Park City placed three Miners in the top-20 of the Class 5A UGA state championships last week
When Ali Efnor stepped up to the first tee at Fox Hollow Golf Course on May 27 and lined up her shot, it was only partially what she had in mind when she joined the Park City High School girls golf team as a senior this past spring.
Efnor figured she’d have found herself in American Fork, at the Class 5A state tournament based on Park City’s success over the past decade. But she didn’t imagine that it would’ve been her first and only time representing the Miners, something she said was awesome and yet hard to comprehend.
“It was really weird because this is my first time playing for Park City, and I honestly thought that I was going to get a full season in to prepare for the state championship,” Efnor said. “It was nice to finally just be able to get out on the golf course and play in a real tournament. I know it’s only one tourney but it was nice to actually do something and have the round you play matter. … It’s something that I’ll never forget.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of all UHSAA-sanctioned sports this past spring, and with it came the cancellation of the Class 5A state championship for girls golf. But the Utah Section of the PGA, which has helped run the UHSAA state girls golf tournaments over the past decade, elected to host an individual state tournament for all Utah classifications.
“Its not much considering the whole season was lost, but the fact that the girls did get a chance to play at the end for something was pretty special,” said George Murphy, Park City High School girls golf coach. “Obviously it wasn’t the season any one of us were hoping for, but they did get the chance to compete in the end and that’s what it’s all about. The tournament seems like it was run really well and I know the girls enjoyed it.”
Efnor and five other Miners — senior Stephanie Burnham, juniors Caroline Donahue and Sophia Adrian and sophomore Emily Hawksworth — competed in the tournament.
Marshall and Donahue took home second-team all-state honors by finishing 12th and 16th respectively, while Hawksworth, Adrian and Burnham finished 35th, 45th and 62nd.
“When I got the email invite, it said that we could only have six athletes participate so I took what was our top-six entering the season and asked if they were interested,” Murphy said. “None of them even considered saying no because they were so excited. They were all willing to get in any bit of practice time they could and it was pretty fun for them.”
Efnor was Park City’s top finisher, taking home first-team all-state honors after she finished in a tie for ninth place, shooting a 16-over, 89. Although it wasn’t the score she wanted, Efnor was happy with it after practicing for a few weeks prior to the start of the season.
“Usually I shoot in the low-80’s so honestly I wasn’t that excited about my score but I sort of lucked out with in the end to finish where I did,” Efnor said. “We only practiced as a team in the beginning of March, but we were wearing coats and pants so it was miserable. I really believe that if we would’ve had a longer season, I probably would’ve scored much better but I’m happy.”
Murphy echoes Efnor’s sentiment, as the golf courses in Park City didn’t open up until May 1. This limited the Miners’ ability to practice while other schools did.
“Golf pretty much stopped for us when the season shut down, especially because a lot of our parents didn’t want our athletes traveling into the valley to practice where the golf courses were open,” Murphy said. “It’s tough when you’ve had barely any time to prepare while your competition has pretty much kept playing. … So to put three girls in the top 20 and five in the top 45 is a really good sign of our future.
Making matters even more difficult, Murphy and his assistant coach Paul Donahue weren’t able to help the girls prepare for the state tournament. At the behest of Park City activities director Jamie Sheetz, Murphy and Donahue left the girls alone to practice on their own to make sure no social distancing guidelines were broken and no one else was put at a greater risk.
While the tournament itself was a success, according to Murphy, and it was a solid showing by the Miners, the biggest thing about the tournament is that it didn’t completely let the season go to waste.
Park City’s team was relatively young this season with 13 of its 16 players expected to return next season, seven of whom are juniors. This tournament gave the girls the experience that will help them next season so that when they play in tournaments of this magnitude, they’re have a level of comfort to rely on.
“The juniors, they’ll be back next season as seniors to lead this team and that’s what I’ll be expecting of them. … And what’s impressive is that they’re all committing to play in UGA tournaments this offseason so they’re taking it seriously,” Murphy said. “We usually get about 1-2 girls who play those tournaments, this year we are getting about 4-5 who are playing. It’s tough when you lose that year of development but our girls are doing the right things to try and get it back, so they’ll be ready next year when the time comes.”
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The Miners ended up on the wrong side of a close game on senior night but are still fighting for playoff seeding.