After an impressive performance at the 4A West Qualifiers held in Evanston, the Broncs golf team saw multiple players qualify for the state tournament set to be hosted in Jackson for the first time in school history.
Hosted by Snake River Sporting Club and Shooting Star, the Broncs completed a two-year process in getting a state tournament in Jackson, and it’s well earned, as several hometown golfers will compete in their backyard.
Taking the top finishers for both the boys and girls from the qualifier, head coach Ryan Allen will have five boys and a girl competing at the state tournament, part of the event’s 93 total participants, from 11 schools around the state.
Sophomores Adam Russell (fourth place), Hayes Milham (tied for fifth place), Ridge Kling (tied for seventh place), Max French (tied for 10th place) and Mason Evans will represent the boys side, while fellow sophomore Gracen Rosenberg (18th place) will represent the girls team.
Overall, the Jackson boys (636) finished in second place at the qualifier, finishing just two strokes shy of first-place Kelly Walsh (634), while the girls finished in fifth place.
“That’s golf,” Allen said. “Every shot matters. I think they really realized that in the last couple of days.”
While admitting the team had struggles getting off to a quick start earlier in the season, Allen said the issue in Evanston was finishing strong and ultimately led to Jackson’s second-place result.
“We didn’t finish our rounds maybe as well as we should have the last two days [in Evanston],” Allen said. “We had some kids who had really good rounds going and then kind of the last four or five holes had some bogeys and double bogey, and it ended up costing us.
“We talked about that, and I think we realized that we need to finish stronger. I think being on two golf courses next week that they know and they’re comfortable with will give them some confidence, and hopefully they will be able to post some good numbers.”
While the nerves of playing in a big tournament can sometimes make an impact on how young golfers play out of the gate, Allen believes that the experience his boys earned by playing at the Pinehurst Invitational over the summer could make for a much faster jump out of the gate at home.
“A lot of it is mental,” Allen said.
Having six representatives at home is a big deal, Allen said, and he’s glad the team was able to send golfers from both the boys and girls to their home competition.
“There’s going to be some good teams,” Allen said. “They’ll be some teams from the east side of the state. I’m sure they would love to beat us on our home turf.”
One team in particular, Kelly Walsh, has been a thorn in the side of the Broncs this season and has come out on both sides of some close matches.
A strength of Kelly Walsh is having five solid golfers in its rotation. According to Allen, Kelly Walsh is one of the few teams around the state, similar to the Broncs, that has the luxury of five solid boys golfers, with the top four making up the team score in the state tournament.
Two of the top high school golfers in Wyoming will come to town this weekend, in Rock Springs senior Sam Young and Laramie senior Jackson McLaren.
Young posted a score of 151, finishing in a victory via playoff over McLaren, the defending individual state champion.
Allen has been impressed by the Rock Springs golfer, witnessing his performance in Riverton earlier this month, and expects him to golf well in Jackson too, at courses he is familiar with, having played there in the past.
With the number of out-of-town athletes coming into Jackson for the event, Allen said the team wouldn’t have had the opportunity to host the tournament without the help of The Virginian Lodge, which is offering discounted rates to visitors from the teams.
At the tournament on Saturday and Sunday, Jackson will look to come out at the top of the state after finishing just strokes short of a championship last fall.
Both days will begin at 9 a.m, with day one being hosted by Snake River Sporting Club and the second being held at Shooting Star. Both events are open to the public, and Allen hopes to see a large crowd for the town’s first high school state golf tournament.