The Powell High School golf teams opened the 2018 season with their rivals down the road, hosting the Cody/Powell Invitational Thursday and Friday.
The invite featured schools from around the state, with Cody hosting day one at the Olive Glenn Golf Course Thursday and day two held Friday at the Powell Golf Club. The Panthers finished sixth for the tournament (third among 3A teams) with a combined score of 697 (351-346), while the Lady Panthers finished seventh while carding a 782 (399-383). The Trojans and Lady Trojans from Kelly Walsh swept the team titles.
“We had great weather, two courses that were in fantastic shape and 13 teams for the two days,” said an “extremely pleased” PHS head coach Troy Hildebrand. “We ended up with 111 players and there was some very good golf played on both the boys and girls sides.”
Defending 3A champ Jaren Calkins of Lander won the boys side with a 4-under total of 140 with a 71 in Cody and a 69 in Powell. Megan Griffin of Kelly Walsh shot 162 (81-81) to win the girls individual title.
“I was very pleased with how our boys came out and played for this opening weekend,” Hildebrand said. “We had some personal best individual performances and also put together the best two day total that we have had in the last four seasons.”
Junior Crandell Sanders opened the tournament with a 84 on Thursday and finished with an 80 on Friday for a team-leading 164.
“Crandell had a great weekend, with a personal best two-day total and also his best high school round to date with the 80,” Hildebrand said. “Crandell did an excellent job of finishing his rounds off this weekend. Both days he was able to close out his last few holes to post those scores. That is an area that he was really looking to improve on from last year, so this is a great first step.”
Senior Rob Sessions also carded a pair of rounds in the 80s, finishing 89-86 for a 175. A solid start to the season, though Sessions’ best is yet to come, according to Hildebrand.
“He [Sessions] played well, but in his own words he left quite a few shots out there this week,” Hildebrand said. “He has the potential to shoot under 85 every round, and that will definitely be his goal moving forward.”
With a two-day total of 177 (86-91), three-year varsity golfer Bennett Walker similarly carded his best two-day event of his Panther career.
“The best part of the tournament for Bennett was how well he fought through any tough stretches that he had each day,” Hildebrand said. “That is an area that he needed to improve for this year, and obviously this is exactly the start we needed from him.”
In just his first tournament as a varsity golfer, sophomore George Higgins proved to be a player to watch, carding a 92 on Thursday, then shaving three strokes the following day for an 89, finishing with a 181.
“I have heaped the praise on George [Higgins] for his incredible improvement from a beginning golfer a year ago to this point, and his first tournament as a varsity player did not disappoint,” Hildebrand said. “George was very steady and really played to his strengths both days. He does an excellent job of keeping the ball in play and minimizing his mistakes.”
Junior Kason Cannon and sophomore Yogi Sullivan rounded out the tournament for the Panthers, carding a 207 and a 232, respectively. Of Cannon’s effort, Hildebrand said the young golfer has come a long way from a season ago.
“Kason [Cannon] played well in Cody last spring and came right back out Thursday and shot a career-best 98,” Hildebrand said. “Friday in Powell with a 109 was still a nice day for Kason and gave him a great place to start off this season from.”
Sullivan is off to a slower start to start the season, but was determined throughout, according to Hildebrand.
“Yogi had a tough pair of days, but he kept a positive attitude and he’ll do a good job this week of finding some areas to work on and improve before we head to Worland,” the coach said.
The Lady Panthers had just three golfers competing in the invite, but still battled their way to a seventh-place finish, carding a 399 on Thursday and a 383 on Friday for a total of 782.
“This will be a nice starting point for these girls as a team,” Hildebrand said. “Cat [Wilson] and Bailey [Kennedy] really have very little tournament experience, so each week will be a great learning opportunity for them. The bonus is that all three of these girls are juniors so we have this fall, the spring and then their senior season next fall.”
Mycah Wainscott carded 205 (102-103) to finish tops among the Lady Panthers, but is capable of more, according to Hildebrand.
“Mycah [Wainscott] played two decent rounds, but by her standards, she did not play as well as she would have liked,” he said. “She is a very strong player, and with a few days of practice on those areas that hurt her this week, I know she will bounce back next week.”
Cat Wilson followed with a 257, but improved three strokes from the first day to the second, shooting 130-127.
“Cat [Wilson] did a nice job in both of her rounds of identifying the things that she is doing well and recognizing where she needs some practice,” Hildebrand said. “Cat is a player that I can easily see shooting around 110 by the end of this season.”
Bailey Kennedy impressed Hildebrand with her ability to grind through a pair of tough rounds, shooting 167 on Thursday, but shaving 14 strokes Friday to finish with a 153.
“Bailey hung in there both days and battled through all 18 holes,” Hildebrand said. “She just needs some confidence in herself and her game moving forward. She felt a lot better about things on the second day and I expect her to improve each round this year. The more rounds she gets under her belt the better things will be for her.”
Both teams head to Worland on Friday and Saturday for the second event of the season, then will play Monday, Aug. 20 and Tuesday, Aug. 21 in Lander.