worst days ever as a team. Thomas Kearns and Zach Nicholas led the team with a score of 81 and the rest of the team shot in the mid-80s putting the Miners in 10th place. Jeffrey said that the weather was chilly, but could not explain how that would affect a cold-weather hardy team like the Miners. In contrast, the highly favored Dixie Flyers, who eventually claimed the state crown, shot in the low-to mid-70s.
With nothing to lose on the second day, the Miners came out hoping to capture third place. And with the rest of the teams behind Dixie just eight strokes apart, the team knew a better day could salvage the competition.
The Miners did rally back to shoot two scores in the 70s, led by Scott Case’s 77 and Sam Bell’s 78, but a string of scores in the 80s put the Miners in fifth. Echoing their coach, the Park City golfers agreed that their short game held them back and is something to work on in the off-season.
"We couldn’t putt. I personally couldn’t," lamented Case, who only had a chip-in and six-inch birdie putt on Tuesday.
"We did lose a lot of strokes due to putts," added Park City assistant coach George Murphy. "Some days they are rolling in, but today they weren’t."
Jeffrey said that warmer weather made the greens much faster on Tuesday, but chipping and putting have been an issue for the Park City team for a few weeks.
"We’ve been talking about it since the middle of the year," Jeffrey said. "It can make or break your game."
The Miners were also without the help of their No. 2 player, Greg Method, who was unable to attend the competition and freshman Sami Crouch, the team’s only female who has battled back problems since mid-season.
This isn’t the first time that the Miners have struggled at the state finals. Three years ago, with one of Park City’s most talented teams ever, the Miners could only muster seventh place. The 2004 state crown, in comparison, was a bit of a surprise.
"That’s just golf," Jeffrey said.
Jeffrey was pleased that the bulk of his team gained some valuable tournament experience and predicts that next year, with the return of most of the team, the Miners should fare better. Case said that becoming comfortable with the pressure of the state finals makes a big difference.
"Experience at state is what helped me this year," Case said.
"They don’t realize how much pressure there is until they are standing at the first tee and 100 people are standing around," Jeffrey said.
Case and Nicholas are the lone seniors on the team, with the rest of the underclassmen returning for what Jeffrey says will be a very successful year.
The Miners are actually the only team to break up the Dixie dynasty. The Flyers have claimed four of the last five state crowns, with the other title going to Park City in 2004. The flyers have also won six state titles in the last 12 years. Next year, Dixie, along with fellow southern Utah schools Pine View and Snow Canyon, will move up to the 4A division, a change which bodes well for Park City.
"Greg and Sami will both be back next year. You combine that with the fact that Dixie is moving to 4A and we’re really optimistic," Jeffrey said.
Scott Case 85, 77
Sam Bell 85, 78
Thomas Kearns 81, 83
Grady Zieglowskey 93, 86
Trey Pyle 99, 88
Zack Nicholas 81, 80
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