Though it was the boys’ best team finish since 2012, PHS golf coach Troy Hildebrand thought his boys’ squad could sneak into a top five finish. The Panthers finished 12 strokes out of fourth place.
“We played pretty poorly in nice weather Thursday with our highest team total of the year,” Hildebrand said. “The boys did a great job of bouncing back Friday, but we just had too much ground to make up.”
Due to concerns about poor weather, the Wyoming High School Activities Association moved the state golf tournament up to Thursday and Friday (from Friday-Saturday), eliminating a Thursday practice round.
Hildebrand said he agreed with the decision, as the golfers “got at least one nice warm, calm day on Thursday with temperatures near 80. Friday was much cooler and breezy, but we did dodge the rain for the most part.”
“Weather wound up not really being a factor this year which was the goal with that decision,” Hildebrand added; last year’s state tournament in Powell was cut short to a one-day event because of weather.
Lander won the boys title with a total score of 671, led by state champion freshman Jeron Caulkins, who finished 1 over par for the two days. Hudson Roling of Thermopolis — and formerly of Powell — took second with a 4-over total; Roling’s play included a hole-in-one Saturday. The Lady Tigers also won the state championship.
The Panthers shot a 401 on Thursday and a 371 on Friday, finishing seventh out of the 13 teams with a combined score of 772.
Worland placed sixth with a score of 763, Cody was fifth with a score of 762 and in fourth place was Pinedale with 760.
Powell was not the only team that struggled Thursday, with Hildebrand adding, “even though we posted higher scores, we did at least stay in the mix.”
Junior Rob Sessions shot a 93 on Thursday and a 90 on Friday to finish 18th.
“He put a lot of work in this summer and saw some very good growth this year,” Hildebrand said. “He has a ton of potential, and it will be exciting to see where his game is next fall. A few stray shots here and there are keeping him above 85 right now and I think that will be a different story in the future.”
Senior Treven Keeler shot a 104 on Thursday and a 92 on Friday, bouncing back from a tough first nine holes.
“His improvement in his career is remarkable,” Hildebrand said. “His tournament average as a freshman was around 125 and this year he is at 94. Treven should be very proud of his career and earning all-conference honors this year.”
Reece Hackenberg shot 103-93; Hildebrand said Hackenberg did a great job of finding ways to avoid big numbers on day two.
“[Hackenberg] is a very competitive young man and I know I can always count on him to battle through each round,” Hildebrand said. “He’s gotten better each year and I expect him to come back next year at another level.”
Bennett Walker posted rounds of 101 and 96. That included a back nine score of 42 — the Powell team’s best nine holes of the tournament — on Friday.
Hildebrand said the “42 is much more in line with what [Walker] is capable of and what we’ll be looking for in the future. In the end, this was easily his best season so far and he should have a great idea of what to expect of himself in 2018.”
Crandell Sanders shot 105 and 98. Hildebrand said the sophomore showed a lot of growth.
“I know he expects a lot of himself but he is still growing as a player and as hard as he works his best golf is definitely ahead of him,” the coach said, adding that Sanders will be looked to as a leader in 2018.
“We should be returning great experience next year and these guys [Sessions, Walker, Hackenberg and Sanders] have one more year together which is really good for our team,” Hildebrand said.
On the girls side, Hildebrand said he “could not have been happier with the tournament and season” that Mycah Wainscott and Kaitlyn Church put together.
“They each had one tournament round of experience coming into this fall,” Hildebrand said. “Both of them improved a great deal this fall and as sophomores it is exciting to have two more years with them.”
Wainscott shot a 108 on Thursday and a 115 on Friday.
“She was tied for 10th after the first round and really kept her composure on Friday,” Hildebrand said. “She had a very tough final hole that pushed her total over 110 but overall for her first state tournament, [Wainscott] did a fantastic job.”
The coach added that Wainscott “got better each week on courses she had never seen” — including a highlight of winning All Conference honors.
Kaitlyn Church posted rounds of 134-130.
“[Church] hung right in there and put together two good rounds for her,” said Hildebrand, adding “she had two very tough holes in each round or she could very well have been under 120 each day.”
The coach praised Church’s character and attitude adding that, if she plays golf next summer, “I think she will show incredible growth.”
For next season, Hildebrand said “we’ll be looking to pick up one or two more girls before next fall to see about being able to post a team score.”