Junior Bowen Prestwich claimed top individual honors in Class 3A on the final green, winning by a stroke over defending state champion Scooter Gill of Jackson. Freshman Pax Mitchell and senior Brian Morse joined Prestwich with All State honors, finishing in a tie for third and sixth place, respectively.
Powell shot 329 on Friday to trail Jackson (324), but tallied an impressive 315 total on Saturday for a 644 final score. Jackson, which slipped to a 332 on Saturday, finished at 656. Cody took third, shooting 346-330=676.
“Most coaches thought that any team scores under 340 would be very good on the Rochelle Ranch Course considering how challenging it was, so our 329-315 really speaks to how well we played this week,” said PHS head coach Troy Hildebrand.
The Panthers erased the deficit to Jackson in the first nine holes Saturday, with the top three Panther players shooting a combined 3-over par. Most Panthers were playing in groups with their Jackson Bronc competitors.
“I think that the fast start and steady play really put a lot of pressure on the Jackson players to try and keep pace,” said Hildebrand.
The pressure stayed on the PHS team in Rawlins, too.
“There is no sense of relief at that course because every hole is a potential disaster and it looked as though it was going to come right down to the end,” Hildebrand said, adding, “It was very exciting watching the final four groups come in with everybody getting the scores and calculating just where each team stood.”
As it turned out, PHS kept up its stellar play, and pulled away.
Prestwich became the Class 3A champion by shooting a pair of 77s.
“It has been great to see Bowen play the best golf of his season the last two weeks,” Hildebrand said, crediting Prestwich’s great demeanor and attitude.
It was around the 13th hole where Prestwich realized he was leading Gill by one. The two competitors stayed within a shot of each other the rest of the way.
Gill looked as though he might go up by one at the par 4 17th, when he put himself in birdie position and Prestwich went over the back of the green. Gill did make birdie, but Prestwich chipped to about a foot to save par.
“That was about the best chip I ever had,” Prestwich said Monday.
It knotted the two up going to the final hole. The competitors had been chatting throughout the round, but on the par 5 18th, “I just stopped talking to him and just focused on the shots I had to make,” Prestwich said.
Both players got on the green in regulation, but Gill lipped out from three feet for a three-putt bogey.
“When he missed his putt, I knew that it was kind of over,” Prestwich said, but he still faced a nerve-wracking two footer for par and the win.
“My knees were shaking a little bit,” Prestwich said. He knocked it down the middle, picked the ball out of the hole and shook hands with Gill.
When Prestwich reached his golf bag, he gave a little fist pump for his teammates nearby.
“I don’t think anybody else saw it,” Prestwich said. “It wasn’t a big production, it just happened.”
That’s the kind of level-headed approach that Hildebrand praises.
“Bowen is very well liked by other coaches and players around the state because he handles himself with such class and is very respectful of the game and the other players,” the PHS coach said, also crediting a “very gracious” Gill.
“He (Prestwich) handles the ups and downs very well and works extremely hard on all aspects of his game throughout the year, which put him in the position to be a state champion as a junior,” Hildebrand said.
Mitchell (79-77) was tied with Prestwich after Saturday’s first nine — shooting an even-par 36 that helped set the tone for Powell’s comeback, Hildebrand said.
“His (Mitchell’s) play on Saturday was nearly flawless,” the coach said, calling the play in Rawlins a “fantastic performance” to cap “an incredible freshman season.”
“Obviously finishing this high as a freshman is a great accomplishment and really lays a great foundation for our team,” Hildebrand said.
After a disappointing opening-round 85, Morse made the most of his last round as a Panther by firing a 73 on Saturday — the second-lowest round of the tournament and one that all but locked up the PHS win, Hildebrand said.
“His goal all year had been to lead us to a state title as a senior and Saturday he did all he could to achieve it,” said Hildebrand, calling it an incredible finish to a great PHS career.
The round also vaulted Morse into the top 10 for a second consecutive year.
“As a four-year letter winner Brian will be sorely missed next season, but I am very pleased to have been able to send him out with a bang,” Hildebrand said.
Morse, Prestwich and Mitchell are the first three Panthers players to have averaged below 80 on a season during Hildebrand’s tenure as head coach.
Freshman Jackson Roling shot steady 88s on both days.
“Jackson (Roling) gave us exactly what we needed out of our No. 4 spot both days,” Hildebrand said, noting that Roling’s scores matched the fourth scores from Jackson and Cody.
“Once again, to have a freshman step up and perform the way that he has all season is a great sign for our team’s future,” Hildebrand said.
Jared Wantulok, a sophomore, shot 96-94 in his first state tournament.
“He gave us scores on both days that were solid enough to keep us in the hunt if we would have needed to use them,” Hildebrand said. He said Wantulok made great strides since last fall.
The coach thanked Doug Conner and the Powell Golf Course for their support of the golf program, as well as former PHS players Bryan Borcher — a volunteer assistant for the past two seasons — and Zane Bushnell for helping show PHS’ younger players what hard work can accomplish.
Hildebrand eyed a bright future for Panther golf.
“It is great to be returning the Individual State Champion and third place finisher as well as two state players and several other underclassmen that were bright spots for us this season,” he said.