The State A boys and girls golf tournaments get started on Friday up in Polson at Polson Bay Golf Course. All eyes will be on the Laurel girls as a talented group of seniors look to cap their careers with a fourth consecutive State A title.
“They take pride in it. I think they’ve just owned it instead of denying it and worrying about added pressure or anything like that. They’re very aware of what they have the ability to accomplish," said Laurel head golf coach Jim O'Neil.
“The Laurel program has done endless things for me. We’ve been so blessed to have great coaches and an amazing facility," Laurel senior Hannah Adams said. "We’ve worked really hard. I know us three seniors, for the last four years that’s all we’ve really known. It’s hard to say goodbye to something that’s been a part of you for so long, but there’s new chapters coming and I think that’s exciting for all of us.”
The Locomotives will be favorites on the girls side, despite a bit of unfamiliarity with Polson Bay. While some of the girls played the course for a juniors tournament in the past, this weekend’s tournament will incorporate a bit of the old course into it, as well.
O’Neil has stressed a one-shot-at-a-time mentality to his players throughout their careers, something they’ll need to focus on to put together championship-caliber rounds this weekend.
“We’ve always been told one shot at a time, take your time on every single shot, execute your shots. It’s not won in the first two holes, and it’s not won in the first round sometimes. It’s more just executing every single shot. One bad hole does not make a bad tournament," said Adams.
“The recipe to a successful round of golf is staying truly in the moment, not reflecting on good or bad that has already happened nor worrying about anything other than that shot that you need to hit next," O'Neil said.
The Laurel boys won’t have the moniker of favorite attached to them this season, as that honor will go to defending champion Whitefish. But that’s just how the Locos want it.
“We like that we’re in the conversation. The boys like the idea, too, that we’re not the favorites. We’ve had that title for a while, and it can weigh kind of heavy, as our girls know," O'Neil said. "I’m saying Whitefish and Polson, they’re the favorites. Carry that weight, because we’re tired of it. Our guys, especially our younger guys, they’re good players and maybe they’re naïve enough not to know.”
“I hit it pretty good there. My ball flight, I hit a little draw, so it works good for me," Laurel senior Trey Ewalt said of Polson Bay Golf Course. "It’s a really nice course. I’m glad my senior year it’s at Polson. There’s some tough competition for us, but I think we can get it done.”
Ewalt and the Laurel boys know that Whitefish will present a tough challenge, but they’re up to the task in search of their second State A team title in 3 years.
“They’re good. They’ve got Billy (Smith) and Johnny (Nix). I know those two, I know a couple others, but those two specifically, they’re players. They can play. They’re going to be tough," said Ewalt.
As a bonus, Laurel’s teams had a practice round at Old Works in Anaconda on their way up to Polson ahead of Friday’s tee times.