For quite some time now, in the spring and in the fall, there has been a women’s golf team at Montana State University-Northern.
In just a few short months, the men will get their turn now too.
Northern recently announced it has added men’s golf to its list of varsity sports, and the new Lights’ golf team, which will be headed up by current women’s head coach Dave Boles, will begin play this coming fall.
“It’s something we’ve been trying to get done for a few years now,” Boles said. “As I coached women’s golf longer, and got to know the dynamics of the Frontier Conference, I just started to be convinced that there is no reason why we shouldn’t have men’s golf here too.”
But Boles’ dream of adding a men’s team at Northern was denied several times by the powers that be before it finally became a reality this past spring. And it took the help of MSU-N athletic director Mark Samson, and some unusual circumstances in Dillon, to make the dream a reality.
“Basically, what happened was, as UM-Western went to the block scheduling system for their classes, it became harder and harder for them to field golf teams,” Boles said. “If their athletes had to be gone on Monday and Tuesdays for golf tournaments, they were missing the equivalent of three or four weeks worth of classes. So it came to a point when they (Western) decided to drop their golf programs because they just weren’t able to field full teams anymore.”
And Western dropping golf all together opened a door at Northern. Without full programs in the Frontier Conference, teams of all sports could have been in jeopardy of losing automatic bids to NAIA national tournaments. That’s when Samson and Boles were finally able to get men’s golf pushed through in Havre.
But adding a program is always daunting at any school, and it will be for Boles as well. Initially, the men’s golf team will not be funded through the MSU-N athletic budget, though some scholarship money was made available for Boles to sign his first recruiting class.
“That was one thing that was stipulated, was we have to go out and fundraise the program,” Boles said. “So right now, we’re hoping to raise $20,000 for the men’s program over the next two years to help it get off the ground. And that money we’re looking to raise will be separate from the fundraising we do for our women’s program. They are two separate entities. I want that to be clear, because we don’t want men’s golf to take away from our women’s program in any way. But we do need to do quite a bit of fundraising for our men’s team, so anyone with donations of any kind would be greatly appreciated.”
Boles has already received help from some major golf companies, as well as a local business as well. He’s already been able to get Sun Mountain Golf to donate bags for his men’s team, Titleist to donate 24 dozen balls for next season and Master Sports of Havre to donate golf shirts for the men’s team.
But funding a college sport is never easy, especially one starting from the ground up, and the fundraising for the new Lights’ team will continue. But one thing that has gone smoothly for Boles so far is recruiting. Boles has already assembled a quality team for the first season of Lights’ golf. He’s signed four players to NAIA national letters of intent since April, and three of those four are former Havre Blue Ponies.
Headlining the list is former HHS star Jeremy Jensen. Jensen was a four-time Class A state qualifier for the Ponies and a two-time Class A All-State performer. He’s spent the last two seasons honing his game at North Idaho College, which is one of the top NJCAA golf teams in the country. At NIC, Jensen made two trips to the NJCAA national tournament, including his second trip just last month in Texas.
Joining Jensen will be a pair of former HHS standouts in Matt Hedstrom and Brett Normandy. Both Hedstrom and Normandy played on strong HHS boys teams, and both players are former Central A All-Conference standouts, both also having played at the Class A state tournament. The fourth signee for the Lights is Kris Brett, a teammate of Jensen’s at NIC. Brett is originally from Grand Junction, Colo.
“We’ve already been able to field a team that is going to compete very well right away in the Frontier Conference,” Boles said. “We’re very excited that we were able to get these kids here to play golf.”
And recruiting over the next few years should continue to go well for Boles and the Lights. Boles said one of the main reasons he knew Northern could field a strong men’s team is because for years he would get calls from prospective players thinking, and sometimes hoping, Northern had a men’s team already. Boles said there are quality local players that come out of schools like Glasgow, Malta, Shelby, Cut Bank, Fairfield and other area schools, including Havre, and those players have, in the past, gone on to play at other Frontier schools. And some haven’t gone on to play college golf at all. But that’s when the Lights didn’t have a men’s golf team.
And now the Lights do have one, and they’ll be competing right away in the Frontier Conference in the fall. It’s been a dream of Boles’ for some time, and now it’s a reality.
“I’m excited about it,” Boles said. “I just have felt for some time now that there are a lot of good players from the northern tier of our state. And I think offering men’s golf at Northern gives those kids a chance to play college golf and get an education. It’s a great opportunity for those kids and it’s great for Northern."