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HHS golfers hit the links one last time

Nine Blue Ponies tee it up at the Class A state tournament in Polson


Last updated 10/3/2013 at 10:41am

Daniel Horton

Havre High golfer Jeff Miller hits a shot during last Saturday's Central A divisional golf tournament at Prairie Farms Golf Course. The Blue Pony boys and girls golf teams are competing at the Class A state tournament Friday-Saturday at Mission Bay Golf Club in Polson.

The last 36 holes of the high school golf season are special. They’re special because it means golfers have reached the pinnacle of their sport…the state tournament.

And for nine Havre Blue Ponies, the pinnacle starts Friday morning when they play the first of two rounds at the Class A state golf tournament in Polson. The 2013 Class A state tourney runs Friday-Saturday at Mission Bay Golf Club.

The Havre High girls will be one of two teams to represent the Central A, after the Blue Ponies captured the divisional title in a playoff against Livingston last Saturday at Prairie Farms Golf Course. Four HHS boys will also play in the tournament, though Havre will not be eligible for a team trophy after the Ponies finished third at the Central A meet last weekend.

But medalist honors and trophies aren’t what first-year head coach Brett Gilman is having his nine players concentrate on this week in Polson. Instead, he wants to take the pressure off his golfers, and have them see the course as their only opponent.

“I just want them to be able to relax and not think of it as state,” Gilman said. “I think the best thing they can do is go out and treat it as just another round of golf and just another golf course and not worry about their results, or the other players and teams. Hopefully, they can just go out and compete against the course and let the chips fall where they may.”

The course itself will be a tough opponent too. Mission Bay is a lengthy Par-72 course with its share of both wide open holes, as well as holes guarded by trees and bunkers. Set along the shores of Flathead Lake, the course doesn’t have an abundance of water hazards, and the lake itself doesn’t truly come into play much. But it does have extensive elevation changes, some long Par 4 and Par 5’s and some of the fastest greens in Montana.

But after a difficult two weeks of golf, which took HHS to Billings, Laurel and the Central A meet in gusty conditions, the Blue Ponies should be ready for what lies ahead this weekend.

The HHS girls are hoping to contend for a trophy, and for seniors Katie Beck, Nikki Gabrielsen and Boston Swensen, this will be their final golf tournament of their careers. Sophomores Randi Gabrielsen and Payton Howard have been HHS’s top two scorers in recent weeks, and they should be primed for their first state tournament appearance.

“I think our girls team can do very well, if they play the way they’re capable of,” Gilman said. “For our seniors, it’s nice to see them going as a team this week. They’ve been playing together for a long time. And it’s always nice for state to be your last tournament because it means you made it. It means you’re among the elite golfers for this season. So it’s a big deal.”

As for the competition, Whitefish and the host Polson Pirates are the likely favorites on the girls side. The Bulldogs and Pirates were neck and neck at the Northwestern A meet last weekend, and they should be fighting it out for a state title at Mission Bay. Individually, Whitefish’ Erin Tabish and Livingston’s Christal Tokash, the defending Class A champion, are the favorites for medalist honors.

The Havre High boys will be fighting for individual honors this weekend, and the Ponies will do so with a young group. Leading the way for Havre are returning state qualifiers Jeff Miller and Jerod Boles. Both sophomores, they gained a wealth of experience at last year’s state tournament in Anaconda, and they finished second and sixth, respectively at last week’s Central A meet. The sophomore duo will be joined by freshmen Dustin Haas and Kane Gabrielsen. And though the Ponies won’t be team title contenders this week, the experience they’ll gain will be invaluable moving forward.

“Our boys team has been a young team all year,” Gilman said. “Jeff and Jerod have quite a bit of experience, but overall, they are very young. We’re taking two sophomores and two freshmen to state. So I want to see them go out and relax and play well this weekend. They don’t have any pressure on them.

“But in having a young team, it shows the future is very bright,” he added. “Wyatt (Lindbloom) almost got to state and will be back next year, and we had a couple of other freshmen who qualified for the varsity at different points during the season. So the future is very bright for our boys team.”

Daniel Horton

Havre High senior Katie Beck, and the HHS girls golf team will compete for a trophy at this weekend's Class A state golf tournament in Polson.

In the boys team title race in Polson, Whitefish, Anaconda and Sidney will likely battle for the state title. Libby, Polson and Hamilton could also be in contention, while the individual field will feature plenty of good players. Miller and Boles, along with Central A champion Tyler Ferguson of Belgrade could certainly be in contention for Class A All-State honors this weekend. While the Sidney trio of Paul Brannan, Bobby Frank and Connor Frank, along with Whitefish’ Art Doorn and Anaconda’s Caleb Stetzner and Jackson Wagner are all considered top-flight players capable of capturing medalist honors.

But again, Gilman isn’t focused on the scores or the honors. Instead, he wants his players to go out and focus on what they can control, and the rest should take care of itself.

“If they can go out and play relaxed, they’ll play well,” Gilman said. “State is a big deal, and it’s a great experience for all of them. I just want them to go out and play well and enjoy it.”

The Class A state tournament begins Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. at Mission Bay in Polson. The final round will begin Saturday at 9:30 a.m.


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