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Corner Canyon Girl’s Golf Brings Home Schools First Athletics Trophy

Jul 01, 2016 09:57AM ● By Chris Larson

By Chris Larson | [email protected]

The girls did it first. 

Corner Canyon girl’s golf team won the school’s first Utah High School Athletic Association sanctioned sports championship in May 2016. 

First-year head coach Ken Smikahl said stiff regional competition helped to prepare his team for the pressures of tournament play and brought out some great individual performances at the state championship tournament as well as tournaments throughout the year.

Only in its third year as a high school, Canyon Corner’s fellow 4A-Region 7 teams Alta High School, Provo High School and Orem High School placed third, fourth and fifth, respectively. Provo High took the title in 2014 and 2015, Smikahl said. 

Bountiful High School, 4A-Region 5, placed second overall. Corner Canyon beat Bountiful by 33 Modified Stableford Score points, the largest margin between consecutive finishers in the tournament.

“In just three short years to build a team this strong is quite uncommon,” Principal Mary Bailey said. “It’s quite the coup.”

Corner Canyon placed three golfers in the top ten individual scores with team top performer freshman Jamie Connell, 15, placing 5th overall. She shot 77 the first day and a 75 on second day on the par 75 course. 

Emma Winfree, Cristiana Ciasca and Kali Barlow—all 16-year-old sophomores—placed seventh, eighth and twenty-first individually, respectively, with Ciasca scoring a hole-in-one, her second in her high school career. Ciasca is the first Corner Canyons golfer to shot a hole-in-one in school history.

“A lot of our girls had personal best year,” Smikahl said. “(Winfree) was one of our leaders all season.”

Winfree had two tournaments where she shot even par, Smikhal noted.

“We’re really proud of what we did and we knew that we could do it. But it never really seemed real until the first day of state,” Emma Winfree said. “There was just that much more excitement after we heard we were ahead after the first day.”

Connell, Winfree and Ciasca were selected for the 2015-2016 All State First Team and Barlow received a 2015-2016 All State Honorable Mention. 

Bailey attributes the success of the program and the team, in part, to a strong golf culture in the area which house the Hidden Valley Country Club and South Mountain Golf Course.

“Students here have had opportunities to golf with parents and opportunities to develop talents all their lives,” Bailey said. “We have a great community here and the pros at both course really stepped in the develop this young talent”

Smikahl said he is excited for next season with such a young team and expects other talented golfers to join the team in years to come. The team had 10 plays total with one senior, two juniors, eight sophomores and one freshman this year. 

“I fell like we can do it again next year,” Emma Winfree said. “We have a young team with great potential and we can do it again for a few years if we keep working harder.”

Smikahl said the state championship was the culmination of massive individual effort on the part of the students and their parents.

Unlike several high school sports, girl’s golf at Corner Canyon lacks a youth feeder program which many sports like football and baseball rely on for steady talent. This means that the burden of training and competing falls to the students’ families many of them hiring their own coaches, Smikahl said.

Julie Winfree, Emma’s mother, said the golfers participate in Utah Professional Golf Tournaments and other competitions as well as work with pros and coaches during the off-season at their own expense. But she also attributes the team’s success to the cohesion and mental strength that Smikahl and the coaching staff built in the team this year.

“So much of golf is mental and (the coaches) did such a good job of building that mental strength,” Julie Winfree said. “The team spirit and the support they had for each other carried some of those girls who had doubts and helped them get great scores.”

Bailey said the school now has three state championships to its name. In 2015, Corner Canyon place first in the 4A Varsity All Girl Cheerleading and co-championed the 4A State Drama competition.

Emma Winfree said that she thinks that other girls will be motivated to pick up clubs and play golf at Corner Canyon because of their success this year, noting that part of the team was made up of friends they asked to come play but had never played golf before.

“We knew that for the rest of the school’s history we would be the the first to win a (sports) state championship,” Emma Winfree said. “No one thinks of it as being that big.”

The tournament was held at Wasatch Mountain State Park Golf Course on May 16 and 17, 2016 in inclement weather.

Provo High School’s Naomi Soifua took first individually with Bountiful High’s Jobi taking second after a sudden death playoff for the medal.    λ