The decision by the Wyoming High School Activities Association (WHSAA) to move forward with fall sports became a reality this week, as practice began across the state for 4A football, golf and tennis.
Locally, that meant three days of tryouts at Purple Sage Golf Course for the Evanston High School boys’ and girls’ golf teams. The teams were finalized Wednesday afternoon, and both teams hit the ground running: The Red Devils and Lady Devils were on the road Thursday for a dual with Rock Springs High School at White Mountain Golf Course; that’s followed today (Friday) with the Kemmerer Invitational at Fossil Island Golf Course.
“We had a great amount of kids show up for tryouts,” said EHS head coach Jerry Carroll. “We had over 28 kids, but unfortunately for us, we can only keep 20. We have three days of tryouts, and we’ll know by noon today [Wednesday] what 20 kids are on our golf team.”
Tryouts for the teams is a three-day grind, with nine holes played every day. Each players’ worst score is thrown out — the total of their two best rounds will determine who makes the team.
The Red Devils are coming off a 9th place finish at last year’s 4A State Tournament in Gillette; the Lady Devils finished 10th.
“It looks like we’ll have a very good girls’ team, and a very promising boys’ team, so we’re excited about the prospects,” Carroll said.
On the boys’ side, senior Braxton Lind — who finished in a three-way tie for fourth place at state last year with Braden Barr from Natrona County and Granston Webb from Cheyenne East — will be expected to provide leadership for the Red Devils.
“Braxton is an All-State golfer from last year, and took fourth overall in the state,” Carroll said.
“We’re looking for him to be a great leader for us.”
Kyle Barker is also returning for the Red Devils, and will look to improve on his 35th-place finish at state last season.
For the Lady Devils, Aryana Little and Zoe Dean will be counted on to provide senior leadership on the girls’ side.
“Aryana Little does a great job for us,” Carroll said. “Zoe Dean is also going to be a senior this year, and she’s been hitting the ball well and doing a great job for us.”
Carroll — who will be assisted this season by Travis Robinette — said expectations are higher for both teams this season, especially on the girls’ side.
“I think our girls have a chance to contend for the top three in the state,” he said. “And our boys — depending on how quickly our young kids come around — also should be in the top four in the state. Those are the goals that we’ll set.”
With COVID-19 restrictions in place, this year’s golf season will look a little different. Only four teams will be allowed at any tournament, with no more than 80 players allowed on an 18-hole course (40 for a nine-hole course). Shotgun starts will be utilized, and players will not be allowed to congregate on driving ranges or putting greens.
The Red Devils and Lady Devils squared off against the Rock Springs Tigers in a dual meet Thursday to open the season; they’ll take on Kemmerer, Green River and Star Valley today at the Kemmerer Invite. Carroll said despite the new restrictions, his golfers are looking forward to the opportunity to compete again.
“I’m excited, because kids get an opportunity to play, and compete and get back to some normalcy,” he said. “But you’re also worried, because you’re always worried about the safety and welfare of your kids. Golf is one sport where you can socially distance — it’s the bus rides that are a little bit worrisome. We’re going to be required to wear masks, but if it keeps them safe and keeps them healthy, that’s what we’re going to do.”
“Our nurses and other essential workers have been wearing masks for eight hours a day, so we’re gonna tough it out and make sure we do the right thing,” Carroll added.”
Carroll is beginning his 34th year at the helm of the EHS golf program, and he said the fire in his belly to coach is always there, even well into his fourth decade.
“I think you need to get excited for your job — I still get excited, and I still look for those possibilities every season,” he explained. “Honestly, I’m very excited about both our teams. I think our girls are going to surprise the rest of the state, they’ll be that good. We’ve got some young kids, and when you see their enthusiasm for the game, it just makes you young again.”