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Teigan Avery, a senior and golf player for the University of Montana, practices her swing after the first day of competition at the Griz Match Play Challenge.

The Missoula Country Club was quiet early Friday morning, Oct 4. Near the back of the course, the Griz golf team beat opponent Montana State in a match play competition.

“It is great to have a tournament at our home course and sleep in our beds,” said Kris Nord. Nord has coached the University of Montana tennis and golf programs for the last 38 years, and has been working as the golf coach since 2017.

Friday’s tournament was the first Nord had organized as the head coach. It was also the first time the University of Montana golf team played at home since 2013. Before this tournament, the Griz golf team always traveled around the western United States for competitions. Players often missed school and competed on unfamiliar fields.

“It is tough to get on the collegiate tournament schedule,” Nord said. “We have never been able to stick as a permanent tournament.” 

Usually, when a team hosts a tournament in the region, it keeps that tournament active for multiple years. Nord said that early freezes and high winds through the Missoula valley have made it difficult to organize golf tournaments at home, as players compete from September to April.

Every year, the UM golf team participates in 11 tournaments on the road. The team mostly plays at other Big Sky Conference team tournaments. For example, they often compete in southern Utah and northern Arizona.

This year the Griz hosted a four-team match play tournament. Unlike a normal stroke count tournament, which combines all the individual results into a single team score, match play pits each team’s top five players against one another. The squad that has the most individual wins takes the overall team victory.

On Friday, the Griz won four out of five of their matches versus Montana State. 

“It is so great to finally play at home,” said Teigan Avery, the team’s only senior and three-time academic All-Big Sky Conference player. After four years of competing with the Griz away from home, Avery was grateful to finally play in town. She said she wished more tournaments could take place in Missoula. 

“So many people ask me if they can come to watch my competitions,” Avery said. “And until this tournament, they never could.” 

Freshman Jessica Ponce’s third collegiate competition was the first in which she competed in Missoula. “It was a little more comfortable to play at home,” she said. Since the team practiced regularly at the Missoula Country Club, Ponce said navigating the terrain at each hole was easier and gave the Griz an advantage they usually don't have.

After Montana beat Montana State, the Griz went on to play Eastern Washington on Oct. 5 and lost 3-2 in match play.

UM Golf is set to spend the next six tournaments on the road in four different states. Its last competition will take place in Scottsdale, Arizona, for April’s Big Sky Championship.