Ravell Call, Deseret Morning News
Members of Uintah High School's golf team pose with the team's 3A state championship trophy at Soldier Hollow earlier this month.

Uintah exceeded its expectations in golf. At the beginning of the season, knowing the Utes were a young team, coach Kent McCurdy thought that second place would be attainable. And with that mentality, that is exactly where they finished in every region meet to Park City. The turning point came at the state tournament when after the first round Uintah was tied with Carbon and two strokes ahead of nemesis Park City.

"Right then is when they thought they could win," said McCurdy. The next day brought windy conditions again but the Utes pulled out a two-stroke victory. "We toughed it out better," McCurdy said.

As part of the reward, the team received a police escort when it arrived back in Vernal. The procession went directly to the high school just in time to be honored before the start of a girls volleyball match.

Next year sees everyone back except the coach. McCurdy is retiring from his job as pro at the local course as well as the high school coach. But he is working behind the scenes to ensure a solid future for this group of young kids.

Sophomore Stratton Shulz is the best overall player and McCurdy says, "He doesn't have a weakness. He is extremely long for his size." At 5 foot 4 and weighing 120 pounds, he drives the ball in the 270-280 range. Maybe offseason weight work would help him, but that is not the norm for a golfer. Shulz does plan to play in more junior circuit tournaments in which he has already been very competitive.

Last year, Shulz didn't play high school golf. He played freshman football where be broke his ankle, which helped turn him to the golf team. Blake Rollins, another sophomore, also played football last year but will return next year to improve on his golf game.

Freshman Alex Baldridge returns and needs work on his long irons. "He has to work on hitting greens," said McCurdy, but he is our second-best player because he has a good short game." He added, "He hits his driver very straight."

The other three returnees for next year were all juniors on this year's team: Matthew Gudac, Jake Bailey and Chase Hanberg.

E-mail: wjewkes@desnews.com