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Griz return to St. George

02 Dec 2021 | 09:28 | Golf

The Montana women’s golf team, which lost its traditional fall season, will return to competition for the first time in a year this week when the Grizzlies compete at the Lady Thunderbird Invitational.

The two-day, three-round tournament will be played on Thursday and Friday at the Sunbrook Golf Club in St. George, Utah.

Montana was in St. George this week last year and got in one round before the sports world came to a screeching halt.

“By that night we were seeing teams packing up at the hotel. Then, boom, it just hit all at once,” said coach Kris Nord. “They canceled the Big Sky basketball tournament, then we got the next call.

“It was really strange. It feels like two years ago. We hung around the hotel the next day and flew home.”

Montana was able to practice in the fall, but its competition schedule was canceled.

“The team just wants to travel together. They’re excited to take a long bus ride and get to hang out together and compete,” said Nord.

“I have to hope they don’t go out there and press too hard. They have to go enjoy the golf shot by shot and keep their focus.”

Nord will travel with all 10 of his players, which includes Kylie Esh, who shot a 71 to open the same tournament last year. She tied for second, one shot behind the leader.

Esh will be among the team’s scoring five this week, along with Teigan AveryFaith D’OrtenzioJessica Ponce and Allison Sobol.

Competing as individuals will be Meredith BoosMargaret HarmonTricia JoyceEmmy Sundby and Brooklyn Van Bebber.

Beyond competing in the tournament and against the field, the Grizzlies will be trying to make the cut for next week’s event, the Red Rocks Invitational in Sedona, Ariz. Only five players will go to Arizona.

“We’re qualifying for spots to go to Sedona next week, so there is a lot of pressure to perform if they want to travel the next trip,” said Nord.

“Not having last fall was real hard for this trip and knowing where everybody is at. I need them not to press and just play one shot at a time.”

The rest of the season comes quickly. The Bobcat Desert Classic in Goodyear, Ariz., will be April 12-13, followed one week later by the Big Sky Conference Championship in Molalla, Ore.

This week’s tournament will be a full field of 15 teams, including Big Sky opponents Eastern Washington, Idaho State, Southern Utah and Weber State.

Eastern Washington was picked fifth in the Big Sky preseason coaches’ poll, Southern Utah seventh, Weber State ninth, Montana 10th, Idaho State 11th.

Sacramento State topped the poll, followed by Idaho, Northern Arizona, Portland State and Eastern Washington in the top five.

Southern Utah won last year’s shortened event in St. George with its one-round score of 296. The individual champion was Eastern Washington’s Madalyn Ardueser, who shot a 70.

Teams will play two rounds on Thursday, one on Friday, with play starting both days at 9 a.m.

Montana played in three tournaments in the fall of 2019, plus a match-play event at the Missoula Country Club.

The opening round of the Lady Thunderbird Invitational was the Grizzlies’ only competition last spring.

Esh had the team’s best scoring average for those 10 rounds of 76.5. Joyce (78.3), Sobol (78.4), D’Ortenzio (78.5) and Van Bebber (79.0) also had scoring averages lower than 80.