Park City’s quest for 12th consecutive state championship begins on Monday
The time has finally come.
When the Park City High School boys golf team tees off on Monday morning, the culmination of all the hours spent on the golf course perfecting their craft will come to fruition as they’ll be playing for the UHSAA Class 5A state title.
“It’s always exciting when you’re playing for something like a state championship,” said coach George Murphy. “We’ve been there the last few years but it doesn’t make it any less special. … I mean this is the first time this group as a whole have been there so I want the focus to be about them and not about the past.”
The “past” that Murphy was alluding to is one of the more impressive high school athletic streaks in the state of Utah as Park City has won its previous 11 state championships in golf. Skyline, the reigning 5A state champion out of Millcreek, is poised to challenge the Miners in Park City’s first-ever run at the division’s state golf championship.
Skyline returns nearly all of their players from last season. The Eagles dominated Farmington by 19 strokes last season. Individually, the Eagles took four of the top 11 spots and six of the top 15.
“We don’t really worry about these other teams who we know are really good, because we know we are really good also,” said Eli Kimche, Park City’s No. 1 golfer. “I would say we (Skyline and Park City) are the top two teams in the state overall. It’s funny because we haven’t seen each other at all, but at the same time we know we are practicing for when we play each other. They’re doing their own thing and we are doing ours, so we’ll see them when we see them and go from there.”
Kimche was right, as the Miners have been doing their own thing, dominating region competition en route to winning the Region 8 championship in convincing fashion two weeks ago.
“Depth is a really big thing for us, probably our best weapon, and we fell really good about it,” Murphy said. “My No. 6 has the potential to finish first or second individually and I don’t know how many other teams, if any, in the state can say that. It’s going to come down to which of my players rise up and say ‘it’s my time’”
Park City took home five of the top six spots in the region, and if not for a weird rule, would’ve taken home six of the top seven spots. Senior Jackson Holman, who would’ve finished in a tie for third in the Region, wasn’t eligible for final standings because he missed a tournament to take part in an out of state tournament elsewhere.
“Jackson is a dark horse for sure because he has the mentality that thrives in this type of competition,” Murphy said “He entered the season as an unknown coming in but has risen to our No. 3 spot. He’s definitely talented enough to win the whole thing.”
Park City’s top six players competing in the team and individual portions of the tournament will be No. 1 Kimche, No. 2 Wyatt Peterson, No. 3 Holman, No. 4 Ryan Wright, No. 5 Tucker Lee and No. 6 Charlie Dalton. Charlie Taylor will also take part in the individual portion of the event.
The Miners believe that three things give them an advantage in the upcoming tournament and have them feeling good about their odds heading into the two-day championship.
For one, the 5A state championship will take place at Wasatch Mountain Golf Course in Midway – a mere 22 minutes away from the high school and where Park City won a Region 8 tournament a few weeks ago. The location will allow the Miners to practice regularly on the course leading up to the tournament, something they’ve been taking advantage of.
“I think it’s an advantage to have had a region match there, especially winning it because it gives us a certain level of confidence of having been there before and winning,” Murphy said. “We have an informal duo against Spanish Fork (No. 2 in Region 10) at Wasatch, practice against at Wasatch the rest of the week with chipping, putting and really getting a feel for the course. Then we’ll finish up with practice rounds on both Saturday and Sunday there, making sure we are as prepared as possible.”
Murphy believes the weather could also play a vital role at the championships, with temperatures expected to be a little above freezing when teams first tee off. Combine that with the wet weekend forecast and the course could play long and soggy, an advantage for the Miners considering they are used to the conditions.
“It’s going to be cold next week and I really like that as well for us,” Murphy said. “We’ve had early tournaments almost all year so the early tee times bode well for us. Combine that with the tougher conditions, something we are accustomed too, and I think we have a very good chance.”
The final advantage Park City believes it has comes from its midseason trip to Arizona for the elite 2019 Antigua National High School Golf Invitational. While there, the Miners finished in eighth place against some of the top teams in the country. Playing in a prestigious two-day tournament, and most importantly not winning, allowed the Miners to refocus and rededicate themselves to the game.
“I think it helped quit e a bit with confidence because we went down there and competed at a higher level than we’ve seen before,” Murphy said. “Looking back at Arizona and that was a positive for us because it makes them feel like we belong and can play at that high of a level with other teams around the country. If we can do that there, then we can for sure do it here.”
The 5A state tournament is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Monday with individual and team players taking the course for 18 holes. Ten of the top 16 teams will advance to Tuesday where the top three teams will play in the top group for another 18 holes to determine the state champion.
“I’ve got a good feeling about this team because these kids are capable of playing some incredible golf over the two days,” Murphy said. “They’ve kind of proven that they can do it, and now they’re ready for challenge and looking forward to it.”
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