George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
The weather in Havre has been glorious for over a week now and it's showing no signs of changing anytime soon. It's perfect golf weather, and it couldn't have come at a better time. On Saturday morning, golfers from the Central A Conference will tee it up at Prairie Farms under great weather and immaculate course conditions with berths in the Class A state tournament on the line. For the Havre High boys and girls golf teams, Saturday's Central A tournament will mean different things. The HHS girls enter Saturday's 18-hole tournament as the defending Central A champions, but the Blue Ponies won't be able to defend their team title because they only have three players on their roster. A golf team requires at least four players to count in the team totals. So on Saturday, senior Tabitha Beck, junior Courtney Kinholt and sophomore Rebekah Martin will be playing for individual success and a trip to the state tournament. "They can go out and play for themselves," HHS first-year head coach Jeff Jensen said. "And I think all three of them should be right there. I think Tabitha and Courtney have a good chance to be at the top of the tournament, and I believe that if Rebekah plays her game, she should have no trouble getting to state as well." Beck has been to three state tournament's in three years, and a fourth trip is likely. In fact, because of her game and experience, she has to be considered one of the contenders for medalist honors this weekend. Kinholt is in her first high school golf postseason, but she has played extremely well all year. She has finished in the Top 5 at four different tournaments this season, and she played well at Prairie Farms in a tournament last month. Martin has also improved dramatically since the end of the summer, and has consistently shaved strokes of her scorecard every time she hits the course. The girls tournament will feature four scoring teams in Livingston, Belgrade, Lewistown and Browning, as well as players from HHS and Butte Central. Livingston is the favorite to capture the team title, while Lewistown also has a strong contingent. On the boys side, the Ponies are going after a divisional championship, something that got away from them last season. HHS had won four of the last five Central A titles, but finished third a year ago. And HHS is not favored to grab the team title this weekend, but the Ponies should be a contender to make the state team tournament. Only the top three teams from each divisional tournament are guaranteed a berth in the Class A state tourney next week in Polson. "We'll see what this course does to the other teams," Jensen said. "But right now, it's going to be a tough tournament for our boys team. We will need our No. 3 and No. 4 or No. 5 guys to be in the mid-90's to have a chance to go to state. That's kind of where we're at right now." All of the six Central A schools have scoring teams in the boys tournament, and based on results this season, Belgrade and Lewistown have the two strongest teams from top to bottom. Havre, Browning and Livingston are more evenly matched, but any of those five could challenge for the team title on Saturday. Individually, HHS has two heavyweights, both going after a divisional championship this weekend. Senior Jeremy Jensen and junior Brett Normandy have both been impressive all season, both finishing in the Top 10 at every tournament they've played in since the Great Falls Invitational. Both players have improved as the season has went on, and the HHS duo, combined with Lewistown's Eli Bowen and Browning's Lakota Warden, are contenders for medalist honors at Prairie Farms. "Either one of them (Jensen, Normandy) could win this tournament, absolutely," Jeff Jensen said. "There are other good players in the field, but I think we have a really good chance of going 1-2 this weekend." Jensen and Normandy are locks to not only make the state tournament, but possibly win a divisional championship. Where HHS will need to make up ground is with the rest of its roster. Jordan Hobson, Damon Anderson and Simon McCann are all playing in their first postseason for HHS, and at least two of them will have to shoot good numbers on Saturday for the Ponies to make the state tournament as a team. "It's going to be a great tournament," Jeff Jensen said. "The course is in great shape and we're looking forward to playing on a course we're familiar with. If the kids go out there and play like they're capable of, and they stay out of trouble off the tee, keep the ball in the fairway, I think we have a chance to do very well." The 2008 Central A divisional tournament will get under way with a shotgun start at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday at Prairie Farms. The Top 10 boys and girls and the top three teams from each side will advance to the Class A state tournament Oct. 10-11 in Polson.