BRIGHAM CITY — Two-time defending region and state champion Connor Howe has been chasing Davis High’s Cole Ponich ever since Ponich defeated Howe by a combined five strokes in the first two counted matches for both golfers this season.
Over the course of the two-day Region 1 championship at Eagle Mountain Golf Course Monday and Tuesday, the Weber High senior completed the comeback to remain the king of the region heading into the 6-A tournament next week at Valley View Golf Course in Layton.
Howe, committed to golf at Georgia Tech, entered the two-day tournament two strokes behind Ponich, a UCLA commit, but shot a two-day score of 139, while Ponich shot a two-day score of 142, to prevail by a stroke.
“I’ve played this course enough and we’ve played together all season and I beat him a handful of times, so I knew I could compete with him,” Howe said. “I just had to go out there and play my game and not worry about what he’s doing as much, because I’m going to have my breaks and he’s going to have his.”
A strong first day and an advantage for Howe on the back nine Tuesday proved critical.
Howe shot 3-under on the first day while Ponich shot even, giving Howe a one-stroke lead heading into the second day. Ponich shot a stroke better over the first nine holes Tuesday to pull even, but Howe answered and established a two-stroke lead through the 15th hole.
Ponich edged Howe by a stroke on each of the 16th and 18th holes but bogeyed the 17th — a hole Howe parred for the decisive stroke.
“It was just fun to battle with him,” Ponich said. “I didn’t really know it was that close until my coach told me today.”
Ponich said it was his first time playing the course.
Weber State commit Hunter Howe — Connor’s twin brother born 19 minutes after Connor — also impressed throughout the two-day tournament with a score of 142 to tie Ponich.
Like his brother, Hunter was fueled by a strong start. Both were 2-under through the first nine holes Monday. Hunter also had a strong back nine Tuesday, shooting 1-under during the stretch.
“I drove the ball fairly well and I putted pretty good, and that’s the two great ingredients to playing well,” Hunter said. “My irons weren’t the strongest but yesterday my short game came through really clutch and kept me in it.”
Hunter placed third for the season.
With sights now set on Valley View, Connor is hoping he can shoot more like he did at the end rather than how he did at the beginning during the region meet that opened the season there. He said he shot 5-over through the first eight holes but got hot and finished 2-under. The 70 he scored was his highest of the season before the region championship and was subsequently the one meet he chose to drop.
Ponich did not compete in that meet and dropped it as well.
Though Ponich has been Connor’s strongest competition throughout the season, Hunter has confidence heading into the state tournament because he defeated Connor at Valley View earlier in the season. Hunter shot a 68.
Weber golfers dominated the leaderboard at the two-day tournament. Braxton Welch tied for fourth (153) while Isaac Layne and Max Lunt were part of a three-way tie for ninth (156). Layne placed sixth overall and Lunt tied for 10th.
Weber shot a two-day score of 588, besting second-place Davis by 20 strokes. The Warriors claimed the team region title for the season.
Davis’ Jack Sargent tied Welch over the two days and finished fourth overall.
Clearfield finished third (619) over the two days and was paced by Hunter Christensen, Taydon Law and Bryson Hirabayashi. Christensen and Law tied Layton’s Preston Wallace for sixth (155) while Hirabayashi tied Layne and Lunt for ninth.
Christensen tied for eighth overall and was joined in the overall Top 12 by teammate Tanner McMillan. McMillan tied Lunt.
Northridge finished fourth in the championship (643) and Fremont finished fifth (654), one stroke ahead of Layton. The Silver Wolves’ score was significant because it gave them a one-stroke victory over the Lancers for the season as well as the fourth and final spot from the region in next week’s state tournament.
Fremont has been paced throughout the season by Cameron Skiby and Ryan Martinez. Skiby placed fifth overall and Martinez placed seventh.
Although Layton didn’t qualify for the state tournament, Tysen Diaz qualified individually because he tied for eighth place for the season.
Davis’ McKay Cook rounded out the Top 12 overall.