Monticello girls capture first-ever golf state championship
by Rhett Sifford
The Monticello High School girls golf team returned home from the 1A Utah State Golf Tournament at the Cove View Golf Course in Richfield as State Champions for the first time in school history this past Wednesday, May 17.
The Buckaroo boys finished sixth in the state. The team received a hearty welcome home that evening and now that the excitement has settled down we can take a detailed look back at the season and state tournament.
Monticello Head Coach Nathan Chamberlain and Assistant Coach Shane Brewer both provided their unique individual perspectives on one of the most excellent seasons in MHS golf history with two season recaps. The San Juan Record is pleased to present them here in their entirety.
Head Coach Nathan Chamberlain
The 2023 Monticello High School golf season officially began on February 27 with about 30 inches of snow covering the Hideout Golf Course. With the help and support of the school the team took over the old boiler room which was dubbed “the dungeon.”
We had a golf simulator and nets where we were able to practice hitting. We had 3-5 players two days a week before the season began practicing for an hour at a time.
With where the girls finished last year, ten strokes behind Rich and only one stroke ahead of Manila, the girls wanted the top spot this year. I remember opening the dungeon for the girls with a 30mph wind and snow swirling around the doors and through the windows.
The kids were asking me if there was practice. Very seldom did I need to remind them to show up. I could see the commitment in their actions. We had help from our local PGA Pro Jeff Simon and other committed parents and community members.
With the first match in Moab we hadn’t played a single round and barely even nine holes for practice. Our scores reflected the lack of actual playing. With a team score of 458 it was looking like it was going to be a long cold season.
Amy Lewis and Cambree Chamberlain tied with a team low of 112. Pinnacle, the only other school in our region, scored a 531. It’s hard to motivate the team when the competition isn’t very strong. Over the next three matches the girls dropped 38 strokes to settle into our season average of 420.
At that point I had done some research with the other regions and we were sitting in the top two spots with Manila. I figured if we could get to a team score of less than 400 we should be good at the state tournament.
The first home match at the Hideout was our only sub-400 round. Amy and Alise Lewis tied with a 96 and we shot a team score of 392. At that point I was cautiously optimistic about our chances.
Lilli Burton, a first-year sophomore put a lot of time in and finished the season with a 129 average. The three other sophomores and two seniors finished the season with a combined average of 104.
With that type of depth it was a good feeling knowing that one girl could have a bad day and it wouldn’t hurt the team. Ironical we really never had a bad tournament.
Each of the returning players broke 100 this season with Amy Lewis scoring a 96 at Green River and twice at the Hideout (96 and 94). Alise shot a 96 at home and, when it mattered at region and state, finished strong with 99s in both events.
Cambree knew when to turn it on, shooting her best scores of the season at region (97) and state (98), placing first on the team in both events. Alli Young showed us what she was capable of when she got her low score of the season at home with a 98. She finished state with a 100.
We finished the season with four First Team All-State players with Cambree, Alise, Amy, and Alli in the top ten. Jade finished on the All-State Second Team.
On the boys’ side we had eight first-year players in Easton Young, Landon Ewart, Shane Lewis, Tug Davis, Curtis Bunker, Traken Lee, Jackson Keyes, and Kooper Nielson. We had just three returning boys in Darrin Westcott, Donovan Atwood, and Carter Harrod.
We started out in the MHS basement trying to juggle basketball, baseball, and track practices. We had five baseball players and two tracksters who we tried to accommodate. As with the girls our first few matches were a little rough with only player breaking 100 (Darrin with a 91).
Traken Lee was the next player to drop below the century mark with a 96 in Green River. Jackson Keyes and Kooper Nielson followed with a 96 and 99 respectively. Those four players became the base of our team for the remainder of the season.
The next four golfers, Tug Davis, Landon Ewart, Easton Young, and Shane Lewis fought over the next two spots on the varsity squad. Donovan Atwood, Curtis Bunker, and Carter Harrod showed their stamina and all qualified to play varsity at some point in the season.
When it came down to the region championship Darrin’s average was in the 80s and Traken was shooting in the mid 90s. The two freshmen, Jackson and Kooper, along with Landon and Easton rounded out the team and we qualified ten of the top 12 players in region play.
Donovan, Tug, Shane, and Curtis all participated in the first day of the state tournament. Our team entered in fifth place and by the end of day one we held tight to the sixth spot one shot above Altamont and trailed Valley, the leaders, by 11 strokes.
Day two was up for grabs but we couldn’t pull off a comeback and ended up finishing sixth. Darrin Wescott tied for seventh place individually and made First Team All-State. Donovan ended up qualifying as an individual and played both days as well. He finished the tournament tied for 36th.
Assistant Coach Shane Brewer
The clouds were rolling into Richfield, UT when the Monticello girls golf team stepped on the Cove View Golf Course to compete for the 2023 1A Girls State Golf Championship.
Five hours later the rain never materialized but a state championship did. The Lady Bucks walked off the course holding the school’s first state championship trophy for girls golf along with four individual top-ten medals.
From the beginning of the season it was unclear exactly how everything would turn out. While the extensive snow from the past winter promises many benefits, it does little to help when you play 1A girls golf which starts near the end of February.
For two months, the team’s practice was limited to hitting balls into nets in the underground “dungeon” practice room. Even when the team was finally able play on an actual golf course, five out of the seven matches were accompanied with weather more suited for sitting around a warm fireplace drinking hot chocolate than for playing golf.
The championship at Cove View was the first match the team played on a course that was in championship condition. The competition included the returning state champion team from Rich as well as the team leading the 2023 1A standings with the lowest average team score, Manila.
After a disappointing runner-up finish last year the girls were determined to return and put in the necessary work to claim the top spot. But golf is a game played as much against yourself as against your opponent. Despite all you do, much is out of your control.
Through all the challenges of the season the girls learned to be resilient and keep competing even when things were difficult. Their hard work paid off at the end of the day when the final team scores were tallied (remember, in golf lower is better): Monticello 396, Manila 408, and Wayne 439.
While competing as a team, the girls were also competing as individuals against 57 other girls. Teams that win at the team level do so because they have team members who do well on an individual basis.
The team score is calculated by taking the four lowest scores from the team of six players and summing them. The individual scores in order were: Sophomore Cambree Chamberlain (98 – tied for fourth overall), sophomore Alise Lewis (99), and senior Amy Lewis (99 – both tied for sixth), sophomore Alli Young (100 – ninth), senior Jade Nielson (112 – tied for 18th), and freshman Lilli Burton (124 – tied for 36th).
All the players in the top ten receive a medal. While two of the team leaders will be graduating, the remaining underclassmen will form the foundation of a strong team that will contend again next year (and the year after).
Upon returning home with the trophy the team celebrated with the traditional ride down Main Street on top of a fire engine while being escorted with numerous siren-equipped vehicles (perhaps you heard it late that night).
Many community members were there to welcome them home. Hope is high for a repeat performance in mid May 2024, snow and all.
The Buckaroo golf team is hosting its annual fundraisers at the Hideout in Monticello which will allow local folks to have fun playing some golf and help support the team financially.
The first is this Saturday, May 27 and will be a four-man scramble tournament starting at 8 a.m. It’s $240 per team for a four-player scramble and includes closest-to-the-pin and straightest-drive competitions.
The second tournament is set for July 1 and features the same format, but nine holes will be played in the daylight, dinner will be served, then nine holes will be played at night.
If you are interested in playing either event or both, contact Coach Nathan Chamberlain or Coach Shane Brewer.