By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sports/ firstname.lastname@example.org
For the first time in the 2003-04 school year, a state championship will be contested in Class A sports. All ten Havre High golfers and the rest of the best of in Class A golf will descend on Polson for the Class A State golf tournament, which gets underway Friday morning at the majestic Mission Bay Golf Club.
Both Blue Pony teams enter Friday morning's opening round of the state tournament coming off of Central A divisional titles earned last Saturday at Beaver Creek Golf Course in Havre.
However, being divisional champions is where the similarities end between the HHS boys and girls teams, according to longtime Havre head coach Keith Evenson.
"We are definitely ready to play in this state tournament," Evenson said. "All of our kids are really excited about the opportunity to go to state. But I think it may be too soon for our girls team to be considered a real contender for the team title."
While the youthful Blue Pony girls team may not be ready to ascend to the top of Class A golf, the same cannot be said for the Havre High boys. The Blue Ponies have been one of the state's premier golf programs for the better part of the last six golf seasons. Evenson believes that this year should be no different as his team looks to improve on a disappointing fourth place finish in Shelby in 2002.
"Our boys team has a real good chance to win the team title if they play well," Evenson said. "I would guess that it will be a three team race between Havre, Whitefish and Billings Central. I would say that Whitefish may have a slight edge out of those three teams."
The Whitefish boys team has dominated almost every tournament they have entered this year, despite the fact it features three sophomores, one junior and just one senior on its varsity roster. The Bulldogs ran away with the Western A divisional title, while Billings Central dominated the Eastern A tournament last weekend.
But it won't just be a dogfight for the team race. Senior Trent Normandy will enter Friday morning's play as one of the favorites to earn medalist honors in Polson. Normandy has won three divisional titles, but did not fare as well as he would have liked at last year's state tournament. Regardless, Evenson is confident that Normandy will be in contention in Polson this weekend.
"Trent is ready to do well in a state tournament," Evenson said. "He is coming in playing the best golf he has ever played in my opinion. He is shooting under par every time he goes out on the course and is constantly working on the range to keep improving. It is amazing how hard he has been working and hopefully it will pay off for him this weekend."
Joining Normandy as holdovers from last year's team are senior Chazz Hurlburt and junior Ben Erickson. Freshmen Matt Hedstrom and senior Tony Jensen will round out the Pony roster. While Evenson also expects that Hurlburt and Erickson will be in medalist contention as well, he said that the real key maybe the performance of his No. 4 and No. 5 players.
"That is where state tournaments are won," Evenson said. "You have to have your bottom two guys to be in the low 80's or high 70's to have a chance at the team title.
"Matt and Tony have played well this season and we will need them to step up again this weekend if we are going to have a chance against a deep team like Whitefish."
While the HHS boys team will have visions of a state title dancing in their head, the Blue Pony girls squad will have a much more difficult task ahead of them and Evenson is realistic about their chances.
"I knew that we were an inexperienced team when the season started and it would be a great accomplishment if the whole team made it to state," Evenson said. "Now the girls have accomplished that and I think it is the first step in a very bright future for girls golf in Havre. But I don't think we can be considered real contenders because of our inexperience and the fact that there are some very strong teams in the field."
As for team contenders, Evenson lists the both Whitefish and Billings Central as the top two teams to beat, much like their male counterparts.
Even though the young girls squad may be up against formidable odds, individually, Evenson knows that he has two seniors that will be in medalist contention this weekend.
Both Brittany Job and Amanda Brock have state tournament experience and Brock is a returning top 20 finisher from last year's tournament in Shelby. And this season Job has been on a strong run as Havre's No. 1 player. Job has several top-ten finishes this season including a top-ten finish at the prestigious FlatFish Invitational. She also placed second at the Central A divisional tournament.
"Brittany has a real good chance to do very well this weekend," Evenson said. "She has really worked hard on her game from the start of the season and she has been so consistent all season. I expect that she will perform very well."
Joining Job and Brock will be senior Catlin Anderson as well as perhaps the future of Havre High golf in freshman Ali Ward and Morgan Zimmer.
"Ali and Morgan have gotten a lot of valuable experience this season and I think that they are going to go on and have great careers here," Evenson said. "Hopefully, the experience of playing in a state tournament as freshmen will only benefit them in the long run."
The Ponies will play a practice round at Mission Bay today at 2 p.m. Mission Bay is a 27-hole golf club and the new 18 will be used for the Class A state tournament. The course is fairly wide open, as the new trees have not matured yet. However, it is deceptively long and it features several strategic water hazards as well as notoriously fast and undulating greens.
"This course will be very challenging to all of the players in the tournament," Evenson said. "I think that putting will be very key for our kids and hopefully they will play well and things will work out in our favor."
The Class A state tournament is scheduled to get unde rway Friday morning and tee times will depend on the place that each competitor finished at their respective divisional tournament. The final round of the state tournament will get under way on Saturday morning. The forecast in Polson is calling for partly sunny conditions and temperatures in the high 50's for both days.
Mission Bay Golf Club at Polson
Stats Yardage Slope Rating
Blue 6,964 123 72.5
White 6,271 118 69.5
Red 5,431 124 70.0