The University of Montana women’s golf team will open its spring championship season next week when the Grizzlies compete at the two-day, 54-hole Battle at the Rock.
The tournament will be played Monday and Tuesday at the Oak Quarry Golf Course in Riverside, California, with 54 holes on day one and a final round on day two.
The field will feature 14 teams, with Montana, Montana State and Northern Arizona representing the Big Sky Conference.
The tournament will be the first of six for the Grizzlies over the next two-plus months, with the spring season concluding at the Big Sky Conference Championship from April 20-22 at Boulder City, Nevada.
Montana will be in Arizona later this month, then hit three tournaments in the state on a single trip south that spans late March and early April.
Kris Nord, who served as interim coach in the fall before taking the job on a full-time basis earlier this winter, will bring a squad of five to California.
Montana will compete with seniors Hailey Hoagland and Kari Opatz, junior Baylee Barckley, sophomore Teigan Avery and freshman Faith D’Ortenzio.
“Practicing indoors is a little tough, but everyone has had a great approach to practice. They get after it, but the kids need to get outside now,” said Nord.
“I think the girls are excited to see where they’re at. The girls are all hitting the ball well, so I’m real anxious to see how we score.”
Hoagland, a Butte High graduate, had Montana’s best scoring average in four fall tournaments, coming in at 76.4. She had her first career top-10 finish when she tied for seventh at the Pat Lesser-Harbottle Invitational in October.
Barckley had a fall scoring average of 77.0, which included rounds of 70, 72 and 72 to win the Battle at Old Works. One week later she tied for second at the Loyola Invitational with rounds of 77, 76 and 74.
Opatz had a fall average of 78.0, Avery an 81.0. Playing in three of four fall tournaments, D’Ortenzio finished the fall with an average of 82.8.
“I liked the way everyone handled practice last fall. There might be more of a comfort factor now that I’m doing this for the long haul, but I haven’t noticed much of a difference at all,” said Nord.
Montana, eighth last spring at the Big Sky Championship, was picked eighth late last month in the preseason coaches’ poll.
The top five teams in the poll mirrored last year’s results: Sacramento State, Idaho, Portland State, Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado.
Montana was picked behind both Eastern Washington (sixth) and Montana State (seventh) in the poll despite defeating both teams in the fall in their only head-to-head matchups at the Battle at Old Works.
“We had teams picked higher than us that we did not finish behind in the fall, so it’s great for motivation,” said Nord.
“I have confidence that we can finish a lot higher than we were picked. If we get four kids playing well three days in a row, we’ll be able to contend.”
Montana’s next tournament will be the Grand Canyon Invitational, held in Phoenix on Feb. 24-25.
— Montana Sports Information