George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor firstname.lastname@example.org
For the second straight year, the Class A state golf tournament will have a unique feel to it when it comes to the Havre High golfers in the field. Only this time, the Blue Pony golfers will have to wait just a little longer to tee it up in the biggest golf tournament of the year. Because the Blue Ponies failed to qualify a boys or girls team for the state tournament, the trio of Brett Normandy, Courtney Kinholt and Rebekah Martin will be playing for individual honors at the state tournament. But because of early winter temperatures slated to move into western Montana this weekend, the state tournament has been pushed back. The event, which is slated to take place at Village Greens in Kalispell, will be held on Monday and Tuesday, instead of Saturday and Sunday. But when the Ponies do finally tee it up in Kalispell, they will have three players all with chances to earn Class A All State honors in Kalispell. Normandy, a senior, is a veteran of state tournament's past, and although he didn't shoot his best round of the season at last weekend's Central A Divisional meet in Bozeman, he's considered one of the contenders to finish at the top of the leaderboard next week at Village Greens. "I think Brett will play well," Havre High head coach Jeff Jensen said. "He's been there before, he knows what it takes to play well at that level. I really suspect he will come out and put two good rounds together." Normandy is the only HHS boys in the field at the state tourney, the first time that's been the case for a Havre High golf team in many years. But he'll be battling some familiar faces when it comes to medalist play next week. Normandy has faced off against the best that Whitefish has to offer, like former champion Reed Platke and he has went head-to-head with Lewistown's Eli Bowen all season long. Those players, along with several golfers from the likes of Hamilton, Billings Central, Livingston and Miles City. In the boys team title race, which the Ponies won't be eligible for, White- fish looks to be a strong favorite with several players capable of scoring low, as well as a distinct home course advantage. If the Bulldogs are to be challenged, Hamilton would be the likely team to do it, but Livingston and Billings Central also field strong teams as well. "I think Whitefish should probably win it," Jensen said. "They have five players who can all score well. But there's other teams with some good players out there. The weather could play a big factor in how things turn out." On the girls side, both Kinholt and Martin are back in the state tournament for a second time. Last season, Kinholt just missed out on all-state honors, and she comes to Village Greens with a good chance to get inside the Top 15. Kinholt didn't play her best round at the divisional tournament, but do to her deciding to play both volleyball and golf this season, she hadn't played a competitive round in nearly a month. Meanwhile, Martin made the state tourney as a sophomore and has improved dramatically this season. She has five Top 10 finishes this year and she played well enough down the stretch last weekend in Bozeman to get into the field at Village Greens. "I also think Courtney and Rebekah will do well," Jensen said. "If they can drive the ball well and putt well, they both have a good chance to finish very well." On the girls side, Whitefish is again a strong favorite, particularly because so many of the Bulldog players know the course so well. Central A champion Livingston has the best chance to push the Bulldogs, but teams from Dillon, Billings Central and Glendive should also be in the trophy hunt on the girls side. As for the course, Village Greens does have its share of pine trees, like most Western Montana courses. But it is a relatively short course measuring 6,401 yards for the boys and 5,208 yards for the girls. The course has just one hole over 500 yards, has fairly generous fairways and has water in play on seven different holes. The course has been widely regarded as having some of the smoothest greens in Montana and is well kept. The rough is fairly thick and the greens should be fairly speedy although weather will play a factor in how the course is set up and how it plays next week. "There isn't as much trouble off the tee there," Jensen said. "So the good players are going to have a chance to shoot some good scores. And I think our kids will be a part of that. If the three of them play to their potential, they'll be able to post some pretty good scores. The forecast for Monday in Kalispell is a high of 48 and sunny, while Tuesday is also calling for a high of 48 and a 30 percent chance of snow showers. The 36-hole Class A state golf tournament will start with shotgun time sometime Monday morning, and it will wrap up by Tuesday afternoon at Village Greens in Kalispell.