By Tiffany L. Rehbein
The MSU-Northern Athletic Department has hired Chris Handley as the head coach of the Skylights golf program.
"Wow," Handley said. "I'm pretty excited for the opportunity to coach something I love, something that I'm passionate about."
Handley, a native of Nashua, replaced Jessica Peters, who left with husband Ray, the former Skylights women's basketball coach, to pursue a career in Olympia, Wash.
Handley hopes to bring the young Northern golf program to a level of respectability, not only in Havre, but also in the Frontier Conference.
"The big goal is to make golf a more recognizable sport at Northern," Handley said. "There's not a whole lot of people who know that women's golf exists here."
The Skylights golf program completed its second year of varsity competition last fall. The Skylights, who finished fourth last season, lost two seniors to graduation, but should look to returning sophomores Ristina Johnston of Glasgow and Shanda Lammerding of Havre to lead the team.
"It will be nice to have them around for a few years," Handley said.
Lammerding was the Skylights' No. 1 golfer during her freshman season at Northern. At the Frontier Conference tournament, she fired a 90-90-180 and placed in the top 10. She averaged 90.1 during the season.
"I've got some steady golfers who are consistently shooting decent rounds," Handley said.
Recruiting to build a strong program is a main goal of Handley's.
"I would like to get four, possibly five, golfers to get us off to a good start," Handley said.
Handley came to Havre from Billings last summer, after he had completed an undergraduate degree in English and a Masters degree in education at MSU-Billings. He had previously earned a degree in communications from North Dakota State University.
In the early 1990s, Handley competed for two years in both golf and basketball at Jamestown (N.D.) College.
"It's going to be fun," Handley said. "Initially, I golfed because it was something I loved to do. I'd like to bring that to the girls as well."
Although this is Handley's first collegiate coaching experience, Athletic Director Ted Spatkowski is excited about Handley's enthusiasm and experience.
"We're happy to have Chris on board," Spatkowski said. "He'll bring an element to the team that we hope will continue to build the program into a recognizable force in the Frontier Conference."
Handley is an English teacher and assistant boys' basketball coach at Box Elder High School. His wife Lisa is the head women's volleyball coach at Northern.