As the 11 teams who made the cut after the first day of the state 5A golf tournament worked through the Riverbend Golf Course in Riverton Tuesday afternoon, neither the event officials nor the coaches had any idea who was going to win.
Brighton led by eight strokes over Lone Peak and nine over Syracuse coming into the second round, but as the Titans fell out of contention, the Knights fought through the warm, windy conditions to slowly gain ground on the Bengals.
Even as the final group wrapped up at the 18th hole, the players didn’t know either. When the combined tally was finally announced, Lone Peak had caught up to Brighton at 584 and the two teams led everyone else by 20 strokes or more.
Two other Valley teams made the cut and played the second round. American Fork finished ninth at 626 and Pleasant Grove was 10th at 631.
No one present could remember the last time teams were tied at the end of the state tournament, but the rules allow for an eight-man derby to settle the question.
So after the teams had a few minutes to select the four players who would compete on their behalf, they and most of the spectators headed over to the first hole for the playoff.
The crowd reacted to every shot taken and the pressure continued to mount. It wasn’t until the final putt fell that the Bengals clinched the championship by a combined score of 17-19.
It’s the fifth year in a row that the Knights have taken a trophy home in this sport. They won titles in 2010 and 2008, and also finished second in 2011 and 2009.
Junior Connor Copeland shot the best score of his career as he shaved seven strokes off his first-round mark to lead the Lone Peak charge.
Senior Nick Emery was right behind him, dropping five strokes to post a 70. The pair each had a combined 145, tying them for fourth place in the individual medalist standings.
All six participating Knights placed in the top 30, an achievement not matched even by the winners.
“They played their hearts out,” said Lone Peak coach Tyler Pack. “What an incredible comeback. I can’t say enough about how they played today.
“It’s the state tournament and the pressure is so high. There’s jitters on every tee, but these guys just settled themselves and got the job done.”
The coach continued, “They’ve played awesome all year. We won the Region 4 title by 175 strokes and they’ve continued to improve the whole season. Last year our scores got worse at the end, but this year they’ve kept the fire going.”
Pack added that his players have posted some other low scores in earlier events. Cameron Webb shot a 66 and Emery a 68. Copeland’s 69 was the next-best this season.
“It’s been fun out here,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve shot in the 60s. I just wanted to do whatever I could to help my team win. We just fell a little short today.”
“I’m so proud of all the guys,” Emery said. “To come back from eight down is really hard. We had our game plan. Each of us set a goal for what we needed to do today to help the team win. We even made a Power Point.
“We all reached our goals,” he added. “Even though we were just short in the playoff, I wouldn’t choose any other teammates. It’s been a great experience this year.”
Junior Berkely Stulce finished third for the Knights with a combined 147, followed by Zane Loveland at 152, Cameron Webb at 154 and Parker Petersen at 155.
Caveman Benji Judd was the top finisher for his team with a 151. American Fork’s other representatives included Dan McCombie, Braden Fairbanks, Lance Jones, Colten Schaerrer and Brandon Roper.
Tyler Savage led the Vikings with a combined 154. Brooks Heder, Jake McFarland, Jess Cook, Braxton Leetham and Jake Harris also competed for Pleasant Grove.
Beky Beaton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @BeatonWrite.