After playing shorthanded for most of the regular season, the Powell High School boys golf team returned to full strength at just the right time: At the Class 3A West Conference Tournament in Star Valley on Friday and Saturday, the Panthers’ top four players combined to post their best team score of the season (687) — beating out Cody for third place in the seven-team field.
“We posted eight rounds between 79 and 89 over the two days [in Afton], which is exactly what we needed to do to earn a trophy this year,” said PHS coach Troy Hildebrand. He said the shorter Star Valley View Golf Course, a par 70, offered a chance to shoot some good scores.
Crandell Sanders paced the boys by tying for 10th place individually, highlighted by a career-best 79 on Friday.
Meanwhile, Mycah Wainscott led the Lady Panthers with a 10th place showing of her own. It was her second straight year earning All Conference honors. As a team, the PHS girls finished fifth among the five schools that posted team scores, but they showed substantial improvement; the Lady Panthers’ total score, of 654, was 128 shots lower than how they started the season.
“This was a great chance for these three juniors [Wainscott, Cat Wilson and Bailey Kennedy] to get some experience at a conference tournament that they can fall back on again next week and next year,” Hildebrand said.
The Lander girls and boys won the tournament with team scores of 539 and 607, respectively, led by individual champions Jaren Calkins (68-71, 1-under par) and Rachel Stoinski (80-75). Star Valley’s Braves and Lady Braves finished as runner-ups.
After opening with the 79, Sanders “had some ups and downs” in shooting an 88 on day two, Hildebrand said, but the junior managed to hold on to 10th by a single shot.
“He finished both rounds by making a significant putt which proved to be the difference for him,” Hildebrand said. The showing should provide momentum for Sanders as PHS heads to the state tournament in Riverton this week, the coach said.
Senior Rob Sessions fired consistent rounds of 84 and 85. He missed the top 10 by only two strokes, held back by just a couple tough holes each day, Hildebrand said.
“He is doing a lot of things well and playing the most consistent golf of his four year varsity career,” Hildebrand said, adding, “He is in a great spot heading to state.”
Bennett Walker posted the best overall tournament of his PHS career, shooting an 86 and 88 and doing “a great job of keeping his round together each day.”
“Bennett is a very good player and when he gets his short game going he can shoot some very good scores,” Hildebrand said.
George Higgins, meanwhile, continued his “rapid improvement” and shot rounds of 88 and 89 at his first-ever conference tournament. Higgins “does such a great job of playing to his strengths,” Hildebrand said.
Yogi Sullivan rounded out the varsity, shooting a 111 and 115 to close out his season.
“Yogi just hasn’t been able to put it all together in a tournament this fall yet but he has worked hard and definitely shown signs of what he is capable of with his game,” Hildebrand.
Kason Cannon, meanwhile, will jump onto the varsity squad for the state tourney after posting his best tournament total while playing JV: 104 and 102.
“He has come a long, long way in the last year and a half,” Hildebrand said, adding that the state tourney “will be good experience for him as he moves into a different role for us next year as a senior.”
Fellow junior varsity player Brandon Wentz shot a 126 and 121, shaving a couple dozen strokes from the prior week.
“I really think Brandon is going to be a very valuable player for us and will be very important to our team next fall,” Hildebrand said.
On the girls side, Wainscott led PHS in Afton with rounds of 96 and 98.
“She actually battled some swing troubles but hung in there both days to post sub 100 rounds and hang on for a top ten,” Hildebrand said. “She’ll work hard this week and take her very best to Riverton.”
Wilson, meanwhile, continued to show growth in shooting 111-105 — her best two-day total yet.
“... In a testament to her grit, she had a really bad hole early in her round Friday and she bounced back by posting a birdie and a couple pars to hold her round together,” Hildebrand said.
Kennedy rounded out the squad by opening her tournament with a 117 — her best score by 15 shots. She followed that with a 127.
Kennedy figures out “more and more” each week, and “I’m excited to see how she comes out and plays at state this week with the way she has been improving,” Hildebrand said.
The Class 3A state tournament in Riverton starts Friday.