RIVERTON – One of the best determining factors of good golfers, and especially great golfers, is to take the average tournament structure and flip it into a one-versus-one match play tournament. That’s what Riverton did this past week at their home course, the Riverton Country Club, and it was obvious that no matter who walked up to the tee the Wolverines were ready to defend their familiar fairways.
It’s no surprise that Riverton High School’s (RHS) Parker Paxton claimed the one-seed in the aptly titled “Viktor Hovland” bracket, taking on golfers from Cheyenne Central and Cheyenne East before getting into the quarterfinal match against Hayes Millham. Meanwhile, Evanston’s Ryker Lind took the second-seed and shockingly fell to the 15-seeded Isaak Erickson from Cheyenne East.
Erickson then had to face off against another great golfer from RHS, Brodie Dale, who took care of business on the fairways he calls home (and also work, considering he works at the Country Club). Dale kept it going against Kelly Walsh’s Isaac Schmidt, a six-seed, which propped Dale up against his friend and teammate in the finals.
Paxton eventually won, but still had nothing but hype and praise for Dale after a close victory.
“It was so fun,” Paxton said. “We are best friends and teammates, but we are also both extreme competitors. We didn’t talk much during the match [but] he texted me the night before and told me he wanted to play me … I knew he meant it.”
Dale forced a very tough game for the WSGA Junior Amateur Champ, shooting Paxton into a corner where he needed four straight birdies to win it all.
“It was played at a high level,” Paxton continued. “We gave each other a hug afterwards and we were right back to best friends … It was a very strong showing for us to go first and second in this tournament, it was definitely the strongest field of any tournament this year. And I’m proud of how the whole team played. [It] gets me excited moving on to the postseason.”
The two teammates shared their excitement over their placements over the tough competition, with Dale stating “there were many great teams and players here so it felt great to be in the position to win.”
Both Dale and Paxton’s female teammates did not fair as well as they did, but there was one Lady Wolverine that stood out above the rest during the match play.
In the Lexi Thompson bracket, Taelyn Leseberg took over the competition from the very beginning. Leseberg, the six-seed in the bracket, beat up on Laramie’s Mia Trujillo and rattled off two more wins to get into the final matchup against the number one seed Katelynn White from Jackson. That one seed didn’t mean squat against Leseberg though, as Riverton took another bracket’s championship on their home court thanks to some solid short game play from Leseberg.
Alongside Leseberg, in the Lexi Thompson side of the tournament, Riley Stone also had a good showing early with a win over Cheyenne South’s Allysha Balogh. Sadly that would be the only win that Stone would get, falling to Natrona’s Zoe Ratliff in the next round.
Another good performance out of Riverton was Patrick Dornblaser’s games in the Jordan Speith bracket, beating the number-one seed Trevor Marrou out of Cheyenne Central in the opening round. Dornblaser then went up against one of Star Valley’s best, Aiden DeCora, in the second matchup, in which Riverton’s home field advantage showed. After DeCora fell to Dornblaser there was only one golfer between another Riverton golfer and another first-place matchup.
That came in the form of Wheatland’s Jacob Miller who originally came into the bracket ranked number four before beating Riverton’s Triston Ladd in the opening round. Dornblaser put up a good fight, but his match play tournament eventually came to an end in the semi-final. Riverton’s underdog of the weekend then faced off against Jackson’s Alex French for third place, falling on the final hole to sit Dornblaser at fourth in the Speith bracket.
Riverton’s girls didn’t have the same success as the boys, but one girl did have a few match wins as Tylynn McDonald won her first matchup as a 10-seed against Natrona’s Bailey Watson. After that McDonald fell to the two-seeded Lily Nichols out of Wheatland but in the loser’s bracket she rattled off another victory against Kelly Walsh’s Sydney Van Houten; however, she couldn’t finish it off against Evanston’s Allie Sanchez.
At the end of everything, RHS Head Coach Lars Flanagan couldn’t help but boast about Dale’s game in the boys’ tournament, stating, “This flight had most of the top players in the state [and] Brodie has shown that he can compete with anybody in the state,” before going on about Leseberg’s 4-0 weekend.
“Match play brings out more pressure,” Coach Flanagan continued. “Every hole counts and we did a great job competing this week.”
All in all, Riverton defended their home fairways extremely well, winning two of the seven brackets full of great golfers from around Wyoming. Up next, the Conference Championships take place this weekend with State right around the corner before the end of September.
BY: Shawn O’Brate