STORY BY MONTANA SPORTS INFORMATION
BOULDER CITY, NV – Windy conditions took their toll on Montana and the rest of the teams as the Big Sky Conference women’s golf championship opened on Friday at the Boulder Creek Golf Club in Boulder City, Nev.
The Grizzlies shot an opening-round 329, their highest score at the conference championship since 2001, but no one escaped the misery.
Day-one leader Portland State carded a 309. Last year’s opening-day leader, Northern Arizona, shot a 290 on the same course, with three other teams breaking 300.
The Vikings were the only team to shoot better than 310 on Friday.
“It was a grind and a battle for everyone. It was a 30-yard wind if you were hitting straight into it, so it plays into your mental game and your emotions,” said coach Matt Higgins.
“You really need to be a good ball-striker to play in this type of weather. If you’re not, your ball can go anywhere and everywhere.”
With one round down and two to go, Montana is tied for ninth with Montana State. The Grizzlies and Bobcats are six strokes behind Eastern Washington and Weber State, which opened with rounds of 323.
Portland State (309), Sacramento State (310), Northern Colorado (311) and pre-tournament favorite Idaho (313) are atop the leaderboard, with just four strokes separating first from fourth.
Hailey Hoagland, the only Montana golfer to finish better than 83, shot a 4-over 76 and is alone in sixth, four shots off the lead of Northern Arizona’s Sofia Anokhina, the only player to shoot an even-par 72 on Friday.
Hoagland birdied three of the course’s four par 5s and had just one double bogey on a day her teammates combined for 10 holes played at double bogey or worse.
“Hailey shot a heck of a round in those conditions,” said Higgins. “She came out right away and was focused and even-keeled, and she remained level-headed throughout the round.
“If you got at all emotional out there, it was going to take you down. That’s why she played so well.”
Kari Opatz shot an 83, Baylee Barckley and Teigan Avery came in with 85s, and Alexa Schendelman carded an 86.
All five players had a bogey or worse within the first three holes, with three of Higgins’s players needing to get to No. 4 or 5 before they finally penciled in a par.
“I think right away it was intimidating for the girls. I think the wind got in their heads a little bit, but I think they kept it together mentally for as hard as the conditions were,” said Higgins, whose team played the back nine 15 strokes better than the front nine.
Opatz, who made a triple-bogey seven at the par-4 9th, made the turn at 45, then played the back nine at 2-over. Schendelman was four strokes better on the back nine, Avery three.
“They responded well on the back nine. There were a couple of big numbers we have to eliminate, but they came back nicely on the second nine as a whole,” Higgins said.
The tournament continues with 18 holes on Saturday and a final round on Sunday, when advisories are projecting even heavier winds than were in the area on Friday.