Murray High School golfers face new competition this fallAug 31, 2017 02:07PM ● By Jana Klopsch
Landon Herndon is back golfing for the Spartans after missing last season due to a back injury. (Andy Hokanson)
Veteran Murray High School boys and girls golf team coach Andy Hokanson is entering his 10th season guiding the Spartan duffers, and says this year’s teams face some pretty big challenges.
The girls he can worry about next spring. For now, it’s the Murray boys’ golf team that has some new competition.
“Only one of our boys’ golf teams has missed the state tournament in the years I’ve been coaching,” said Hokanson, who is also a Murray High math teacher. “And none of the girls’ teams have (failed to qualify for state).”
Four of the top six teams in the region qualify for the 5A state finals. But the Spartans’ new region includes the likes of Salt Lake District schools East, Highland and West, which Hokanson says all have quality golf programs.
“It will be a challenge; but we’ve got some pretty good golfers coming back too,” he said.
One of several Murray senior golfers is particularly glad to be back on the links and out of the back brace that stole his junior season.
“I was hurt in a car accident last year, just two weeks before the golf team tryouts,” Landon Herndon said. “I had been a varsity golfer my freshman and sophomore years, and was all ready for my junior season. But the accident put me in a back brace for about five months.”
Herndon says he fully recovered from his injuries through last winter and was able to return to the links as soon as the snow cleared, last February.
“I try to golf every single day,” he added. “I’ve worked through stiffness and now feel ready to go. I want us all to have a good season. And for me personally, I hope to earn a golf scholarship. So I plan to work hard.”
Meantime, another Spartan golfer expected to be a big contributor to the team is two years younger.
Sophomore D.J. Lopez first became interested in the sport nearly a decade ago, thanks to an older sister who also golfed for Hokanson.
“My sister (Margena Lopez) played for the Murray boys’ golf team for a couple of years, before girls got their own teams (in 2007),” D.J. said. “I went to her matches a few times as a young boy, and it looked like fun.”
Last year Lopez earned a spot on the varsity team, despite still attending Riverview Junior High School as a freshman. He’s also competed in golf tournaments in St. George and Las Vegas.
Last year Lopez was a top 10 finisher in the region.
“My goal is to improve on last year,” he added. “I would also love the opportunity to play college golf… maybe even professional golf. But that’s all down the road.”
The Murray boys’ golf season began before school started in mid-August. The team’s region finals will be held near the end of September. The state finals will be held October 2 and 3 at Talons Cove Golf Club in Saratoga Springs.
The Spartans host their home golf matches at Murray Parkway Golf Course, east of the Jordan River at 6300 South.
“I didn’t play golf in high school or college,” Hokanson said. “But I love the sport and I love working with the kids. I feel lucky to have this coaching assignment.”
Herndon and Lopez both say they feel like the lucky ones.
“I really like him as a coach,” Lopez said. “He takes golf seriously and is serious about practice. But coach also makes it fun. We have little putting and driving competitions where the winner gets a sleeve of golf balls. I really enjoy it.”
Herndon added, “(Coach Hokanson) is great. He supports us every step of the way. He’s very personable, and I’m glad he’s our coach.”
At a school where several new head coaches have been named in recent years, Hokanson is a veteran who thinks this fall’s Murray boys’ golf team can do well, if the players practice hard and stay focused.