Dixie’s Gracie Richens and Desert Hills’ Kyla Smith tied for lead at Soldier Hollow

Dixie’s Gracie Richens and Desert Hills’ Kyla Smith tied for lead at Soldier Hollow

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Dixie’s Gracie Richens and Desert Hills’ Kyla Smith tied for lead at Soldier Hollow

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The Desert Hills girls golf team came into the first day of the 3A state golf tournament at Soldier Hollow looking to defend its crown and extend the state record for consecutive state golf championships in girls’ golf.

Dixie's Gracie Richens poses for a picture after tying Desert Hills' Kyla Smith for the top score of the day at Soldier Hollow on Wednesday.

Dixie’s Gracie Richens poses for a picture after tying Desert Hills’ Kyla Smith for the top score of the day at Soldier Hollow on Wednesday.

But Park City had other plans Wednesday afternoon as the Miners finished the day with a score of 307 for a three-point lead over the Thunder (304) in the Stableford scoring system. Dixie, Bear River and Pine View rounded out the top five with scores of 281, 280 and 279. The final round will start with tee times to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Park City was led by Sarah Marshall (79) and Saylor Rabe (80).

“We’ve never been in this position before,” Desert Hills head coach Laurie Dyer said of the second-place finish after the first day. “We knew we were going to have to play well if we wanted to win and it looks like it’s going to be another nail-biter again.”

Desert Hills' Kyla Smith looks on as Park City's Saylor Rabe hits off the tees. Smith, along with Dixie's Gracie Richens carded the top score of the day with a 2-over par 74 at Soldier Hollow on Wednesday.

Desert Hills’ Kyla Smith looks on as Park City’s Saylor Rabe hits off the tees. Smith, along with Dixie’s Gracie Richens carded the top score of the day with a 2-over par 74 at Soldier Hollow on Wednesday.

Desert Hills’ Kyla Smith and Dixie’s Gracie Richens both fired a 2-over par 74 to sit atop the leaderboard. It shouldn’t come as a surprise as Smith and Richens went toe-to-toe throughout region play.

Smith finished the region season winning medalist honors by squeaking out a two-point victory over Richens.

The pair will look to build on their five-shot lead over Park City’s Marshall and Rabe.

Snow Canyon’s Lexi Hamel and Pine View’s Taylor Bandley sit right behind with scores of 81 and 82.

“I didn’t play my best today but I’m glad I finished the way that I did,” Smith said of her three birdies.

On the 16th hole, Smith looked to have an eagle after the ball hit the pin and bounced up in the air and came right back down. Unfortunately for Smith, the ball settled just inches outside the cup as she tapped in for birdie.

Pine View's Taylor Bandley hits out of a bunker at Soldier Hollow on Wednesday. The Panthers sit in fifth and are just two points behind Dixie for third-place.

Pine View’s Taylor Bandley hits out of a bunker at Soldier Hollow on Wednesday. The Panthers sit in fifth and are just two points behind Dixie for third-place.

Following that, Smith stuck her 6-iron within 3-feet on the 17th hole to tap in for birdie and then made a dramatic finish on 18.

After a nice drive, Smith ran into some trouble as her second shot went long. But the senior stepped up and nailed a 25-foot putt to finish the day with three consecutive birdies.

“It was a cool way to finish the day but I was I could have played better the rest of the round,” Smith said. “But it gives me a lot of confidence heading into tomorrow. I came up short on a number of putts so want to be more aggressive tomorrow and give myself some more chances.”

“Kyla had chances today but I guess it took 15 holes to figure it out,” Dyer said jokingly. “But that just shows how good of a player she is and how she can just turn it on in a second.”

Richens had two birdies on the day and was arguably the most consistent throughout the day. And even when the junior got into trouble, Richens saved numerous pars with long putts — including a 20-footer on the 15th hole.

After a crushing drive, Richens went long on her second shot after clubbing up because she was going into the wind.  After her shot went long, Richens thought she had a perfect chip until her ball landed on the collar leaving her 20-feet from the hole. But like she did all day, the junior got sweet revenge as she sunk a putt that even had her parents jumping up and down.

“It was fun seeing them so excited,” Richens said of her parents dance moves. “They don’t get to see me play a lot because of work, but they were able to make it and I was glad that I could play well in front of them.”

Pine View players celebrate after completing one of the toughest courses in the state at Soldier Hollow on Wednesday.

Pine View players celebrate after completing one of the toughest courses in the state at Soldier Hollow on Wednesday.

With the 3A tournament being played on the Gold Course, scores have been a lot higher than in previous years due to the mountains and hills all over the course.

The phrase “uphill both ways” came to mind for those making the trek around the championship golf course Wednesday.

“Ain’t that the truth,” Dixie head coach Mark Heppler said smiling. “This is one of the toughest courses in the state and it’s definitely mentally and physically draining for players. But overall I’m really happy the way the girls came out and played and look forward to seeing what they can do tomorrow.”

Dixie’s Liahona Fa’apuna and Kenzie Kelsch each posted their best scores of the season and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Flyers.

“Hats off to them,” Heppler said. “They went out and had fun and didn’t let the pressure get to them.”

Pine View sits in fifth with Bandley (82) and Bailia Milne (86) leading the way for the Panthers.

Snow Canyon sits in ninth as was led by Hamel (81) and Michelle Crenshaw (102).

Despite her team not qualifying for State, Hurricane’s Taylor Anderson represented the Tigers as she scored high enough in region play to compete for individual medalist honors. Anderson finished with a score of 111.

Canyon View missed the cut after posting a team score of 180. Keslee Sherman had the top score for the Falcons at 101.

Follow Justin Giles on Twitter @Justingiles22 or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JustinGilesSportsWriter.

Top 10 teams (Stableford scoring)
1 – Park City (307)
2 – Desert Hills (304)
3 – Dixie (281)
4 – Bear River (280) 
5 – Pine View (279)
6 – Morgan (264)
7 – Stansbury (250)
8 – Juab (248)
9 – Snow Canyon (237)
10 – Logan (233)

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