By George Ferguson/Havre Daily News Sportsemail@example.com
For the third time this season, the Havre High golf team is taking a step upward. Not only are the Ponies stepping up in competition, but also in golf courses when they tee off today at the FlatFish Invitational golf tournament in Kalispell and Whitefish.
The tournament is co-hosted by Flathead High School and Whitefish High School and features top competition from around Western Montana. This week will also be Havre High's final tuneup before the Central A divisional tournament in Lewistown on Saturday.
"This is a big tournament for our kids," said HHS head coach Carla Bolken. "The kids are playing pretty consistent golf right now, and we're hoping to continue to see improvement from all of them."
The tournament gets under way today with the boys playing at Buffalo Hills Golf Club in Kalispell, while the girls will be at Whitefish Lake's South Course. On Tuesday, they will trade venues for the final 18 holes of the tournament.
Buffalo Hills is a 6,049-yard par 72 course that was designed by Arnold Palmer. It features almost no flat ground anywhere, as well as small but fast greens and plenty of trees. Whitefish South is a 6,144-yard par 71 that is also very hilly and lined with Douglas fir trees.
"Some of the kids have played the courses, but most of them haven't," Bolken said. "I think some of them are a bit nervous because of the level of competition and the difficulty of the two courses. But I think once they start playing, they will be fine, because we have played a lot of golf this season and all of the kids have gained a lot of experience."
The two-day tournament will feature a host of Class AA schools, including the three Missoula schools, CMR, Great Falls High and both Helena schools. Joining the AA schools are Class A powers Whitefish and Ronan along with Libby and Browning.
Even though the competition will be stiff and the courses challenging, Bolken is optimistic about her team's chances this week, especially the HHS boys squad.
"I am really optimistic about our boys team," Bolken said. "They are all playing well and we have a few kids who have been to this tournament before. So we have a really good chance to make a strong showing this week."
The HHS boys lineup will have one change in it this week. Sophomore Sean Strand is back on the varsity team replacing Marshall Cartwright. The rest of the Havre boys team of Ben Erickson, Matt Hedstrom, Brandon Job and Anthony Wirtzberger remains intact. The Havre girls roster remains unchanged, with Brittany Job, Ali Ward, Stacey Sheppard, Cathy Beecher and Hailey McLain playing.
The 36-hole FlatFish Invitational gets under way today at both Buffalo Hills and Whitefish Lakes and will wrap up on Tuesday afternoon.