SPARKS, NEVADA – Over the summer the Riverton High School (RHS) Wolverines’ golf team has been all over the country and, subsequently, all over the news thanks to the play of some of Riverton’s best young golfers. One of those golfers, Parker Paxton, has entered a league of his own recently and added to his lore this weekend. He did so at the 51st Boy’s Junior America’s Cup at the Red Hawk Golf Course in a very humid setting at the western border of Nevada and California.
Over the last two years, the Riverton senior has improved drastically at the annual event that features the best young, male golfers from as far south as Mexico and as far north as British Columbia. Eleven states, two Canadian territories and Mexico combine to put some of the most talented youth on the fairways every year and Paxton has only gotten better against the stifling competition.
Two years ago Paxton finished tied for 19th with an overall score of +7, only staying under par on one of the three days. Last year, at the 50th annual tournament, Paxton improved to 12th place with a final score of -2 to put him in a group of only 13 other boys to shoot under par. Then came this year, after another state championship both individually and as part of the RHS team (below), and it was obvious that Paxton was more prepared than ever.
Tuesday’s first round ended with a 70, which would not qualify as Paxton’s best but compared to the rest of the competition it was a respectable. He got to that point due to some bogies early in the day, starting the first nine with three bogies and only two birdies, but he still found himself near the top.
“It wasn’t my best stuff but it wasn’t bad,” Paxton explained. “On a course like that, to come in under par and to be even near the top … I was still happy and I knew I could get back into it, which I thankfully did.”
Only eight golfers finished ahead of Paxton on the first day while six other golfers tied the Riverton superstar at -1. Paxton’s second round would not only be his best shooting day of the tournament, it also ended up as the second-best score of the weekend behind only Montana’s Kade McDonough (63) during his third-and-final round.
The Riverton golfer scored such a low round thanks to a back-heavy scorecard, finding a birdie on five of the final nine holes. Paxton’s score of -8 propelled him up to second place behind Mexico’s Gerardo Gomez (-9) heading into the final day of play. On that third day, Paxton started out playing the back nine where he was seven under during the first two days of play.
By the time Paxton reached the seventh hole of the day his coach had informed him that he was the leader by three strokes thanks to Gomez hitting a double bogey three holes into his final round.
“I had it in my mind that I needed to get to twelve under to win,” Paxton said about his mindset on Thursday. “I had the lead heading into the clubhouse so I put a number out there for [Gomez] to chase.”
Paxton did well on the first nine before stumbling on 17 and 18, two holes he found pars and birdies on earlier in the week. Add in the par, bogey, par to finish the final 18 holes and Paxton found himself with a score of ten under.
Sadly, the final bogey ended up being the kicker as Gomez was able to go two-under in the final three holes and take the top spot back while Paxton was in the clubhouse awaiting the results.
Even though Paxton finished the weekend in second place he recognized that three straight years of improving means he’s moving in the right direction and can continue to help his Wolverine teammates starting on Wednesday, August 9. That day marks the first tournament for RHS as they travel to Douglas for a two-day tournament, and although Paxton will be playing for the Wolverines he will also be preparing for the biggest amateur tournament in the world: the U.S. Amateur Championship.
“Oh I’m going to Douglas,” Paxton said confidently. “You’re only in high school once … Coach [Lars] Flanagan said the priority is the U.S. Amateur but I want to help my team [and] I don’t know what more to do to prepare my game for Monday, if my game’s not prepared by Monday I don’t know what else I could do.”
Paxton’s senior season will come with extremely high expectations, both on the golf course as well as the basketball court, but he knows that he wouldn’t be anywhere without the help of his teammates, his coaches and the rest of the RHS community.
“It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around it but I’m just excited,” Paxton spoke about his senior year coming up. “I always look forward to fall because of high school golf, it’s always been a blast but it’s like I blinked as a freshman yesterday and I’m about over … I just can’t wait to hit the greens with the guys and win another championship with them.”
The 18-year old senior will be heading to the Colorado Golf Club and Cherry Hills Country Club in Colorado for the 123rd U.S. Amateur Championship which begins Monday morning. Paxton will be playing against 310 of the best of the best from all over the country, as well as some golfers from places like Hong Kong, Ireland, Norway and more.
BY: Shawn O’Brate