Time to Tee it Up
Havre High golf kicks off the new season with Thursday's Havre Invite
Last updated 8/19/2020 at 8:11am
A lot of thought, planning and preparation has went into the start of the 2020 fall sports season at Havre High. After all, it had to given the coronavirus pandemic continues on.
Now however, the time has come for at least one Blue Pony sport to move from practice, prepping and planning to competition.
Thursday morning, the Havre High golf teams will make their season debut when the Blue Ponies host the 2020 Havre Invitational, which will be split with the girls playing at famed Beaver Creek Golf Course and the boys playing at Prairie Farms Golf Course.
And once again, Havre will be led by longtime Blue Pony coach George Ferguson, who, on the eve of Havre's first tournament, admits this season will be dynamically and dramatically different.
"It's going to be a very interesting season," Ferguson said. "The sport of golf hasn't changed, and it's done really well during this pandemic. It's been deemed one of the safest sports you can play. But that's about the only thing that won't change. This season from practices, which have gone really well, to tournaments, and hopefully, the postseason, is going to be unlike any golf season in Havre High history.
"At the same time, we were prepared for that going in," he added. "So that doesn't take away from how excited I am for this season, and how excited the kids are to be playing. So many of these kids were in a spring sport that got shut down, so it's been a really long time since they've been out there competing. So it feels really good to know they get to do that now, and especially on our home courses."
Ferguson has plenty of reasons to be excited. He has strong numbers once again, and both his boys and girls teams are led by a host of veteran and experienced golfers.
"We've got almost 40 kids out again this season," he said. "That's a tremendous turnout for golf. We've also got a lot of returners back this season, a lot of experience on both teams, so I think we're going to see a ton of improvement team-wise throughout the fall."
The Havre High boys should be especially strong. The Ponies return a pair of All-Conference seniors in Josh Warp and Caleb Chambliss, while Kale Reno and Tavish McLean were divisional qualifiers a year ago. Add to that experienced returners in Clint Owens, Caleb Spangler, Theron Peterson, Hunter Velk and up-and-comers like Lane Kinsella, Joram Randolph, Conner McKay, and more, and the Ponies have the makings of a very deep and talented squad.
"The potential for our boys to have a really good season is there," Ferguson said. "We have really good seniors. Those guys have played a lot of golf, and I expect big things from all of them. We have depth, too. Our qualifying rounds are already very competitive, and then we are adding a bunch of young kids that are going to make our boys team even more competitive.
"Of course, we play in the Eastern A," he added. "And that division is loaded. Laurel and Billings Central are really good, and Sidney is always strong, too. But, this year, I think our boys have a great chance to be right there with those teams. Our boys have big goals this season, and I think they can achieve all of those goals."
Ferguson said he has high hopes for his girls team, too. The Ponies return all four varsity players from last year, in seniors Carlee Kato, Jocelyn Staples and Sophie Kirkpatrick, as well as sophomore Sylvie McKeon-Hanson. Katherine Greenwood will round out the current varsity, while a new group of freshmen and sophomores has Ferguson extremely excited about the present and future of the program.
"We have all our girls back from varsity last year," Ferguson said. "And I think you'll see them all improve dramatically as the season goes on. They gained so much experience last year, and it's going to play off this season. And I really am impressed with what Katherine (Greenwood) is bringing to the table, as well. So we have a great group of girls, and we have a really awesome group of newcomers who can certainly be the future of our program."
Of course, Ferguson is also focused on the present. And, with the pandemic never far from his mind, he says focusing on the details is the key to making sure the season goes according to plan.
"For golf, I think the Montana High School Association, and our athletic department have a really good plan," Ferguson said. "Golf lends itself to safety during this pandemic, but we're going well beyond the natural distance aspect of golf to keep our kids and coaches safe. We're blending our own safety measures in with the ones golf courses and the game of golf came up with last spring, and I think together, as long as we're very focused and dedicated to all of our precautions we've put in place, we can be very effective at keeping everyone safe, while still allowing golf to be the fun sport that it is. That's my goal, to put our kids' health and safety above all else, while still making sure they get the best golf experience I can possibly help them get."
Some of the safety measures for this golf season include masks being worn on the course, with exception of when players are playing a shot, no mixing of groups, meaning players play tournament rounds with their own teammates, and no pre-round or post-round mingling between teams.
"There's some big changes the kids will have to just deal with," Ferguson said. "No driving range or putting green sessions before tournaments, no hanging out around or in the clubhouses before or after tournaments. It's pretty much off the bus to your starting hole, and back on the bus after you're done. In between, though, even with all the precaution put in place, golf is still golf. The game itself hasn't changed. It's still a great game, that is so much fun to play. It's one that I know our kids love to play, and even with all of this 'new-normal' going on, our kids are so excited to get out there and play, get out on the course and represent the Blue Ponies. They're excited to compete, and I'm excited to watch them do it."
Havre gets to start competing at the varsity-only Havre Invite Thursday morning. The tournament will consist of the Blue ponies, as well as Lewistown, Sidney, Browning, Great Falls High and CMR.
As for Havre's schedule this season, it's fluid. The Ponies didn't attend the season-opening Great Falls Invite, and Saturday's Browning Invite at East Glacier has been canceled, as has the Jawbone Match play event in Harlowtown on Sept. 3. So, before Labor Day, Havre will compete in just three tournaments, including the Havre Invite and the Lewistown Invite this coming Monday.
The second half of the Ponies' schedule includes the Glendive and Sidney Invitationals, the Billings Central and Laurel Invites, as well as the Eastern A in Billings and the Class A state tournament at the Butte Country Club.
For now, though, Ferguson is just focused on the first tournament and not looking too far ahead.
"One thing we all know is, with this pandemic, things can change so fast, and things will change," he said. "So my message to the kids is, let's make the most out of each practice, each round, each tournament. Let's just take it day by day, and just have fun, compete and get better. That's all we can do. Golf is an exercise in patience anyway, and this season is going to be just like that. I'm sure it's going to have ups and downs and twists and turns.
"But I do know this," Ferguson added. "I love coaching these teams. We have great kids in our golf program at Havre High. And I want to help them have the best season they can possibly have. And I'm just excited to see them out on the course, doing what they love to do, and that's play golf for Havre High."