By Ryan Divish
There is nothing like golf in Montana in October falling leaves and falling temperatures. And hopefully for the Havre High golf teams falling putts.
The Ponies will head to Shelby this weekend for the Class A State meet at the Marias Golf and Country Club. With temperatures supposed to fall to the mid 30's and rain and snow forecasted, Havre High head coach Keith Evenson admitted the weather will certainly be a factor in the two-day tournament.
"I'm probably most worried about the weather," Evenson said. "It's supposed to be pretty bad on Friday."
While Evenson knows that everyone has to compete in the same weather, what concerns him is the uncertainty surrounding the tournament procedures if the weather forces the golfers off the course. There is a definite possibility that Friday's first round could be canceled. As far as what happens then, Evenson has no idea.
"There will be a representative from the MHSA there," Evenson said. "They'll probably decide there."
Besides the weather, Evenson's golfers are also concerned with the large amount of falling leaves on the tree lined Shelby course.
"You have to watch your ball at all times," said senior golfer Jon Johnstone. "They can really blend in with the leaves."
Perhaps that's what pleases Evenson most is that his golfers are worrying about things like the weather and the leaves, rather than their golf games.
"They're worrying more about things they can't control," Evenson said. "They're not really worrying about the things they can control which means they're pretty confident with their games."
Both the boys and girls teams have plenty of reason to be confident. The boys are coming off an impressive victory at the Central A Divisional in Anaconda. The girls also had a solid showing finishing second behind defending state champion Dillon.
An added reason for the boys team's confidence is familiarity with the course. All five varsity members have been making weekly trips to Shelby to play the course with their fathers.
"I think it's really going to help us," Johnstone said. "It's a real target golf course. You have to be accurate with your drives and know your distances.I talked to a lot of players that didn't that Shelby was an 18-hole golf course."
Besides the tree-lined fairways, the golf course also features enormous undulating greens that are fast and have plenty of breaks. The greens are so large you can't always fire at the middle of the green and be safe.
"There are a lot of double breaking putts the further you are from the hole," said senior Eric Ward. "You don't want any of those fifty and sixty foot putts."
Evenson hopes that the recent experience at the Shelby course will offset the lack of state tournament experience. Only junior Trent Normandy was on last year's state championship squad. The remainder of the team: Johnstone, Ward, Ben Erickson and Chazz Hurlburt have never played at a state meet. Regardless, the boys confidence remains high.
"They're pretty comfortable," Evenson said. "They have been playing so well this weekend in practice. They've been preparing for this since the season began. They're ready."
The boys will face some stiff competition from Billings Central and Whitefish, the Eastern A and Western A divisional champions. Also Dillon and Polson have potential to contend. But Havre is definitely a contender for the title.
"I really think we can win it," Evenson said. "It may sound strange considering we have four new golfers from last year. But we've certainly proved that we should be contenders."
As for the girls team, Evenson remains optimistic. They have shown the potential to be among the mix of top teams.
"If the girls can finished in the top five," Evenson said. "That would be great."
The girls face some tough competition, though. Defending state champion Dillon returns all five golfers from the championship team. They beat Havre by more than 42 strokes last weekend and are capable of running away with the tournament. Besides Dillon, Whitefish is perennial power in the girls division and should be tough again.
"They all need to play steady," Evenson said. "To place they all have to shoot under 110 for both days."
Strange things can happen at the state tournament and last year was no different. After barely qualifying for state last year, the Pony girls pulled together to take third at state.
Two golfers, Amanda Brock and Heather Bowker, return off that squad. Senior Mikyla Veis played in the state tournament two years ago. So there is some experience. Ryan Hamilton and Brittany Job will round out the team and both played strongly in the past weeks.
"I think we can finish in the top three," Hamilton said.
Both teams will play a practice round today. The tournament kicks off Friday morning and is a two-day tournament.