News you can use

Blue Ponies primed to hit the links

As the rest of fall sports across the state continue to really get started, high school golf season is upon us already.

Summer has almost come and gone again, and the Havre High golf teams are ready to compete. And just as they do every season,

Havre High junior Katie Beck hits a shot during the 2011 Havre Invitational golf tournament. Beck is part of a great group of returning HHS girls players, who open the 2012 season Thursday in Havre.

the Blue Ponies will get their season underway with the annual Havre Tournament at the Prairie Farms Golf Course in Havre on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

But following the annual home opener, the Ponies will also face completion in Lewistown, Great Falls, Browning, Billings and Laurel this season. HHS will also host a tournament at Beaver Creek Golf course on Sept. 8. Divisionals will also be on Sept. 22 in Livingston, while state will be in Anaconda on Sept. 28-29.

Last season Livingston was the top program in the Central A, followed by Lewistown. This year the Ponies see themselves as one of the top teams, both on the boys and girls teams, and should make some noise in the conference as well as statewide.

"We match up well with Lewistown," Havre High head coach McKinsey Rodriguez said. "But if we can get to the level of Park (Livingston), and play at the level they have been playing at, then we can definitely be competitive this year. But we aren't going know exactly until about three tournaments into the season, because that is when we will first see Park."

HHS suffered a handful of key losses from last year to now, but the Ponies also bring in a solid roster, and one of the most talented freshmen groups they have seen in a while.

Simon McCann and Sam Lippy highlight the top boys missing this season, while Lauren Schofield is gone for the girls squad. Both Lippy and McCann will be sorely missed, as they both represented the Ponies at the state tournament last season. And though Schofield was still a beginner in the golf world, her senior leadership will leave the biggest hole on the girls team.

But returning for the varsity squad will be Ramsey Drew, David Denny and Spencer Ross for the boys, and Boston Swenson, Nikki Gabrielson, Dani Murphy, Megan Kline and Katie Beck on the girls side.

Drew, Denny, and Ross should carry the majority of the load for the boys team, but coach Rodriguez is heavily leaning on the five returning junior girls he has, as they showed a lot of promise a year ago. Gabrielson was the only girl to make it to state last year for the Ponies.

"We were young last year," Rodriguez said. "But now on the girls team, they are a bunch of juniors and I am hoping they play well. Those five juniors should be pretty good, and should hold up the team pretty good."

The Ponies also have some very good freshmen talent coming in this season.

For the girls, Randi Gabrielson joins the team and has shown great promise already. And so has newcomer and freshman, Payton Howard, a young golfer that Rodriguez has already seen make a push for a varsity spot. It is still early, but Howard sits outside the varsity ranks by just a couple of strokes, and could see some varsity time if she keeps improving.

And for the boys, Jeff Miller and Jarod Boles give the team great depth with their play as well. Miller should be a varsity powerhouse from the very start, while Boles could also see varsity play soon, as long as his game stays consistent. Both youngsters have been playing golf seriously since a young age.

"Jeff (Miller) is most likely going to be my No. 2 or even No. 1 golfer this season," Rodriguez said. "He is a good and solid player. But I am really excited for both of these guys because if Boles has a good day, he also has a chance to be a solid player. I hope they step up early and fill those roles left by the guys we lost last year."

The Blue Pony girls and boys have a shot at being one of the top Central A teams this season, and are also looking to make a much bigger impression at state this season. Two years ago just two HHS golfers made it to state, and last year, just three golfers made it to state. But this season, in a realistic look ahead, the Ponies have a shot at pushing at least six golfers into the state tournament according to coach Rodriguez. Drew, Denny, Ross, Boles and Miller all have what it takes for the boys, while the five junior girls could punch their tickets with solid play. Nikki Gabrielson was the only girls to make state last season, but Swenson isn't far behind her.

If the Ponies play to their potential, it should be a very interesting and competitive season this year.

"I definitely think that with our overall team quality," Rodriguez said. "That we are improving. We have some fresh players, and our numbers are still high. I think that the program as a whole is on the up and up.

"We need to have solid tournaments every time out," Rodriquez added. "But we also have to go from the early tournaments and take that concentration all the way to divisionals, and we have struggled with that the last couple of seasons. We always have solid tournaments in the beginning of the season, but we can never take it deep into the season."

The Ponies will open the season on Thursday at 9:30 a.m. at the Prairie Farms.


Reader Comments(0)