A year ago at the 2020 4A state tournament, the Ridgeline Riverhawks finished 38 strokes behind Crimson Cliffs — the eventual winner.
With a such a steep margin separating them from an elite Mustangs squad, and according to head coach Sam Lindley, the Riverhawks knew there was only one thing to do: get better themselves.
After a calendar year of working to accomplish that objective, the Riverhawks defeated the Mustangs by five strokes in a playoff hole Thursday afternoon at Birch Creek Golf Course to claim the 2021 4A state championship trophy and Ridgeline’s first ever boys golf title. Trailing Crimson Cliffs by four strokes heading into the second day of play, the Riverhawks shot a 9-over round of 297 to force the playoff hole with the Mustangs.
The Riverhawks were led by junior Zach Skinner, who dominated the field both days, shooting a 5-under score of 139 for the tournament and finishing as individual medalist. Skinner edged out Crimson Cliffs’ Boston Bracken, who shot a 141 for the tournament.
We’ve been working for this all year. As for me, it’s awesome to see my hard work pay off because I put in a lot of work this summer and it feels good to see it pay off.” — Ridgeline junior Zach Skinner
Skinner and Bracken finished as the only players in the field to shoot an under-par score.
The performances of Skinner and Bracken led their respective schools to a final score of 597, but the Riverhawks edged the Mustangs by 5 strokes on the 18th hole — which was designated as the playoff hole — to settle the knotted final score.
Momentum shifted frequently between the two teams before the round ended in a tie, with four different lead changes over the final five holes.
Lindley said that he and his players thought they had won the tournament outright before they learned of the tie and the resulting playoff hole that was going to be played. Though disappointed, the Ridgeline players hustled over to the driving range, to take a few shots at the driving range in the minutes before they made their way to the 18th tee.
Skinner said that few minutes of practice helped he and his teammates perform on an 18th hole that requires a strong shot off the tee.
“It all depends on your tee shot,” Skinner said of the designated playoff hole. “And I think everyone (on the team) hit pretty good tee shots. … It was a lot of fun.”
Both Skinner and Lindley said that they used their experience of playing the Birch Creek course to their advantage the whole tournament, but especially during the playoff hole.
“When we found out we were going to playing on our ‘home turf’ kind of, we were excited,” Lindley said. “We’ve played a lot of matches here and that gave us an advantage although we were hoping for a little bit of rain or snow, but we didn’t get much of that.”
Senior Isaac Peterson sunk a beautiful long putt for birdie on the playoff hole which seemed to sink the Mustangs’ hope of a potential “three-peat” along with it. But when the Riverhawks saw the putt go in, they began to feel the gratification of cashing in on their hard work.
“It’s so awesome that our team won,” Skinner said of winning the title and individual medalist. “We’ve been working for this all year. As for me, it’s awesome to see my hard work pay off because I put in a lot of work this summer and it feels good to see it pay off.”
Though Skinner gets the claim to individual medalist, Lindley acknowledged that his team wouldn’t have hoisted the championship trophy without the performances of each individual player on the team and even the performances of the kids who didn’t make the team.
“All of our kids played well,” Lindley said. “It was a team effort. I had five or six kids that didn’t make the varsity cut this year that would’ve been starting on most of the teams in our region, so that goes to show how all these players pushed these varsity kids just to be able to make varsity. That made them tough, and that toughness paid off.”
Class 4A state tournament
At Birch Creek Golf Course (Smithfield)
1. Ridgeline, 597 (won by 5-strokes in playoff hole)
2. Crimson Cliffs, 597
3. Sky View, 620
3. Green Canyon, 620
5. Pine View, 624
6. Desert Hills, 633
7. Cedar, 653
8. Logan, 671
9. Hurricane, 672
139— Zach Skinner, Ridgeline
141— Boston Bracken, Crimson Cliffs
149— Jax McMurdie, Dixie
150— Hayden Howell, Sky View; Michael Stirland, Hurricane; Zach Felts, Crimson Cliffs; Beckham Johansen, Ridgeline; Sam Ballingham, Green Canyon
151— Cruz Kirchhausen, Crimson Cliffs; Fletcher Hamblin, Ridgeline
153— Abe Olson, Green Canyon
154— Boston Dixon, Desert Hills
155— Braylon Bingham, Cedar; Brandon Roundy, Pine View; Lincoln Markham, Crimson Cliffs; Carson Shakespear, Green Canyon
156— Ethan McKay, Sky View; Brock Roundy, Pine View; Braden Alder, Sky View; Kaden Koch, Pine View; Noah Christensen, Desert Hills
157— Cooper Milne, Pine View