Only one Utah Valley high school boys golf can officially repeat as state champions in their classification — and it’s not the four-time defending 5A champions from Lone Peak.
That’s because the latest realignment put the Knights in Class 6A, meaning they are now shooting to win the first-ever 6A title.
If they succeed, it will likely be because they have so many gifted golfers on their team.
“Obviously we are known for our depth,” Lone Peak head coach Rob Stanger said. “We’ve got six guys who can shoot low and that’s kind of the whole key. When you have six guys who have the ability of going par or better, that actually takes a lot of pressure off of your No. 1 and No. 2 guys. In our region tournaments, we have had five of our players be medalists — and our sixth missed being medalist by one shot.”
With all the talent that the Knights have plus the caliber of the other top 6A players, Stanger said he expects some incredible golf during this week’s state tournament.
“There is going to be a great battle for individual medalist. Our Zach Jones has had a really good last couple of months. He was the overall region medalist and was like 47-under-par overall for region tournaments. But I love Weber’s Connor Howe and Davis’ Cole Ponich.”
He views this as a stepping stone for his golfers as they look to continue to improve.
“It’s part of the process,” Stanger said. “I enjoy the challenge of preparing guys to play at the next level, so for me it’s really enjoying the process, seeing the evolution of who they are becoming. The state tournament is an important benchmark but it’s a part of that journey.”
The only team that can repeat in its current classification is Salem Hills. The Skyhawks won the 4A championship in 2016 and is in position to make a run at another crown this year.
It won’t be easy, however, since the defending 3A champs from Park City are also in the classification.
“I know Park City and Bonneville are really tough,” Salem Hills head coach Brad Fillmore said. “I’m not sure what the rest of the landscape is, but I definitely think we can make a good showing.”
The Skyhawks are a very different team than the one that emerged victorious in 4A last year.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect going into the season,” Fillmore said. “I lost four of my players from the state championship team but I knew I had two solid players coming back. I was pleasantly surprised when a couple of guys from last year put some work in during the offseason and got their game better. Every week, someone else has stepped up.”
He believes that if his top golfers play well, that will put his squad in position to battle for top honors again.
“Jacob Waterman and Jason Cheney have been solid all year round,” Fillmore said. “If they can go low and we can get another score in the 70s, I think we have a shot at competing at least. It’s great to see who rises to the occasions and does the best under the pressure.”
Having Salem Hills and Park City in 4A means the Class 5A competition is wide open and someone new will emerge as the champs.
Skyridge ended up atop Region 8 and will be paired with golfers from the other region winners: Corner Canyon, Olympus and Viewmont.
But while those are likely the teams to beat, strange things can happen at state, so don’t count out teams like Timpview and Springville. They could turn out to be in the mix as well.
Teams from the 5A and 6A divisions start off the week with their two-day competition on Monday and Tuesday. The 5A teams will be playing at TalonsCove golf course in Saratoga Springs, while the 6A tournament will be held at Valley View Golf Course in Layton.
“Valley View is a great test of golf,” Stanger said. “You’ve got to drive the ball really well and hit your approaches in there close. You’ve got to go execute the shots and as we know anything can happen in sports.”
The 3A and 4A action will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, with the 4A teams playing at Sky Mountain Golf Course in Hurricane while the 3A teams play at Cove View Golf Course in Richfield.
“Sky Mountain is out in the desert landscape and it’s a really beautiful course,” Fillmore said. “It has a good variety of holes. You can definitely score there but if you are not hitting fairways, you can get yourself in a lot of trouble.”
All of the action is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.