Squaring off against country’s best refocuses Miners golf in quest for 12th straight state title
It’s not very often in a high school setting that a sports teams gets a midseason wake-up call without impacting the standings. Typically during the middle of the high school season, teams are stuck in region play, facing off against the same opponents again and jostling for postseason seeding.
That was not the case for the Park City High School men’s golf team when it traveled to Arizona to play in the elite 2019 Antigua National High School Golf Invitational two weeks ago.
“It was awesome and a lot of fun, but mainly it was nice for us to get out and realize what we really need to improve on,” said senior Eli Kimche. “Everyone at first when we go down there, we think we are going to win and that’s just the Park City mentality. … But in the end when you realize you are struggling when under pressure, it’s awesome for the team because we know it’ll help us for state.”
In Arizona, Park City, the lone representative from Utah, went up against 24 of the top golf teams throughout the country. It was a great showing for the Miners, finishing in 8th place in the two-day event, which according to coach George Murphy was the best finish by the school in the eight years they’ve been attending.
Still, that eighth-place finish did not sit well with Kimche and his teammates.
After dominating their competition to this point, the boys finally faced some pressure. And instead of rising to it to get the win, they stayed steady and came out with merely a good result.
“Yes it was a good result but that’s not what are after,” Kimche said. “We aren’t after good results because if that was the case, we wouldn’t practice as hard to perfect our games as much. We don’t want good results, we want great ones and that’s not what happened in Arizona.”
The finish in Arizona showed the Miners how far they have to go to become the best versions of themselves. The self-confidence the players and Murphy have is indicative of their previous state championships, but resting solely on those laurels could ultimately lead to their downfall, a lesson Kimche understands and preaches to his teammates.
“We know we’ve been good in the past but that doesn’t mean anything for this season,” Kimche said. “When you realize that you are struggling and see the shots that you hit when under pressure, it’s awesome because we know that is what’s going to help develop us and strengthen us for state.”
Kimche and fellow Miner Jackson Holman tied for sixth place overall out of the 132 golfers competing, shooting 1-under 71s on both days of the tournament. Junior Wyatt Peterson was the only other Miner to finish within the top 50, ending up 47th after shooting 10-over for the event.
More than anything, the tournament in Arizona gave the boys the opportunity to see what a pressure-packed tournament feels like, something they’ll encounter in the Class 5A state championships, where defending champion Skyline, and its entire squad from last season, will be waiting.
“Our goal is to always win a state championship, doesn’t matter who we face or what division we play in,” Murphy said. “What’s the point of not having that as an ultimate goal? There are definite strong teams for us to compete against, but we are used to really good competition. … We are looking forward to the challenge.”
But for Park City, the “supposed” tougher competition in Region 8 following the move to Class 5A has yet to come to fruition as the Miners have won all six of their tournaments against Utah competition. Most recently, the Park City junior varsity team finished second at a Region 8 tournament in Park City, knocking off the other varsity teams competing.
With that sort of easy schedule, complacency becomes the team’s biggest opponent, according to Kimche. Park City has been cruising all season, knowing that even on a decent day it has more than enough talent to win Region 8 tournaments. That’s why the Miners’ trip to Arizona was so important.
“The trip will definitely serve as the foundation for the rest of our season,” Kimche said. “The challenging environment really pushes us towards state. It’s fundamental in our victories and realizing our losses and how to improve.”
The tournament also served as a bonding experience, something Kimche thinks will help the team when they go up against tougher competition in the postseason. In Arizona, six players competed in the same format as the state championship, so gaining that experience early on will only help when the strokes truly count.
“In the end, when things don’t turn out right, you have to take that as precious knowledge and can’t just dismiss that,” Kimche said. “This is our only two-day tournament we play in before state. To put the past in the past, you can’t keep thinking about those previous shots because that’s when you lose sight of the bigger picture. That’s a big part of what we learned in Arizona.”
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