Three-peat region golf champion Preston Cheney leads Jordan’s golf team by quiet exampleDec 02, 2022 06:01PM ● By Julie Slama
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Three years ago, as a Jordan High freshman, Preston Cheney may have surprised his high school classmates by winning the region title and placing ninth at state.
But he was known in the golf world.
As the youngest of the Cheney brothers, he grew up playing with his family. His brothers—Christopher, who graduated in '16, Zach in '18 and Braden in '20—all played golf for the Beetdiggers.
“We had a membership at Willow Creek and that's where my older brother started and then that kind of got us all started,” Cheney said. “It’s fun, especially with all my brothers, as we all go out and play together, even to this day.”
In 2016, he placed in the top 10 in three tournaments and set his goal to win state in high school. The next year, he placed in the top five in seven tournaments, including tying for first in The Ridge Jr. tournament. He tied for 12th in the SWIRE cup. In 2018, he amassed four tournament wins, including The Players Championship Invitational, and an additional eight top 10 finishes.
He continued winning tournaments and adding top 10 finishes as an eighth-grader in 2019 and as a freshman in 2020.
As a sophomore, he won region a second time and placed 11th at state.
Cheney, by winning the qualifier in San Diego, competed in the Notah Begay III (junior golf) Championship in 2021, tying for 13th. This past June, he won the OPTIMIST qualifier and placed 11th at the July tournament in Florida.
Through his years of playing, he also has had three holes in one—two at Willow Creek and one at Oquirrh Hills.
This year, as a junior, Cheney won his third title as region champion.
“It felt good,” he said modestly. “I think it shows my consistency.”
Soon after, Cheney placed 13th at state.
“I didn’t play good,” he said. “I put too much pressure on myself to win. It got into my head. I don’t know why this time I couldn’t shake it. I was talking about that with my family the other day and I couldn't really answer it. I just don't know.”
But Cheney is not letting it beat him. He’s already back on the course, playing several times during the week.
“Playing golf helps me get over hardships. I think golf helps me get over the tough times, forgetting about it and moving on,” he said. “I used to play soccer until seventh or eighth grade and I quit basketball after playing my freshman year even though it was fun. I just wanted to focus more on golf. It gives me a challenge every day, every hole, and I like that.”
His coach, Sam Soter, said his star player is known for his maturity.
“Technically, he has surpassed my level and knowledge of the game and that is true of 99% of all the golfers on this planet, so, I cannot help him much with his swing or stance,” he said. “I can offer help on strategy or mental approach, or just try to provide an atmosphere where he can perform at his best.”
Cheney said his calm demeanor has grown with his game.
“When I was younger, my mental game wasn't as good just because it would be so easy to get mad. I think now that I'm older and more mature, I don't get mad very much,” he said. “I just focus on what I’m doing. Or I'll look around at the surroundings and that just helps me stay calm.”
Cheney also knows what he needs to work on and has the self-discipline to practice.
“I practice a lot on technique. I’ll putt 20 times in a row from 3 feet, then 20 from 6 feet, then 15 from 10 feet, five from 20 feet. I'll kind of pick different spots and do the same thing,” he said.
His teammate, Michael Cowley, who discovered his love of golf from his dad and grandpa, said he’s learned from Cheney, who he’s seen has improved his short game.
“I’ve known him since freshman year and he goes about working on his chipping and putting every day,” he said. “He leads by example, not by talking about it. I’ve learned a lot from golf, wrestling and playing tennis, because they’re all individual sports within a team. They’ve all helped me with my mental game, but I can watch Preston, even at practice, and what he does and how he focuses on the details of his game and try to incorporate it in mine. I’ve seen how he chips, how he uses certain grips at certain times, what type of shot he’s hitting and how those things impact the accuracy of his game.”
Soter agrees Cheney leads by his actions.
“He is the perfect kind of leader. He is the one who leads by quietly bringing his lunch pail and setting the example, every single day. He shares his knowledge; he is a great teacher and teammate,” Soter said. “It is a great joy to coach Preston, but more because of his love of the game, personality, and sportsmanship than due to his ability, skill or talent.”
Cheney, who would like to play college and then turn pro, acknowledged he is aware he’s the leader of the team.
“I think they look up like to me because I've been playing golf a long time and the way I play golf, how I hit the ball, I think I can help them with their technique as well,” he said, adding that with practice, the team including himself, Cowley and Eric Ingman may be a strong contender in the season next year after placing fifth this year. “Golf is a team sport, but it’s also an individual sport. I know what I have to do, how I need to approach it, and how I have to practice to be there.”