OGDEN — When the 4A boys golf state tournament starts Wednesday at Meadowbrook in Taylorsville, Ben Lomond High will have three qualified golfers teeing it up: seniors Garren Gooda and Javen Richins, and junior Trenton Harris.
The Scots haven’t had so much as one qualify for the state tournament since 2015, let alone three. They’ll tee off a little after 10 a.m. Wednesday.
“It’s such a struggle at Ben Lomond to get golfers ... their parents just don’t play golf, the kids don’t grow up playing golf, just to have 3-4 kids that can score good enough to play in state is really exciting for me,” head coach Darwin Smith said.
All three qualifiers are also on the baseball team, which had its season ended early due to the COVID-19 school shutdown in the spring. All three said they’re excited to compete at the state tournament.
Richins had been in the top 10 all season, so he was safely qualified for the state tournament barring a complete meltdown at the region meet.
“I don’t have anything lucky, just focusing on the safe shots,” said Richins, who has three visible tattoos each with interesting stories. One is of a flame on his right arm, a tat that he got after going to a concert with friends and had a fun time.
The other one, on his left forearm, is an anchor with his sister’s birthday written underneath. His sister has one with his birthday written underneath.
The third one is an outline of ... a tiger’s head.
“Everybody always tell me that. Why are you repping Ogden (High)? Why did you get an Ogden tattoo? It’s not just for Ogden,” Richins said.
Gooda and Harris had to go lower to qualify at the region meet in late September. Harris started hot with a couple birdies and pars en route to a personal-best round of 80 to qualify.
“At the region match, I wasn’t even sure how low I needed to shoot but I was like, I’m just going to go out and play because if it’s my last match, it’s my last match, might as well have fun,” Harris said.
Gooda sealed his qualification with a birdie on the 18th hole, a par 5.
“So Garren’s standing on the 18th tee box and I say, ‘Garren this could be the last swing of your high school career,’” Smith said.
Gooda hit a 310-yard drive, put his approach shot on the front of the green and left his eagle putt about a foot short, tapping in for a birdie, a final-round 80 and a state tournament berth.
“Last year I was averaging around, in a tournament, like 89-90. This year I’m shooting 79, 80,” Gooda said.
There was no magic button that he pressed to take 10 strokes off his game in a calendar year.
“I got a job at a golf course and started playing more,” said Gooda, who works on the grounds crew at El Monte in Ogden.
Golf is a different kind of thing at Ben Lomond. The players haven’t been playing for 10-plus years, aren’t touting country club memberships, swinging the newest $500 drivers, going to $125-an-hour private lessons or getting coached by a former PGA Tour professional.
Smith, who is Ogden School District’s energy/project manager, describes himself as a casual golfer (he has a 13 handicap) who got the BL coaching job because the powers that be knew he played the sport and liked it. That was it.
Gooda and Harris have been playing since their freshman year. Richins only played a few holes during Monday’s practice round at El Monte so he could get to work on time that evening.
When they tee it up at the state tournament, the Ben Lomond kids won’t be the favorites; that designation will go to the golfers from the St. George schools who can play year-round.
In all those respects, there’s something refreshing about three kids from a majority free-and-reduced-lunch school qualifying for a state tournament in an expensive sport full of country-clubbers.