High school golf: Spanish Fork’s Jackson Rhees dominates to win 5A medalist, but Skyline outduels Spanish Fork for 4-peat
Rhees’ 133 tied for the third-best 36-hole score in state history
Jackson Rhees has no idea how many times he’s played The Oaks at Spanish Fork Golf course over the past nine years, but the Spanish Fork junior guessed maybe a thousand.
He’s never played his home course better than he did during the 5A state championships this Monday and Tuesday. Rhees ran away with 5A medalist honors, backing up his 4-under first round with a scintillating 7-under 65 on Tuesday to finish the tournament at 11-under and eight strokes better than anyone else.
“It’s pretty crazy. I didn’t think I would ever win state at my home course,” said Jackson Rhees, who had the top scoring average in Region 9 at 70.3 this season. In fact, in the final region match of the season two weeks ago Rhees shot a 70 on the same course he tore up this week.
Rhees’ 133 tied Davis’ Cole Ponich (2017) for the third-best 36-hole score in state history. The only rounds better both came at the 5A state championships at Soldier Hollow last year, a 128 and 132 amid very favorable scoring conditions.
There was nothing easy about the scoring conditions this week at The Oaks, where only five golfers finished under par.
“Every shot was focused, I just played golf. I knew I was capable of shooting those scores, but my focus was just there every shot,” said Rhees.
Skyline’s Peter Kim, Spanish Fork’s Noah Taylor and Lehi’s KJ Ofahengaue all tied for second with a two-day 3-under, while Skyline’s Charlie Thomas was the only other player under par at 2-under.
Kim and Thomas were instrumental in helping Skyline overcome Rhees’ career day as Skyline edged Spanish Fork for the team title by just four strokes. The Eagles finished with four golfers in the top 10 and a team score of 575 to capture its fourth straight 5A state title while Spanish Fork was a close second at 579.
“The great thing about our guys is they care more about the team part of it than the individual,” said Skyline coach Kenny James. “It was pretty neat to watch them come up big and make big birdie putts.”
The team race was tight throughout Tuesday’s round, which ended with a steady rain, but Skyline’s composure on the back nine was the difference.
Skyline’s golfers combined to shoot 5-under on the back nine while Spanish Fork finished at 2-under.
Kim by himself finished 3-under on the back nine with clutch shot-making down the stretch. He played in the final grouping with Rhees and said trying to keep up was very motivating.
“He was making everything and playing great so I just wanted to stay up with him, but he kind of ran away with it,” said Kim.
Kim actually outdueled Rhees on the back nine by one stroke, but Rhees’ front nine 31 — which included an eagle on the par 5 third — was too much for anyone to overcome.
Skyline’s Thomas had two great putts on the back nine that proved to be instrumental in the narrow team title pursuit. One was saving double-bogey with a lengthy putt on No. 13 and then he made a 30-footer for birdie on No. 16.
Almost simultaneously Sean Lam made a birdie for Skyline on the par 3 17th hole. Skyline freshman Jackson Shelley also came up clutch late birdieing No. 17 and 18.
The timely shot-making by those four Skyline players was the difference.
“When we made the turn tied, we had to believe we could go head to head with anybody and win,” said James. “It’s a great group of guys and they care about the right things, and the nice thing is we have some nice youngsters to try and continue this to keep it going.”
The key to Spanish Fork nearly winning its first state championship since 1998 was clutch play from senior Max Murray and sophomore Ben Clayson.
While Rhees and Taylor did their thing shooting under par both days and finishing in the top three, Murray and Clayson both shot significantly better on Tuesday after difficult opening rounds.
Murray followed up his 80 on Monday with a 73 on Tuesday and finished tied for 16th. Clayson also shot a 73 on Tuesday after a first-round 82 to finish tied for 22nd.
Class 5A state championships
At The Oaks at Spanish Fork
1. Skyline, 575
2. Spanish Fork, 579
3. Woods Cross, 599
4. Lehi, 604
5. Olympus, 610
6. Box Elder, 621
7. Brighton, 631
8. Highland, 635
9. Salem Hills, 635
10. Orem, 642
133 — Jackson Rhees, Spanish Fork
141 — KJ Ofahengaue, Lehi; Noah Taylor, Spanish Fork; Peter Kim, Skyline
142 — Charlie Thomas, Skyline
144 — Rex Poulsen, Woods Cross
145 — Kieran Dunn, Brighton
146 — Emmitt Harris, Olympus; Jackson Shelley, Skyline; Sean Lam, Skyline; Tyler Barlow, Woods Cross
149 — Preston Cheney, Jordan
150 — Bauer Kuemmel, Highland
151 — Braydon Griffith, Stansbury
152 — Lance Smith, Olympus
153 — Dyson Lish, Box Elder; Max Murray, Spanish Fork
154 — Helaman Ofahengaue, Lehi; Austin Wetfall, Orem
155 — Jacob Gold, Viewmont; Luke Gardner, Viewmont; Aiden Allen, Olympus; Ben Clayson, Spanish Fork