ST. GEORGE – To pretty much no one’s surprise, Dixie’s Gracie Richens was crowned the Region 9 girls golfer of the year Wednesday, with Desert Hills running away with the team title.
Richens, the defending 3A state champ, fired an 18-hole total of 74, nailing four birdies during her 2-over par round at the beautiful Ledges Golf Course. Her total was three shots ahead of runner-up Lexi Hamel of Snow Canyon. Kjahna Plant of Desert Hills was third with an 85.
“It was kind of a roller coaster day for me, but overall it was good,” said Richens, who had a two-day total of 150 to win state last year at Soldier Hollow in Midway. “It seemed like every time I had a birdie, I’d get a bogey on the next hole. I didn’t do any one thing really well today, but I was happy with the overall result.”
Richens won seven of the eight Region 9 events this season and is the prohibitive favorite to win state once again. Her biggest competition may come from another southern Utahn, Snow Canyon’s Hamel. She is the only other golfer to have won in region this year.
“Going into the final tournament of my junior year and I want to play as good as I possibly can,” Hamill said. “Ever since the last tournament, I’ve been concentrating, saying to myself to get my head in the game. I’ve been practicing a lot, spending a lot of time with my coach.”
Hamel was fifth last season at state with a 161 over the two-day event.
The team title Wednesday went to Desert Hills, which had a score of 367, six shots ahead of Snow Canyon and seven shots in front of Dixie. Pine View was fourth, with Cedar fifth and Hurricane sixth (see scores below).
As always, each team golfs with six players, with the top four scores counting toward the team total. The Region 9 tournament Wednesday wasn’t a real championship as it simply counted as another one of the season tournaments, with season totals qualifying golfers and teams for state.
Regardless of the magnitude of the event, it was business as usual for the Desert Hills Thunder, who have won the state championship for seven years in a row.
“It was just a normal region tournament to us,” said Laurie Dyer, the mastermind behind the Thunder dynasty. “I don’t have one superstar this year, but I have a solid group that is very consistent. We may not have the top three, but we may have fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and they’ve been consistently in that spot all year long.”
Desert Hills finished the day with the third (Plant), sixth (Tori Thomas at 90), eighth (Alesa Ashton at 95) and ninth (Abby Lietze at 97) best golfers at the tourney. DH was the only team that didn’t have to count a score over 100 on the day.
“I only have one senior on the team out of 19 girls,” Dyer said. “I really don’t do anything to recruit girls, they just show up. Because we’ve been successful in the past, I think that if you’re moving in and you’re a golfer, I guess word gets out. We picked up 15 freshmen this year. One thing that helps us is that all my girls play the summer league – they play JAG – and it’s a tremendous thing and I encourage all of them to get out there.”
Snow Canyon stayed close thanks to Hamel and Brielle Nielsen, who shot a 93, good enough for seventh place. Pine View had three golfers shoot under 100 for the day, with Bailia Milne taking fourth with an 88, Aubrey Day fifth with an 89 and Kaylee Larsen tying for ninth with a 97.
Dyer has led Desert Hills to seven straight state titles, though this year it could be tough to keep the streak alive. Park City, which placed second, just six points behind the Thunder last year, is said to have a great team. Plus, Desert Hills is playing without injured team member Jenna Welch, who broke her foot and will likely miss the state tournament, which is at Orem’s Sleepy Ridge Golf Course.
“The prognosis for state – that’s a good question,” Dyer said. “I’m not really privy to what’s happening up north. But if we can shoot what we’re capable of shooting consistently for two days, we have a good chance. Today was not a good day for us, probably our worst day of the whole region, which is interesting since this is the last one before we go up to state. But hopefully they got it out of their system. I that’s the case. We’ll see.”
The state tourney is May 17-18 at Sleepy Ridge in Orem and will feature two days of golf, with each golfer who qualifies on the first day (18 holes) playing again on the second day (also 18 holes).
1. Desert Hills (367)
2. Snow Canyon (373)
3. Dixie (374)
4. Pine View (384)
5. Cedar (397)
6. Hurricane (431)
Top 12 Medalists
1. Gracie Richens, DX, 74
2. Lexi Hamel, SC, 77
3. Kjahna Plant, DH, 85
4. Bailia Milne, PV, 88
5. Aubrey Day, PV, 89
6. Tori Thomas, DH, 90
7. Brielle Nielsen, SC, 92
8. Alesa Ashton, DH, 95
9t. Kaylee Larsen, PV, 97
9t. Abby Leitze, DH, 97
11. Emma Chapman, CD, 98
12. Madison Smith, CD, 99
Holly Carpenter (Cedar)
Lindsey Robinson (Cedar)
Brielle Nielsen (Snow Canyon)
Camille Utley (Snow Canyon)
Kenzie Beardall (Hurricane)
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