A young University of Montana golf team is starting off slower than it might like, but with some great play from young athletes, the season could be poised for a turnaround come springtime.
A big leap happened in last week’s tournament in Eden, Utah, when the Grizzlies jumped up to fifth place after a strong first day on the course.
“I’m always most concerned to watch freshmen play and I liked how they were playing there,” head coach Kris Nord said. “They’re good, good players and I’m hoping the rest of our returners were able to be on their A-game.”
Day one was strong for freshman Raina Ports as she finished top 25, the only Griz to do so.
The second day was not as kind to the Grizzlies as UM slid from its top five spot to number eight, finishing bottom three in a 10 team outing.
“We’ve had really good play at times,” Nord said. “We just haven’t been consistent. Golf’s a week-by-week thing. I’ve got scores to go by and set lineups and the nice thing is everybody travels. I get to see everybody perform out of state against other teams on different courses.”
While a tough finish to the Grizzlies’ second tourney is not optimal, the incoming freshmen and sophomore groups made strides. Ports, freshman Kendall Hayward, and sophomore Kylie Franklin all placed in the top 40.
Three of the top four golfers were underclassmen, a strong sign for a UM squad that has had struggles late into the season. One player could change those expectations.
“Kylie had a great freshman year,” Nord said. “She was probably gonna go to the conference and then her putter left her the last week of qualifying and she just missed out, but she was right in the thick of things and she will be in it this fall.”
Franklin came in with the heat last season as the Chandler, Arizona, native made it clear she was ready to put up big performances, including a career-best tenth place finish at last year’s Griz Invitational tournament.
While last season didn’t end where Franklin may have wanted, her goals are to buckle down and try her best at staying steady throughout this year.
“My goals for this year, and this season especially, is to just work on my consistency,” Franklin said. “On the golf course, off the golf course, just working and staying consistent with my studies and with my school.”
With the pressure of the golf season fbeginning to weigh on her sophomore year, she hopes to take some time and live out the other two seasons that her home town does not have.
Franklin will look to be a key contributor on an even younger UM golf crew this year, and with fall still hitting high temperatures, the reflection off the green never looked so bright. But after Montana’s final fall tournament wraps up, the hope for Franklin is to hang with friends and get to enjoy the Montana wilderness.
“Montana is beautiful,” Franklin said. “There’s a lot to do in Arizona, but I just wanted somewhere that had four seasons and had more mountains and more outdoors stuff, that back home, is kind of hard to do with the heat, especially in the summer.”
For now, it is a matter of finishing out the fall season strong and looking forward to the warming days of spring.
UM golf will have wrapped up its visit to Spokane, and the final fall tournament will take place Oct. 3-4 in Omaha, Nebraska.