Evanston High School senior Braxton Lind battled his way to a second-place finish at the Class 4A Golf Tournament in Casper over the weekend, earning All-State honors for his efforts.
“We were really hoping for Braxton to win that state championship,” said EHS head coach Jerry Carroll. “He had every opportunity — he was three up on the first day, but struggled the second. But he came back and tied it going into the 18th hole, so it was very exciting. He competed very hard, and the state runner-up is still a very good finish.”
Lind shot a 76 on Friday to lead the field after one round. He struggled a bit on day two, but came back to finish the day with a 79. Lind was tied with Laramie’s Jackson McClaren going into the 18th, but an errant drive led to a bogey on the par-4 hole. McClaren birdied the hole to win the championship by two strokes.
“Braxton’s drive got caught up in the deep grass, then he hit the water,” Carroll said. “The other guy [McClaren] hit a great drive, put it on and finished with a birdie. And we were like, ‘Doggone it.’”
Lind credited McClaren for his strong play in the second round, and was gracious in defeat.
“I think the course was playing great and I’d like to tip my cap to Jackson McClare, he played a fantastic second round,” Lind said. “I hit the shots I wanted to, and at the end of the day, it may not have turned out how I wanted it to, but it was a learning experience. Hopefully, the lessons I learned can help me at the next level.”
On the girls’ side, the Lady Devils finished sixth in the team standings, carding a 569. Thunder Basin took the top spot with a 495, followed by Jackson (505), Sheridan (505), Natrona County (520) and Kelly Walsh (527).
“Our girls ended up taking sixth — they played really well, there were just a lot of really good girls’ teams,” Carroll said. “They were under 300, which is where you want to be. But there are just some really good teams from the other side of the state that we didn’t get to see very much of this season.”
Lady Devil senior Zoe Dean was the top finisher for Evanston carding a two-day total of 182 to finish 15th.
“I thought Zoe Dean did a really nice job,” Carroll said. “She’s had a rough year health-wise, but she went out and shot a 92-90 on a very difficult course. She had an outstanding tournament.”
Hadley Blackwell carded a 95 on day one, and followed that with a 97 on day two. Her score of 192 was good enough for 22nd place. Aryana Little also broke 100 both days to finish in a tie for 26th — the junior shaved three strokes off her opening-round 96 to shoot 93 on day two and finish with a 195.
“I thought Hadley Blackwell had an outstanding tournament — she shot 95-97,” Carroll said. “Aryana [Little] struggled a bit on this golf course, but still shot a 99-96. All three of those girls were under 100 both days on a really tough course. I thought they did a fantastic job. We get Aryana back and Hadley back — those two will be the building blocks for a very good girls’ team next year.”
Isabella Johnson (tied for 43rd) and Rachel Buzarde (46th) rounded out the Lady Devils contingent, shooting 229 and 232, respectively.
On the boys’ side, the Red Devils finished eighth, with a team score of 714. Sheridan took home the team title with a 658; Jackson (670), Cheyenne East (683), Cheyenne Central (685) and Laramie (692)rounded out the top five.
“Our boys took eighth — we were hoping for a little higher finish, but we knew we were young and inexperienced,” Carroll said.
Freshman Sam Dolezal finished in a tie for 26th, carding a 179. Kyle Barker was 34th — the junior opened the tournament with a 95, but shaved six strokes the following day to card an 89.
“Sam finished 26th, and that’s a freshman who finished in the top half of the 4A State Tournament,” Carroll said. “That’s outstanding. I thought Kyle Barker coming back and shooting an 89 on that second day was very good. This boys’ team is very young, but they’re good golf kids who will be a force in the future. The future is bright for us.”
Porter Hall (49th) and McKay Johnson (55th) rounded out the Red Devils’ contingent with a 202 and a 213, respectively.
Asked to reflect on the season, Carroll said being able to finish a whole season amidst a global pandemic was something special.
“These kids didn’t have a spring season, so we didn’t get to work with them very much before fall started,” he explained. “Just the excitement of being able to finish the season made it very successful. You’re hearing stories about kids who were quarantined on other teams, so the opportunity to finish a season was fantastic. The experience that these young kids just received by going to this state tournament is going to bode well for us in the future. I liked that our kids came and were excited, they enjoyed golf. It was an all-around great season.”
“They [the younger players] have a lot of potential, and I think this year was a great place for them to learn how the state tournament works and how hard it can play,” he said. “I hope they take that knowledge with them to next year’s state tournament.”