MISSOULA — You could say Kris Nord, who will be serving as the Montana women’s golf program’s interim head coach for the team’s four-tournament fall schedule, has come full circle.
He’s made his livelihood coaching tennis, a sport he played collegiately at both UNLV and Boise State, but his association with the links goes back farther than that.
“I grew up in a golf family,” he says. “My brothers played college golf, my mom managed the (Missoula Country Club). My entire family golfed.
“I played junior golf tournaments before I ever touched a tennis racket, and golf is my passion for my athletic time these days.”
He was Montana’s first golf coach in the early 90s, and he’s back in the position again, taking over the program for the fall semester before a permanent replacement for Matt Higgins is hired this winter.
The Grizzlies open their fall season on Monday and Tuesday at the Battle at Old Works in Anaconda, a tournament that was originally going to be co-hosted by Montana and Montana State.
With Higgins’ sudden departure last month, it’s turned into Montana State’s tournament, with Montana joining the other schools that will be competing.
“We’ve been in scramble mode,” says Nord. “I’m trying to hit a recovery shot right now, but it’s all good. The kids on the team have been understanding, and I have some good seniors who have helped me find my way.”
The eight-team tournament will have an all-Division I field, with Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge and Santa Clara traveling from California, plus Eastern Washington and Idaho State of the Big Sky Conference, and North Dakota State.
The tournament will be held at Old Works Golf Club and play a lengthy 6,456 yards. All but freshman Faith D’Ortenzio played the course last fall in a head-to-head exhibition against Montana State.
All seven players from Montana’s roster will compete, headlined by seniors Hailey Hoagland, a Butte High graduate, and Kari Opatz. Baylee Barckley is the only junior on the team, with Teigan Avery, Abby Pfeifer and Caylyn Villatora making up the sophomore class.
Opatz (77.03), Hoagland (78.40), Barckley (79.83) and Avery (79.89) had Montana’s lowest stroke averages last year.
“We’ll get over there Sunday and give it a nice practice round. Everybody gets to play, so I’ll see everybody play under pressure,” said Nord. “It will be fun to see the results by Tuesday night.
“My job will be to observe and help where I can and mostly stay out of their way. They’re a pretty good bunch. They don’t need much. When we go to practice, they go to work.”
It will be a different sport for Nord to coach than his men’s tennis program, which he’s turned over to Jason Brown for the fall, but the tournament dynamics won’t be much different.
In neither one is he able to keep an eye on all of his players all the time, so he’ll have to pick his spots and offer his assistance as needed.
“There are a ton of similarities. You watch them play and see trends and see how they react to things,” Nord says.
“I’ll work on keeping everybody’s chin up and playing hard despite what might have happened on the last shot or last hole. Just stay in the moment and play your best. It’s a lot like tennis is that respect. You’ve got to let things go and move on.”
Montana will have a quick turnaround after the tournament. Nord will take five players on Saturday to Chicago for the Loyola Invitational at the Flossmoor Country Club. After a practice round on Sunday, the tournament will be held on Monday and Tuesday.
By that point, Nord will finally have something to work with, even if that will mark the mid-point of his interim duties. Montana will wrap up its fall schedule at the Cowgirl Desert Intercollegiate in Palm Desert, Calif., and the Pat Lesser Harbottle Invitational in Tacoma, Wash., next month.
“Like tennis, I want to watch a couple of tournaments before we start working on things. I want to see what’s working and what’s not and get feedback from the athletes after competition,” Nord says. “Then I can give them my input and implement a plan.
“We want to get better every tournament, and I want to take some of the kids from last year who didn’t play as well as they wanted and get them playing better and being competitive in the lineup, because there is some really good talent on this team.”
Live results from the Battle at Old Works can be followed at GolfStat.com.
— Montana Sports Information