Summer is winding down, so for high school golfers things are just beginning. The Havre High golf team begins its season today at the prestigious Great Falls Invitational.
The Great Falls tournament is a two-day 36-hole event. Today's round will be played at the difficult Meadowlark Country Club, and Tuesday's round will be held at Eagle Falls Municipal Golf Course.
As the season gets under way, Havre High veteran golf coach Keith Evenson is not only looking forward to today's tournament but the entire golf season as well.
"We're really excited to get started," Evenson said. "The kids have been playing a lot this summer and the'yre in good form."
"This tournament in Great Falls will be a tough challenge for both of our teams," Evenson added. "Most of the AA schools will be there so it will be a challenge for both our boys and girls teams. But I think it is a good way for them to gain some valuable tournament experience."
The boys team is coming off of a 2002 campaign in which it finished fourth at the Class A state tournament in Shelby. Jon Johnstone, the Ponies' only top-10 finisher at the 2002 state meet, graduated last year. Eric Ward also departed, which has left two very big holes to fill.
"Coming into this season I was very concerned about filling those two spots," Evenson said. "But we have had some young kids really play well and I think the future looks very bright for this team."
The lineup for the Great Falls Invitational will feature senior standout Trent Normandy. Normandy has lettered in each of his first three years at Havre High and he will be widely considered one of the top players in Class A golf this season. Junior Ben Erickson and senior Chaz Hurlburt also return from last year's team to give the Ponies a very solid top three. Senior Tony Jensen will also compete for the Ponies, and freshman Matt Hedstrom will round out the top five for this week.
"Tony Jensen has really stepped in and is playing great golf right now," Evenson said. "And the last spot is going to be a dog fight in qualifying all season between Matt and Corey Stremcha as well as Brandon Job."
"All three of those kids are playing solid golf right now," Evenson added.
Like the boys team, the Havre High girls team suffered some critical losses from the 2002 squad. Ryan Hamilton, Heather Bowker and Mikayla Veis are all gone from the 2002 team, leaving several varsity spots open. For the first week of the season the Ponies will be led by junior Brittany Job, senior Katlin Anderson and senior Kim Bryson. Bryson is from Chinook and this will be her first year of golf at Havre High. The final two spots this week will be filled by a pair of freshmen in Allie Ward and Morgan Zimmer. Amanda Brock will also be back to give the Ponies some much needed experience. Brock was Havre's top finisher at last year's state tournament.
"Our girls team will be somewhat inexperienced this season," Evenson said. "But I really like how some of the girls have been playing."
"Brittany Job has been playing really well," Evenson added. "And we have a couple of freshmen that are going to be outstanding players but they just need to get a lot of tournament experience."
And Evenson said that even though the competition is in Great Falls it will be a good test for his young girls team.
"This will be a tough place for the girls to start the season because of the competition and the courses," Evenson said. "But I think playing in a big tournament like this will benefit them in the long run and I expect the girls team to get to the state tournament at the end of the season."
One of the reasons that Evenson expects good things from both of his teams will be their schedule. The Ponies will play in a multitude of Class AA tournaments on some very challenging courses. Aside from Great Falls, Havre will travel to Lewistown, Helena and Browning this month. The team also will play at the challenging Old Works Golf Course in Anaconda in early September and attend the prestigious FlatFish Invitational in Kalispell at the end of September.
"Our schedule features a lot of good competition and that will help us in the long run because we will play the state tournament on a very tough course," Evenson said. "And we're also very excited about the fact that the divisional tournament will be right here in Have and that should be a big advantage to us."
The Ponies will host the Central A divisional golf tournament on Oct. 4 at Beaver Creek Golf Course. The state A meet will be held at Mission Bay Golf Club in Polson the following week.