I’ve played this tournament well, I know my competition here and what I’ve got to do to win. —Connor Howe
LAYTON — With two holes remaining in the opening round of the 6A state tournament on Monday, it looked like Davis’ Cole Ponich might run away from the field with a five-shot lead and a birdie putt on No. 17.
Ponich settled for pars on his last two holes, however, and with Weber two-time state champion Connor Howe birdieing his last two holes it set the stage for a terrific final round on Tuesday at Valley View Golf Course.
Ponich heads into the final round with a three-stroke lead after a bogey-free, opening round 65, with Howe three back after a 68. Two other golfers, Lone Peak’s Zach Jones and Pleasant Grove’s Gavin Smith, shot 69 on Monday and are within striking distance just four back.
“It was a fun round. I hit it really solid all day, not too special. I hit a lot of fairways, I hit pretty much every green. And then I got the putter going pretty good,” said Ponich, who came into the state tournament with a 67.5 scoring average.
Not even a 90-minute rain delay could disrupt Ponich’s momentum.
Just as Ponich was making the turn to the back nine, it started to hail in Layton and tournament officials halted play for over an hour. He parred No. 10 out of the break, while Howe bogeyed.
Howe eventually regrouped and birdies on the last two holes give him a fighting chance on Tuesday.
“I birdied my last two holes, so I finished strong. You’ve just got to stay patient, lots of golf left, anything can happen,” said Howe. “I’ve played this tournament well, I know my competition here and what I’ve got to do to win.”
Howe is looking to become just the fifth three-time state champion in state history, and the first in over a decade. The previous four were Snow Canyon’s Jake Ellison (1996-1998), Waterford’s Mike McRay (2001, 2003-2004), Richfield’s Ryan Oldroyd (1992-1994) and Judge Memorial’s Pete Stone (1997-1999).
Howe said he doesn’t feel any pressure to try and join that elusive club.
Lone Peak was a heavy favorite coming into the tournament to win its fifth straight team title, and it leads by four after shooting a 1-over 289 in the best four-of-six scoring format. Along with Jones 69, Josh Rooker shot a 71, with Max Brenchley firing a 73 and Parker Reese and Dylan Ramsay each shooting a 76.
Davis shot a 293 and is only four back as Jack Sargent, Coleman Cook and McKay Cook all shot 76s to go along with Ponich’s 65.
Pleasant Grove sits in third place heading into the final day buoyed by Smits’ 69 and then a 76 by Abe Robinson.
6A state golf tournament
Valley View Golf Course, par 72
Team scores (top 10 make cut)
1. Lone Peak, 289; 2. Davis, 293; 3. Pleasant Grove, 299; 4. Bingham, 301; 5. Weber, 303; 6. American Fork, 306; 7. Clearfield, 312; 8. Fremont, 322; 9. Riverton, 323; 10. Herriman, 327.
65 — Cole Ponich, Davis
68 — Conner Howe, Weber
69— Gavin Smith, Pleasant Grove; Zach Jones, Lone Peak
71 — Josh Rooker, Lone Peak
73 — Max Brenchley, Lone Peak; Tanner McMillan, Clearfield
74 — Nick Anderson, Bingham; Noah Kirby, Bingham; David Conway, American Fork; Cameron Skiby, Fremont
75 — Jordan Bingham, Bingham; Caden Dunn, Westlake
76 — Parker Reese, Lone Peak; Dylan Ramsay, Lone Peak; Jack Sargent, Davis; Coleman Cook, Davis; Mckay Cook, Davis; Abe Robinson, Pleasant Grove; Jayce Morrill, American Fork.
77 — Zach Hammond, Pleasant Grove; Derek Leetham, Pleasant Grove; Trey Dudley, Pleasant Grove; Isaac Layne, Weber; Taydon Law, Clearfield; Ryan Martinez, Fremont; Parker Applegate, Riverton.