George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
It's been a long time since the Havre High boys and girls golf teams haven't played for a trophy at the Class A state golf tournament. But after a year in which the HHS girls didn't field a full varsity team, and the Blue Pony boys came up three strokes short of making the state tournament, that's what is facing the Ponies this weekend in Polson. However, when the 2008 Class A state tourney begins at Mission Bay Golf Club on Friday morning, the Ponies will still have a strong presence on the golf course, as a pair of boys and a trio of HHS girls will tee it up at the state tourney. On the boys side, the Ponies will send out senior Jeremy Jensen and junior Brett Normandy. Jensen is playing in his third straight Class A state tournament, and is coming into Polson playing at a high level. Last weekend in Havre, Jensen captured the Central A championship by two strokes over Normandy and others. He's playing some of the best golf of his career and has to be considered a contender to earn all-state honors and possibly even more this weekend. Meanwhile, Normandy is also playing at a level he's never been to before. The junior is making a second straight trip to the state tournament, and he's coming off a season in which he finished in the Top 1o at all but two tournaments he entered. Like, his teammate Jensen, he too should be a lock for an all-state spot and could push for even better things if he plays his game over the two-day 36-hole tourney in Polson. "Both and Brett and Jeremy should be fine in Polson," HHS first-year head coach Jeff Jensen said. "They are both playing good golf and they're hitting the ball well off the tee, and this is a course that if you drive it well, it's definitely a place where you can shoot a good score. So I fell like they should both do very well." Individually, both players should contend for Top 10 spots if they play like they have been the last few weeks. There are good players from Whitefish, Laurel, Billings Central, Hamilton and Polson, but both HHS players could make plenty of noise in the individual field this weekend. While the HHS boys won't be in the team title hunt, Whitefish comes in as the favorite in Class yet again. But the Bulldogs should get a stern test from Billings Central in the east, as well as slew of teams from the Northwest A and Southwest A. On the girls side, the entire HHS team will be teeing it up in Polson despite not being eligible for the team title. Havre qualified all three of its golfers last weekend at Prairie Farms in the Central A divisional, and Jensen said, that in itself, is a great accomplishment. "I'm really happy four our girls team that all three are going to state," Jensen said. "And I really think they should all do very well. This is a course that suits them I think, so all three of our girls should do well down there." Leading the way for HHS is senior Tabitha Beck, who is no stranger to state tournament competition. Beck hasn't missed a state tourney in her career, and she's put up some good scores at the highest level over the years. Beck's teammate, junior Courtney Kinholt comes in to state as the thirdplace finisher from the Central A, and perhaps one of the biggest surprises in Class A golf. Kinholt is in her first year as a golfer, yet she has played at a high level all season long, and she should do so again this weekend. HHS will also send out sophomore Rebekah Martin, who is also making her first trip to the state tournament. The girls team title in Class A could be wide open this year, but Whitefish and Polson have strong teams, as does Billings Central and Glendive. Hamilton is another solid team in the field. As for the course, Polson is using an unusual setup. The tournament will only be played on nine of the holes at the Mission Bay, and the "old nine", formerly known as the Polson Country Club will also be used. That nine is hilly and heavily treed, while the Mission Bay side is longer, but more wide open. The weather will also play a major role in the tournament. The Class AA state tourney, scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Helena, has already been postponed until next week because of impending bad weather, but at press time, the Class A tournament has been scheduled to go forward. The forecast for Friday in Polson calls for plenty of rain and a mix of snow with temperatures in the low 40's for a high. Saturday's weather looks a little better with highs still in the 40's but much lower chance of any precipitation. The Blue Ponies will tee off each day in Polson at 9:30 a.m. in the Class A state tourney.