EVANSTON -- The past few days have not ben ideal conditions for golf. Monday there were heavy wind gusts and Tuesday featured a combination of cold temperatures, along with a mixture of light rain and sleet.
The Evanston High School boys’ golf team is used to playing in that kind of weather. Head coach Jerry Carroll rarely cancels practice or holds an indoor session in order to prepare his team to compete in those conditions when it matters most.
That preparation has most importantly been geared toward the Class 4A state tournament that was held Monday and Tuesday at Purple Sage.
Evanston made it a goal to finish in the top five, but the Red Devils believed they could exceed their own expectations. Being used to playing in adverse conditions was one of those reasons. Playing on their home course was another reason.
“They were both tough days,” Carroll said. “But we tell our kids, that’s how we’re supposed to make up ground on other teams.”
Unfortunately, for Evanston, that wasn’t the case.
Evanston finished sixth in the tournament after posting a two-day total of 699. Kelly Walsh (627) won the team competition in a playoff with East, while Sheridan (665) took third after edging Cheyenne Central in another playoff. Natrona shot a 685 to round out the top-five teams in the boys’ competition.
“We didn’t have a good second day, and I’m a little disappointed because we think our kids are supposed to be the toughest kids in the state of Wyoming,” Carroll said. “I think we could have finished a little stronger.”
Braxtin Lind led the Red Devils, who were in fifth place after Day 1. The freshman tied for 11th after shooting a two-day score of 167. Lind opened his round with a 79 and shot an 88 on Tuesday.
“I’m not happy about the result, but I enjoyed my first experience at the state golf tournament,” Lind said. “I learned a lot.”
Brady Hurd tied for 14th after the junior shot a 79 on Day 1 and an 88 on Day 2 for a total of 169. Dominic D’Anzi was consistent both days, shooting scores of 88 and 89 for a 177 total to tie for 29th.
Mason Smith (41st) finished with a 192 and Mason Ellingford (43rd) shot a 200 over two days to round out the scoring for the Red Devils.
“We wanted (a top-five finish),” Carroll said. “The good news is, we don’t (graduate) any of them. They’ve got a good chance to come back and improve next year.”
Blake Danni of East won the individual title with a 143. Kirby Coe Kirkham of Sheridan was second with a 144, while Taj Sutherland of Kelly Walsh and Jordan James of Riverton tied for third after both golfers finished with a 148. Shea Hensley of Kelly Walsh and Tate Noble of Laramie both shot a 155 to tie for fifth.
Despite playing in his first state tournament, Lind wished he could have done more to help the Red Devils.
“I was pleased with (Monday),” Lind said. “(Tuesday), I understand the weather was bad and everything, but I think we could have performed better. I think I could have performed better. I’m a little disappointed in myself.”
Evanston’s finish could fuel the fire for the upcoming season. Several players have already made plans to improve their game for next year.
Hurd and Ellingford, who both play basketball, have discussed working together over the winter by using an indoor simulated golf system.
“We’ve already talked about it,” Hurd said. “We’ll probably do it two or three times a week after basketball practice to keep a feel for the club, hitting balls and keeping that touch. Once the snow comes off the course, it’s going to be quite fun.”
Talking about a bright future seemed to be the theme for all of the Evanston golfers who participated at state this season.
”Next year, I think we will definitely be contenders,” Lind said. “I think if we all get better over the spring and work hard in the summer, I think we’ll definitely be contenders.”
Lind doesn’t mean placing in the top five at state when he uses the word “contenders.”
He means competing for a state championship.