Story and photos by Kurt Johnson
Editor’s Note – The TOSH Top 30 is our countdown of the top 30 stories from the 2015-16 school sports year, beginning with No. 30 and counting down, one story a day, to No. 1. The 2015-2016 high school sports year was filled with big performances, both team and individual. The act of narrowing down our initial list of top stories for our TOSH Top 30 stories of the year to just 30 was a difficult task. We asked people all over the state for input into our final list and beginning June 22, we are counting them down in reverse, from story No. 30 to story No. 1. Hopefully your favorite story of the past school year made our list.
No. 24 on our list is shared between the boys and girls golf teams at Lone Peak. Both teams won state championships, one expected and the other a little less so.
#24 – Year of the Knight golfers
The 2015-2016 Utah high school golf year was all about Lone Peak as the Knights won the boys state title in the fall and the girls championship in the spring. For the boys, it was a closer-than-expected result for a team that was heavily favored, while the girls overcame two traditional powers to claim the top spot with an almost entirely new group of top performers.
Finally On Top
A year ago, the Lone Peak girls golfers finished 18 points (using the Stableford scoring system) behind state champion Davis at the 5A state tournament and with the Darts seeking a third consecutive state title in 2016 and returning two seniors who had dominated the state since their freshman campaign, the Knights knew they had work to do.
As it turned out, another long-time girls golf power program rose up as the top challenger to Lone Peak, but the Knights held off Bingham to win their first-ever state championship in girls golf. The winners, who played through soggy conditions on Day 1 at Wasatch Mountain Golf Course in Midway, decided to get wet again as they took a plunge in the pond adjacent to the 18th green.
Davis’ Laura Gerner captured her first individual state title, knocking off Bingham’s Carissa Graft by four strokes and her teammate, defending state champion Jessica Sloot, by five. The team title, however, was earned on the strength of Lone Peak’s overall strength, from top to bottom.
The top four individual spots were filled by the Davis golfers and a pair of Miners, but Lone Peak placed four in the overall Top 10 and that was the secret to success as coach Gina Higbee’s Knights earned that elusive championship.
Masina Kaohelaulii was the top finisher for Lone Peak, finishing nine strokes behind Gerner, in fifth place. She was followed by teammate Lauren Taylor in sixth position, while Maddie Moss and Abbey Porter shared eighth position in the final standings.
Another State Title
Back in the fall, the venue was also in Midway, but the boys state tournament was contested at Soldier Hollow. The Lone Peak boys brought one of the most complete teams the state has ever seen and the Knights were expected to win it all for the third straight season.
The anticipated title did come, but it certainly wasn’t an easy road. Where Lone Peak had coasted to its previous two championships, this one was best described by the words of head coach Rob Stanger, who said afterwards, “We got lucky this year.”
The final margin was four strokes over second-place Weber and an underlying story was the performance of two non-Lone Peak golfers who have a few years left to go in their high school careers, some time left to take additional shots at the Knights. Weber sophomore Conner Howe shot an opening-day 62 and put a 68 on top of that on Day 2, but that was only one shot lower than Davis freshman Cole Ponich, who carded a second-day 63 to back up his opening-round 68.
With those two youngsters setting the individual pace, Lone Peak used the same formula that worked for its girls team, overwhelming depth, to hold off the upstarts for the team crown. Senior Carson Lundell finished fourth with a two-day score of 139 and another senior, Jake Livingston posted a 140 to tie for sixth. One of the golfers in that sixth-place tie was Knight junior Elijah Turner. Ryan Barber and freshman Josh Rooker also delivered scores that counted in the overall team result.
The state championship was just one impressive finish for Lone Peak, which followed it up the following week with a team win at the Honda Classic National High School Invitational in West Palm Beach, Florida. There, the Knights won by 14 strokes and Lundell took the individual title in a playoff. Sophomore Max Brenchley was Lone Peak’s No. 2 golfer in that event, finishing seventh, with Livingston and Rooker also in the individual Top 20.
On the other end of the Knights’ championship season was a win in another national event, the Antigua National High School Golf Invitational in September in Phoenix. In that one, Lundell finished second.
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