ST. GEORGE — Many people figured the 3A team title and the 3A individual title in girls golf was a foregone conclusion. After all, Desert Hills had won five straight team titles and their top golfer, Katie Perkins, had won two straight gold medals at the state tournament.
Thursday at Bloomington Country Club, both Perkins and D-Hills came through again, but it was certainly no slam dunk.
“I wanted this so bad for my team,” Perkins said, through tears of happiness. “This means the whole world to me. My team did this for the sixth time in a row and knowing that they were so strong behind me, it’s so important.”
Taylor Bandley figured prominently in this year’s battle for state supremacy. Bandley, a Pine View junior, started the day two shots behind Perkins for the lead. The two golfers battled all day, but it was Bandley’s to win after Perkins missed a short putt on 17. With the miss, Bandley led by one shot heading to the 18th.
With a good-sized crowd looking on, Bandley hit her third shot just short of the green, while Perkins went long, her ball resting a few feet behind a small tree. Bandley chipped first and got within about 10 feet. Perkins then punched one a little too hard and rolled it about 16 feet past the cup. But the three-time champ rolled her putt in to put the pressure on the young contender. Bandley’s putt, stroked at a perfect speed, missed by maybe an inch to the left. The bogey left the two tied after 36 holes of golf.
At that point, the UHSAA officials huddled and agreed that there would be a sudden-death playoff, beginning on Hole 1 at BCC. The 492-yard, par-5 hole is fairly straight and Perkins’ drive was straight as an arrow. Bandley hit into the rough on the right side and was forced to use her second shot to pooch the ball back into the fairway. Perkins’ second shot left her just short of the green.
But Bandley made up the disparity by stroking a beautiful third shot onto the green, about 12 feet from the cup. Perkins chipped her third shot within about 14 feet. But the champ once again sank a saving putt, leaving it up to Bandley to either hole out and force a second playoff hole or give the title to Perkins.
Once again, the Pine View junior stroked a nice ball. With a slight slope right, she aimed left, but the ball didn’t break much at all and slid high of the cup by no more than two inches. And with that, Perkins and Bandley embraced as the Desert Hills senior had earned her third straight state title.
“I didn’t play my best golf today,” Perkins said. “I’m a little frustrated. I really thought I had given it away on 17.”
The Thunder had already clinched the team title when the individual playoff began. Perkins simply needed to defeat Saylor Rabe of park City, also in the final group with Perkins and Bandley, for D-Hills to take the team title. Rabe shot an 82 to Perkins’ 76, all of that equating to DH winning the team title by a Stableford score of 646 to the Miners’ 640. Thunder coach Laurie Dyer said hard work, and a little luck, is the key for her team, which captured its sixth consecutive state championship.
“Every year it gets tighter and tighter for us,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next year. But basically the JAG (Junior Association of Golf) program in St. George is where these kids learn how to golf and develop a passion for golf. I’m just lucky enough to get a fortunate amount on my side. And we continue to build skills and work on their mental toughness out there.”
D-Hills got good rounds from Kyla Smith (77, for 85 Stableford points), Tori Thomas (85 for 77), K’Jahna Plant (90 for 72) and got contributions from Abby Morris and Bailee Carmack, who shot 96 and 97.
Pine View was third with Bandley’s rounds of 73 and 74 earning the team 177 points. The Panthers finished with 602.
Bear River was fourth,with Snow Canyon taking fifth and Dixie sliding in at sixth. Flyer golfer Gracie Richens had the low round of the day Thursday with a 72. She finished third in the individual race behind Perkins and Bandley, with DH’s Smith taking fourth after rounds of 78 and 77.
Warrior Lexi Hamel and Flyer Mikayla Frei tied for fifth with 166 points after a two-day stroke total of 158.
Perkins, who has signed to play collegiate golf at Utah valley University, said she hopes to make golf her livelihood someday.”
“I just have a big passion for golf,” she said. “It works for me.”
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