Huskies may not have a shot at the golf state title, but still have a love of the sportSep 21, 2020 12:22PM ● By Julie Slama
Hillcrest High’s boys golf team pose at a practice in mid-August. Kneeling left to right: Keaton Glover Matt Miller and Alex Peterson. Standing left to right: Damon Stewart, Porter Eldredge, Dylan Whetsel, Soyer Smith and Kael McCleary. Not pictured: Braden Rosenhan, Payton Huffman, Ian Tsai, Humza Kahn, and Hunter Cosper. (Dave Richardson/Hillcrest High)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Where every stroke counts, Hillcrest High coach Dave Richardson is making sure he is working with his golfers’ swings.
His 17 players are out on the range weekly and they know they can pick up a bucket of balls to get some swings in.
“I wrote a 26-page paper on golf swings for college, so I know I can help them improve their swing,” said the now U.S. history and U.S. government teacher who graduated from the University of Utah in exercise science.
While the girls golf team’s season was shut down last spring after one tournament because of the Utah High School Activities Association’s decision to cancel spring sports in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Richardson remains hopeful for the boys’ team this fall.
“I’m hoping we get to play. I’m hoping we have a season,” he said. “Golf is the perfect social distancing sport.”
Under the direction of volunteer assistant coach Marc Poulsen, the Huskies played in the first tournament Aug. 12, where the top four players’ scores broke 400, something Richardson said didn’t happen last season.
“It looks different now. It used to be we’d end the tournament and the teams would get together. Now, it’s turn in the score card and leave,” he said, adding he’s not certain if Hillcrest will hold its annual year-end scramble tournament or be able to perform their service project of neighborhood cleanup because of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.
The seven-year coach is looking forward to returning players junior Braden Rosenhan and senior Ian Tsai leading the team along with newcomers junior CJ Poulsen and senior Damon Stewart.
About six varsity lettermen are returning to the squad after three graduated last spring. Last year’s 12 members finished last in region.
Richardson said he has “good players,” including upcoming freshman Keaton Glover, who has “a sweet swing,” but the team isn’t in the same league as others in the region, which he terms, “the country club region.”
“A lot of these kids at Skyline, Olympus, and Brighton have the opportunity to play all the time,” he said. “We’re not in that socio-economic class. Golf is expensive and we have to pay every time we hit the balls whether it’s at a range or a public course.”
The team holds an annual fundraiser, reaching out to friends and the community to help them. Team members also recruit friends to join the team.
“We have lots of freshmen and sophomores. My hope is that we will have a better region next year with the realignment so we can compete,” he said.
Richardson encouraged his team to play in the summer, which some were able to when they weren’t working at golf courses.
“(Junior) Soyer Smith had a job at a course this summer and he’s improved the most,” he said.
The season began in late July with tryouts. In August, they regularly met, with younger players vying every Monday for a spot on the varsity roster.
“We have opportunities for our young guys to beat our varsity players to earn a spot on the varsity roster every week. We’ll have three JV duels, two which we’ll host,” Richardson said.
The varsity will have Monday duel matches and then nine weekly tournaments against other teams in the region (there’s no inter-region play) that will end Sept. 28. The Huskies practice at River Oaks Golf Course, which is a par 70, but their home tournaments are at Mountain View, a par 72 course.
“We shoot our best scores at Mountain View,” he said.
The Huskies will play in the 5A region 6 tournament, but Richardson doesn’t anticipate the team advancing to state this year.
“When we played in region 2 (then 6A), we won region the first year and were second the year after. We had a great team that could compete in any region,” he said, before the realignment occurred after those years. “This year, we’ll likely finish last again. This is the first year that they’ll only take the top two teams in each region, then look at the score average for the other teams to take to state. It’s a better system that I totally agree with. It’s not fair that some much better teams in a region don’t get to play at state if they’re in a hard-matched region. And if an individual is good enough to qualify, and lights it up, he can still play at state.”
Even without a shot at the state title, Richardson said many of his players still have “a healthy vice” to the sport.
“To be able to leave school and go out to play, to get better, that’s a lot of motivation for these kids,” he said.