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Montana shoots 293, rallies to win Griz Invitational

03 Dec 2021 | 06:58 | Golf

The Montana women’s golf team shot a 293 on Wednesday to rally past Eastern Washington and win the Griz Invitational at the Missoula Country Club.

Montana’s four scoring players all shot 74 or better as the Grizzlies had their best team score since carding a 292 at the Red Rocks Invitational in March 2019.

Montana (305-293) trailed Eastern Washington (304-301) by a stroke after Tuesday’s opening round but won by seven when the Eagles closed with a 301 on Wednesday.

Montana’s Jessica Ponce (76-72) and Eastern Washington’s Jaelin Ishikawa (77-71) shared medalist honors at 6-over.

“More of the team kept the ball in play off the tee, which gives you opportunities,” said coach Kris Nord. “And we made a few more putts, which was good to see.

“We’re still having a few explosion holes out there or we’d have a lower score. We just have to minimize the big holes and keep the ball in play.”

The win came a week after the Grizzlies claimed the Battle at Old Works in Anaconda, their first title since 2013.

“Everybody is getting a little more confidence in their golf,” said Nord. “It’s the end of a long month of qualifying and playing competitive golf, and I think we’re seeing the fruits of that.

“It was good to see. We had a majority of the team playing better. We need that. We need depth. I need to have some choices, so it’s not just five but seven or eight kids competing for spots.”

Ponce bogeyed her first four holes in Tuesday’s opening 18, then settled in. She played the final 14 holes on Tuesday at 1-over, then shot a 1-over 72 on Wednesday.

It gave Montana its first medalist since Baylee Barckley won the Battle at Old Works in September 2017.

“She hung in there real well. This will be great for her confidence. She’s worked hard,” said Nord.

Kylie Esh (77-73) and Allison Sobol (76-74) tied for third at 8-over with the Eagles’ Meghan Singh. Meredith Boos (77-74) finished sixth at 9-over, Tricia Joyce (76-76) tied for seventh at 10-over.

Day 1 leader Kylie Franklin (74-80), a Montana freshman, finished 10th, one shot behind Emmy Sundby (76-77).

Fourteen of Montana’s 18 rounds by its nine players were in the 70s.

“I’m really proud of a lot of them,” Nord said. “They hung in there and kept scoring.

“You can’t get too high or too low. That’s what it’s about. You’ve got to stay even-keeled and take advantage of your opportunities.”

The tournament was originally going to be the final event of the fall season for Montana, but the Grizzlies were able to get a spot in the Pat Lesser Harbottle Invitational next week.

The 54-hole tournament will take place on Monday and Tuesday at the Tacoma Country and Golf Club in Tacoma, Wash.

Competing for the Grizzlies will be Ponce, Esh, Boos, Sundby and Madison Cecil, who shot rounds of 82 and 81 on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We were able to squeeze in the Tacoma tournament, and we’re going to keep qualifying until the snow flies,” said Nord.

“We need to keep posting results and stay on track with where this program is going, not just into next spring but long term.”