By Tiffany L. Rehbein
Maybe its the scent of wild flowers and chopped alfalfa riding of the wind. Maybe its the lure of raked sand, lingering. Or it might even be the mosquitoes, skinny, yet big enough to carry away the ball, or the golfer.
Whatever the catch, whatever the attraction, Nick Obie found it a challenge.
Obie, the 15-year-old Havre golf sensation, has not lost a golf tournament since June 10. His most recent championship came at Billings when he won the Montana State Jr. Amateur Championship at the Yellowstone Country Club on June 22. And Obie likes the big tournaments.
I like to see some new kids and see who the best are, and what I need to do to get to that level, Obie said.
Since he was five years old, Obie has been on the golf course. He began playing as a hobby with his dad, but got serious about the sport around age 10.
I liked it as an individual sport, he said. Either you got the glory for winning, or you got the blame for being defeated.
But being defeated is not in Obies future. Last week he won the Taco Johns Youth Tour in Chinook. The week before, he tied for first at the tournament in Shelby, placing second only after a playoff round. The tour was in Havre at the beginning of June and he took the title that day also.
Im just trying to play better every time, he said. I like the competition. I like the competition between friends.
That competition has been brewing for years. When Obie began golfing seriously, his friends golfed with him.
I started with the kids on the varsity golf team this year, he said. We played every day, played in tournaments together.
And they competed. Seven freshmen battled for five spots on the Havre High School golf team last season. At the state high school golf tournament in May, Obie placed fourth while his team placed third overall. The team consisted solely of freshmen golfers.
Three Havre boys made the All-State team; Obie, Jason Johnstone, who placed 10th at the tournament, and Kevin Harada, who placed sixth.
Its great playing as a team, he said. When our scores werent as high as we wanted, wed all work to get them up.
During the regular season, the team lost only one tournament. And at the state tournament, the boys had the opportunity to see some stiff competition in the Laurel golfers. The Laurel team placed their team members one through four in the final standings, plus took first place overall as a team.
Thats where Id like to see our team be, Obie said. Weve still got some work to do. We need to practice and work hard to get our scores that low.
Goals like that are not unimaginable to someone like Obie, who plans to play college golf somewhere and has not ruled out professional golf for his future.
Im going to take it as far as I can, he said. If I only go to college, thats the farthest Ill go. If I can take it to the pro level, that would be wonderful.
Getting to that level would take hard work, determination and constant competitive play, Obie said. And getting noticed in Montana could be a challenge.
Two years ago, he competed in the Pacific Northwest Jr. Tournament in Washington. He placed ninth in the 13 and under division.
The players werent as good as I thought theyd be, they were similar to here. There were plenty of good golfers there, but they were equal to Montana golfers.
Living in Montana, with a short golf season, makes practice tough, but Obie looks at it as a plus to his future.
Its just one of the challenges Ill face, he said.
Another challenge will come when he competes in the Jr. Americas Cup at Denver in August where he will have the opportunity to compete against golfers from around the country.
If I play with people who are better golfers, my game will change and I will elevate to their level. I rise to the challenge, to the competition, he said.
Obie enters each course relaxed, not thinking too much, but looking at each shot, knowing, understanding, how to shoot it.
Know what you have to do and have fun and do it, he said. Everything will work out for you.