With long winters burying golf courses and state tournaments often played in horrific conditions, somehow the Wyoming high school golf season gets even weirder.
When the Broncs golfers moved from the 3A classification to the 4A level in 2019 it meant splitting the team’s season. The fall portion of the season culminates in the state championship tournament and the spring portion with conference championships.
That means that while the Broncs girls side’s five seniors were putting together a last charge at a state title in the fall, they’re now putting together a true last charge, though this time it’s downscaled a bit with the conference championship being the big payoff before they leave high school athletics behind for good.
“There was a lot of buildup to state last year,” head coach Ryan Allen said. “The fall is the big season. They all want to win a conference championship — they haven’t done that before — and they would all love to be all-conference.
“It’s their last hurrah at it, being a team.”
The state championship ended with the Broncs girls falling just short after an unbeaten run through the regular season. The surprise was the boys side, a young and scrappy bunch that managed to finish in second place as well. For the most part that contingent will be back at it this spring, getting in that odd little portion of the season before regrouping in the fall and making another charge at a state championship.
“We had a meeting a couple weeks ago, we rehashed what happened [at state] in Casper, and how we’re going to build off of that,” Allen said. “The goal is to win the 4A West and compete to be all-conference. And then it’s about what we can do differently so we don’t have the same outcome this fall as we did last fall.”
Right around the time Jackson made the move to 4A, Allen took over as the chief of the program. A part of his tenure at the top these past two years has been establishing a culture and team dynamic, something implemented at the smallest level by an active team Instagram account and as big as an indoor training facility that allowed the athletes to swing through the snow-covered winter.
The spring season likely throws a wrench into year-over-year planning for most teams. Not so much for Jackson’s. While some golfers are able to play non-sanctioned high school sports like lacrosse in the spring alongside the short golf season, others wouldn’t be able to swing playing both sports at the same time.
The boys roster has largely chosen to forgo spring sports and commit to golf, both in the fall and winter seasons.
“These kids are dedicated to our program and dedicated to our team,” Allen said. “They’re choosing to play golf over other high school sports.”
Another piece of the program puzzle extends beyond the end of a senior season. Jackson standout Jacqueline Neishabouri recently signed to play golf at the next level with Wesleyan University in Connecticut in the NCAA Division III New England Small College Athletic Conference. Even as Jackson might not exist in the best geographic location to turn out top golfers, Allen said he wants the athletes that run through the program to have an option to go on and compete once their time in black and orange is up.
“I told Jacqueline when I took over the job I’d do what ever I could to help her,” Allen said. “I said this is what I think it takes, and I’m happy to talk to any coaches you want me to, to help.
“She did a lot of groundwork herself, sending videos of her golf swing to coaches.”
The spring slate this year begins with a tournament in Lander on April 16. The team will then have tournaments in Star Valley and Riverton before the 4A West championship in Casper on May 17 and 18.
But it doesn’t end there. Before Jackson regroups in August for the fall season the team will be at the 2021 High School Golf National Invitational at North Carolina’s Pinehurst Resort come June.
And the plan is, as it always is, to show up and compete. It might even be a good place to get the ball rolling on sending the next Broncs golfer on to college golf one day.
“The group of boys we have right now, I could see all of them trying to play at the next level,” Allen said. “A lot of coaches will be at Pinehurst; this is just an opportunity for them to jump on the radar of some of these coaches and just see. You never know what can happen.”