MIDWAY — For several years, Grand was on the edge of glory in 2A boys golf. In fact, from 2011-2014, Grand took second place in the state tournament and third once.
In 2015, that all changed as the Red Devils broke through to earn the state championship, and on Thursday, at Soldier Hollow Golf Course, they got their second state championship in a row to solidify their place atop the ranks. In the individual portion, Waterford sophomore Jack Nilson broke onto the scene and captured the medalist honors.
As for Grand, going back-to-back was a special achievement, especially considering the near misses in previous years.
“Going back-to-back is a great feeling. The program is working for the kids and the kids are putting the effort in and it shows,” Grand head coach Aaron Woodard said. “You come in and get back-to-back state titles and you know the kids are really pushing and really working for that goal.”
Alec Williams led the way for Grand, taking third place with a 148 two-day total, followed by Masen Ward, who ended with a 151 two-day total.
The Red Devils got off to a good start in this year’s state tournament and ended the first day with a comfortable 15-stroke lead over Waterford, which ultimately finished 13 shots behind Grand in second place.
Even so, Grand was focused on finishing strong and closing out for their second straight title. While the Red Devils didn’t play quite as well Thursday as they did on day one, Woodard was happy with how his team handled the pressure and won the tournament.
“It’s very exciting,” Woodard said. “The second day is always the toughest, but they still came out and battled.”
Besides Williams and Ward, the other contributors for the winning squad included Brendon Woodard, Jaxen Saunders, Luke Williams and Kane Scherer.
Waterford took second place behind Grand, thanks in large part to sophomore Jack Nilson, who took medalist honors following his first-round 73 on Wednesday with a 68 on Thursday.
Nilson struggled with accuracy in his first round but still managed to stay within one shot of initial leader Alec Williams.
Some focused adjustments helped Nilson bring his A-game for his second round, where he really shined and took the tournament into his own hands.
“Today I played a lot better,” Nilson said. “I wasn’t missing left like I was (the first day) so I could free up my swing.”
With his more relaxed swing, Nilson improved on his day-one score by five shots to shoot a 68 and defeat Davis Heslington of Beaver by three strokes. Williams ended up in third place.
Nilson’s impressive second round got off to a rough start with a chunked 5-wood on the first tee, but Nilson quickly recovered on that same hole as he later used a pitching wedge to hit four feet from the hole. The clutch par save gave Nilson some momentum, and from there he was outstanding.
“It was really reassuring to start off well,” he said.
Another key for Nilson was his finish as he birdied both 16 and 17 to create some space between him and his competitors.
1. Grand, 624. 2. Waterford 637. 3. Beaver, 646. 4. South Sevier, 658. 5. Rowland Hall, 664. 6. Emery, 700. 7. San Juan, 722. 8. Manti, 727. 9. South Summit, 741.
141 — Jack Nilson, Waterford.
144 — Davis Heslington, Beaver.
148 — Alec Williams, Grand.
149 — Gage Ekker, South Sevier.
151 — Masen Ward, Grand.
154 — Porter Dowell, South Sevier; Kyler Johnson, San Juan.
155 — Walter Robson, Waterford.
158 — Brendon Woodard, Grand.
163 — Cayson Kreth, Beaver; Sean McDaniel, Rowland Hall.
166 — Jack Lang, Rowland Hall; McKoy Holt, Emery.
167 — Ryan Park, Waterford; Corbin Hannig, Beaver.
168 — Jaxen Saunders, Grand.
169 — Matt O’Brien, Rowland Hall.
171 — Nathan Johnson, Providence Hall.
172 — Lewis Bradshaw, Beaver; Max Scaife, Rowland Hall.