It was a good round. I had a lot of close wedges and easy putts. I drove the ball great. —Maple Mountain's Kai Ruiz
PROVO — The Region 8 golf season opened up Monday in spectacular fashion as Maple Mountain's Kai Ruiz took home medalist honors with a 7-under-par 65 at The Reserve at East Bay.
Ruiz was part of a foursome of players who combined to shoot 18 under par on the par 72 East Bay layout.
Ruiz had to hold off Wasatch's Dan Briggs (67), Timpview's Josh Lillywhite (69) and Spanish Fork's Benson Rhees (69) in his own group. Meanwhile, Ruiz's Golden Eagle teammate Alex Crandall fired a 67 in a different group.
Ruiz and Briggs battled all day, with Briggs actually taking a one stroke lead at 7 under with a birdie on the par 5 16th hole.
The Golden Eagle senior responded with a birdie off the fringe on the short par 3 17th to knot the score going into the final hole.
After solid drives, both Ruiz and Briggs actually missed the green short. Both chipped within 10 feet, and it looked likely they would tie. But Briggs missed his par put while Ruiz rolled in his. Briggs then missed the short comebacker for a 67, which in the end lowered him to a tie for second with Crandall.
"It was a good round," said Ruiz. "I had a lot of close wedges and easy putts. I drove the ball great."
Ruiz's only hiccup was on the first hole where he bogeyed the relatively easy par 5. But after that he battled back and was within two strokes of Briggs at the turn.
Ruiz, who made the semi-finals of the Utah State Amateur in July, enjoys team golf.
"I enjoy playing for the team, and I've actually played a lot of team competitions this summer," Ruiz said.
Ruiz will play in the Governor's Cup, a team event of top junior golfers in the state, in two weeks.
Though Briggs faltered on the final hole, he was still pleased with his round in which he went toe-to-toe with the player many consider the state's best junior golfer.
"I had no mistakes through the first 17 holes," said Briggs. I had that double (bogey) on the last hole, but I made a lot of good shots. I was long off the tee today and was sticking my short irons."
Maple Mountain bested the defending 4A champs Timpview with a team total 277. The Golden Eagles top four were indeed 11-under par playing near flawless golf in picture-perfect conditions. Timpview managed to play a very solid 2-under-par 286.
Spanish Fork was a solid third with 295 while Wasatch was fourth with 320, edging Salem Hills (325). Springville (351) slippled past Provo (356) for sixth place. Each team was allowed to enter six golfers, with the top four scores counting in the team totals.
Team scores (after one tournament): 1. Maple Mountain 277; 2. Timpview 286; 3. Spanish Fork 295; 4. Wasatch 320; 5. Salem Hills 325; 6. Springville 351; 7. Provo 356.
Individual scores: 1. Kai Ruiz (Maple Mountain) 65, T-2. Dan Briggs (Wasatch) 67, T-2. Alex Crandall (Maple Mountain) 67, 4. Spencer Lillywhite (Timpview) 68, T-5. Josh Lillywhite (Timpview) 69, T-5. Benson Rhees (Spanish Fork) 69, T-7. Mark Mortenson (Maple Mountain) 72, T-7. Brock Nielson (Salem Hills) 72, T-9. Tait Ericksson (Maple Mountain) 73, T-9, Jackson Rawle (Timpview) 73.
Brian Preece is a freelance prep sports writer.