ST. GEORGE – The Pine View boys golf team will be young this season, but the much-improved play of the team’s lone upperclassmen, seniors Dray Matthews and Connor Hayward, should have the Panthers in the hunt for a region title.
Matthews’ and Hayward’s scores hovered around 80 for much of last season. A year later, the scores are now much closer to par.
Despite the duo being teamed up with a bunch of underclassmen, Pine View is by no means inexperienced, as the Panthers return almost their entire squad from last year’s team that finished fourth in region and 11th at state. That includes returning sophomores Noah Schone, Trajen Kidd and Dakota Millward.
They add a newcomer,freshman Jaden Milne, whose talent has Matthews, Hayward and coach Gary Higgins gushing.
“For a freshman, he’s really good for his age,” Hayward said. “Now we have six guys who can help us out.”
With that core in place, the Panthers are optimistic they may be a team on the rise.
“I’m really looking forward to this season because I think we can gain some good ground this year,” Matthews said.
Hayward added that his goal would be for his team to finish in the top two in region.
While there is depth on this team, it’s the two seniors and the strides they’ve made in their game that will be the key.
Over the course of the recently-ended Junior Association Golf (JAG) season, Matthews and Hayward emerged as two of St. George’s best young golfers, finishing in the Top 5 of the standings.
Hayward is the veteran. Entering his fourth season of high school golf, Hayward played in two tournaments as a freshman before becoming a regular varsity player his sophomore and junior years. He averaged around 77 his sophomore year, but his scores increased last season as he tried to work in a new swing.
That swing is now firmly in place, and his scores have been dropping.
“I’m playing really consistently right now,” Hayward said.
Matthews, on the other hand, played high school golf for the first time last season. He spent his summer months playing JAG tournaments, going to the driving range and working on his chipping.
“(Matthews) has worked really hard over the summer,” Higgins said. “He’s been looking really good so far.”
Matthews said he’s seen the improvements in his own game.
“I’ve gained a lot of distance, and I’m putting and chipping really well,” he said.
With that improved play, the Panthers are hoping that their trip to this year’s state tournament, which will be held locally at Sunbrook Golf Club, will see a better finish than last year.
“Last year at state, we didn’t get to play the second day,” Higgins said. “They’ve been working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”