ST. GEORGE – At the beginning of the Region 9 golf season, players and coaches weren’t sure if there was a clear-cut favorite to win the region.
Defending region champs Desert Hills brought a young and inexperienced squad to the table, while experience was abundant for teams like Snow Canyon and Pine View. The always-competitive Dixie also returned key players like A.J. Orchard to fuel its region and state title hopes.
But as always is the case in sports, the results quickly provide answers to the annual preseason questions.
Pine View wasted no time providing such answers, winning the first three tournaments of the season. Seniors Andrew Shopinski, Hayden Hayward and Brandt Pierce led the Panthers to the 3-0 start and to the eventual Region 9 title.
Coach Gary Higgins said his top four players carried the team through most of the season.
“We pretty much did it with the same four kids,” Higgins said. “Our fifth and sixth players came on late, but for most the region didn’t really help us. I’m proud of our top four kids for carrying us every week.”
The one thing the Panthers didn’t do in region play, however, was defend their home course. Snow Canyon stole the victory at Coral Canyon on Sept. 13, the only tournament Pine View didn’t win.
“One thing that was interesting was no team won its home match,” said Warriors coach Ken Burr. “Everybody else stepped up and took what should have been a region victory away from the home squad.”
Burr said Coral Canyon is probably the toughest course in the region, making the victory on Pine View’s home course even sweeter.
“Coral Canyon is always a difficult course because of its length and the way it’s set up,” Burr said. “ You’ve got to be able to hit the ball on the fairway.”
The Warriors put together a solid season of their own behind the leadership of seniors Joey Sargent and Austin Sweaney. Sargent built on last year’s second-place finish and took home the individual region title.
Desert Hills showed that although young, they still had the talent to compete. The Thunder qualified for the state tournament behind the play of Brad Wade and Jordan Olsen. Wade finished fifth in the individual region results while Olsen came on strong toward the end of the season and won the final tournament of the season.
The Region 9 teams stayed competitive throughout the region season and looked to continue their success at the state tournament. Pine View, Snow Canyon, Desert Hills and Dixie all qualified for the final tournament and expected to make a splash in Roosevelt.
However, Mother Nature had other plans for the second straight year and brought in winds of up to 45 mph during the first day.
Shopinski failed to break 80 for the Panthers at the 3A tournament, struggling to rounds of 86 and 80. Hayward led the way for Pine View with rounds of 78 and 74 and tied for sixth place overall. The Panthers finished in third place as a team.
“We finished third which obviously isn’t we hoped for, but we beat everybody else,” Higgins said. “The two teams that won it (Park City and Union) have quite a bit of experience playing that course.”
Desert Hills finished in the sixth place spot for the second consecutive year. Taylor Cummings paced the Thunder with rounds of 82 and 81.
Snow Canyon was the last team to make the cut after the first day and moved up one spot on Day Two to finish in ninth place. Sargent recorded rounds of 81 and 82 to lead the Warriors.
Dixie was the only Region 9 team at the state tournament to miss the first-day cut. The Flyers finished in 12th place after the first day with a combined total of 343. Orchard was the bright spot for Dixie and missed a top-10 finish by one stroke with rounds of 79 and 77.
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